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Of luxury, hardship and happiness

Comment 1: "I was lost in darkness, void of inspiration, and failed to find any meaning in life. That was when I turned to drugs."

Comment 2: " Life has them all: freedom, competition, and the test of money at the end of the day. I am happy."

Who do you think made these comments? May be the first one by a repentant felon and the second one by a successful entrepreneur? In fact, the first comment is from a hyper-rich teen recently out of rehab and the second one is from a street urchin selling chocolates on buses.

Surprising? Not quite. It is commonplace in middle class families that parents teach their wards: "The more you study, more you can earn to ensure a sound and secured life". Wealth is commonly interpreted directly proportional to happiness. Their logic is simple: with money, you can meet all your needs and fulfil all your desires. But then what? When all our "needs" and "desires" are taken care of, what will remain as our thrust for existence? The recent outcrop of ultra-rich drug addicts stand as an ominous response to this question.

No, do not tell me that these teens were completely unaware of these demons; they are not naive virgins standing on the aisle. In today's world of Internet, information is more heaped upon than sought. And the repercussions of addiction are certainly widespread news. They were ready to afford the ramifications if that would provide a novel experience, an escape from a "humdrum" world of amenities at arm's length. From their birth, they have discovered themselves on top of the social hierarchy with only one way to explore: down. But I am not a great psychologist; I will not try to explain their minds. Rather, I will present two fictional characters as testaments to my argument.

Pip, in Great Expectations, strived to achieve his expectations: to get rich, to become an urbane gentleman, and to get the hands of Estella. Yet, when he inherited a huge fortune from a shadowy benefactor, he squandered his wealth, submerged in debts and neglected his former friends. Whereas, Santiago from The Alchemist inherited a generous fortune of sheep; he was, however, also discontent. Dreaming of treasure hidden under the pyramid, he left his secured life and embarked on a perilous journey across the desert. Madness? Throughout his journey, he gained invaluable lessons of wisdom and contentment. While Pip aspired to emulate the successful, Santiago tried to be an individual. As it turned out, Santiago was the one on the right quest.

My point is that the relationship between wealth and happiness is far from linear. True, we live in a material world. Nevertheless, happiness is achieved through struggling against hardships, overcoming them, and growing up in that process. The recent news of a teen named Imon caught my eye one day. Escaping from sheer poverty at five, he has since worked as an assistant in Razarbagh police headquarters and sent his earnings home. However, he refused to forsake studies: successfully completed his SSC, studied in the prestigious Notre Dame College and secured an A+ Grade in his HSC examinations. People like Imon are the true essence of our country, rising against the odds and spreading happiness in that process. They deserve the best accolades.

May be parents should value their wards' judgements more and let them follow their dreams. After all, they are not vessels to be filled but flames to be ignited. If they meet impediments along the road, just assist them with your experience. They will find their way.

By Ananya Das

Ignorance doesn't hurt, It kills

Last month I finally succumbed to my mother's request and picked up the newspaper, only to be ashamed of my ignorance when I read of the tsunami that threatened to shatter Bangladesh. The next day, September 11th, a nationwide warning notified that the disaster could hit that very midnight.

It did not, and since the tension has subsided. Danger is omnipresent, and in the case of such rare disasters, there is no other option. But this is no excuse for ignorance. Following the 9.3 magnitude Asian tsunami in 2004, we learnt how the India tectonic plate slid beneath the Burma plate to produce the underwater earthquake that triggered the catastrophe. Two years on, many still remain unaware of the Arakan Subduction Zone (a section of the same Sunda trench near the Bay of Bengal) whose plate tectonics will someday ravage the Bangladeshi coast with a tsunami and sweeping over a million to their watery graves. This by far surpasses the Boxing Day tsunami's official death toll of around 230,000.

While Australian geologist Phil Cummins revealed this recently, if we had studied our country's geography, we would have concluded the risk. Consider also the occasional, mild tremors throughout Bangladesh (precursor of earthquakes), and we may have a catastrophe on the cards. In fact, Cummins' studies (based on the 9.0 quake and tsunami of 1762 alongside regional earthquake patterns) show that the entire Bangladeshi bay from Kuakata to Teknaf will be rocked, the quakes perhaps reaching Dhaka. Luckily, the silt deposits at the Bay of Bengal act as natural defense, and protected us against the blast of 2004. But in future, we may not be so lucky.

One of the warning signs of a tsunami is suddenly receding seawater, something that perplexed many well-educated European tourists in Asia, 2004. Interestingly, one of those who did recognize it was a 10-year-old British girl who had studied tsunamis at school, and saved 100 lives. Had this simple fact been more widely known, the death toll could have been lighter.

This raises the question of our curriculum. Our education system (both for Bangla and English medium schools) emphasizes so much on getting A's and GPA 5.0s that students are rarely able to show interest in much else. The market for English medium students studying under Edexcel and Cambridge are flooded with foreign books about foreign cultures and societies. And yet, can knowledge of the British economy and diseases endemic to Europe help us battle poverty, perennial floods and dengue fever?

Without knowing ourselves, it is impossible to be sentient to the external world. Schools need to focus more on practical knowledge even if it does not constitute part of the examination syllabus. What is the point of learning advanced calculus if I cannot recognize the warning signs of a tsunami, warn others and save our lives?

When I lived in Edinburgh, I loved the lively, interactive geography lessons. But here, when we had to blindly memorize the names of the 64 Bangladeshi districts and label them on a map for exams, I was crestfallen and bored. Who enjoys that? Even if overcrowded public schools cannot improve their teaching because of fund shortages, private English medium ones can. Parents pour in bucketloads of money, but for what? So that their children can memorize chemistry experiments and not execute them first-hand? (I understand that some schools do have labs, but the vast majority probably do not.)

The well-to-do, living in protected Dhaka flats, perhaps remain ignorant because they are at low risk. However, tsunamis are not the only rare disaster liable to strike. Someday we may be victims of an earthquake maybe even coupled by flooding. Nature never chooses her victims, even if the unprotected are at higher risk. We have New Orleans as testament.

Our ancestors used their intuition and observations to predict weather, but we have access to the media, science and meteorological data. It is imperative that we are inquisitive and considerate about our country and actions. What we do now has widespread consequences. The predicted tsunami may not strike for centuries, but it is poised to hit. By then, as the dangerous illusion of safety settles, we may forget the lessons of 2004 unless a system of awareness, vigilance and active thinking is established. Ignorance may not hurt us it could kill.

Writer forgot to mention his/her name

Wireless session 2.3

Another Thursday and another wireless session at the Decagon Café. November 15 was set aside for the Wireless Session 2.3 at the aforementioned Decagon Café and I can truly say it was an amazing experience for the chronic head banger in me although I am now paying the price for it with a sore neck.

The Creed brilliantly started the evening with When I come around by Green Day. Waterways continued the show with Nemesis's New Day followed by Opeth's Hope leaves. They ended with a rendition of Alter bridge's Broken Wings although I wasn't too impressed with the vocals on that song as it sounded like the vocalist was staring his voice too far. The evening really picked up when Xorostrian took up the lead. They belted out Shritisharok by Artcell which was immensely popular and really connected well, with the audience who kept wanting encores. I especially liked the drumming on this band; it truly kept up with the song. When I caught up Xorastrian's guitarist, Mehedi and asked him how it felt to perform live he said 'the crowd tonight is great, I look forward to more performances like these' he also added.

Next up was Alternation who played quite well but whose vocals just blew me away. Shumonto, their lead vocalist has an impressive voice range and he demonstrated how well pitched his voice was by doing songs like Coldplay's Yellow and U2's With or without you. Not only that, the band preformed the songs in their own unique style making it even more awesome to hear.

Next there was a jamming session in which Rafaa was the main vocalist. I can still feel the force of their beats resounding in my head and although all their songs were good, it was the folk song, Har Kaala, that they performed that was the most remarkable to hear. Their lead vocalist showed off his extraordinary range here and the music was just as great.

Scarecrow was the next band of the session to show off their talent. Although they didn't connect as well as the bands with the audience, their songs were liked by the audience especially with the rendition of breaking the rules by Pink Floyd and Megadeath's Tout le Monde. The last and most awaited band of the evening was Radioactive who performed songs by Scorpions, Gun 'n' Roses and their own track Shopnpkotha. The audience couldn't get enough of them.

It was truly an amazing evening, one to be enjoyed by lone music lovers and with friends alike, with an arraying range of songs and performance.

Supported and partnered by Amadergaan.com, Radio Foorti 88.0 FM, Incursion Music, Decagon Café, Sound Machine Ltd. And organized by Live-Square Management

By Nisma Elias




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