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Weird subjects and where to find them

Choosing a career is like choosing a favourite from lasagna, double cheese burger, tehari and warm rice with ilish made with shorisha bata - tough. As the latter choice starts with sampling each item, the former choice starts with choosing which subjects to study at O'levels and A'levels. Most people go with the usual subjects that lead to a surefire way to earn a decent amount of money, namely the mainstream science and commerce subjects. But there are some, that choose the now slowly fading arts subjects.

So what makes people take subjects like Geography, French, History or English Literature? 'I took up the subject because I want to work in the UN, so I need to be aware of what's happening around the world. Of course, the fact that I like the subject is and added plus point,' says Maheen, a student of O'level Geography. Some term Geography as part of the science group; but combined with accounting and economics, it packs quite a punch, because it generates awareness about global cultures.

Careers are what people think about when they usually do take up uncommon subjects. Afreen, who gave O'level French last year, said, 'I took French because I it would help me get into a good university later on.' No doubt an extra language will considerably boost her ECA. It will also give her a better opportunity in the job market.

I know what you are thinking. Aren't there people out there who study something just because they like it? Thankfully, there still are. 'I don't plan to study literature but I took it up because I can't live without it. I know that sounds clichéd, but the truth is that literature is what keeps me going when I get bogged down by my other subjects,' says Anusha, a student of A'level English Literature.

Why are classic subjects like literature and history being ignored by the students? Surely they can't all be so commercially centered? The truth is, they are not. It's more or less a 'peer' thing. They are gripped by fear because most people chose not to take these subjects. Add to this the oh-so-obvious fear of not getting the desired A grade. "Where can I find the books? Who is going to teach me?" And when all these problems creep up, the thought inevitably turns to "what am I going to get for all this trouble at the end of it?" The promises of mental satisfaction and broadening horizons are no match for the evident "jhamela" that the subjects stand for.

Actually, that "jhamela" is fictional-well, almost anyway. No real problem at all. Nobody takes them, so everybody thinks there is a problem with them. Where books are concerned, availability is not the issue. The trick is knowing where to look. Gyankosh, Boi Bichitra and Nilkhet: if you circle these three places, you should get most, if not all, of the books. Gyankosh and Boi Bichitra have some of the O'level Geography books. Some of the history books are available in Nilkhet. The ones that cause some trouble are the English Literature books, since they consist of, mostly, story books. Other than Shakespeare's stuff, you are not likely to find much of the other in the second hand stores. The literature books are on the second floor of the shopping mall next to the Balaka Cinema hall, just above the Midnight Sun restaurant. There are a few libraries there. They have English Literature books. Most of them are original, so prices may be a little high, but manageable. A particular book shop at Nilkhet also caters books exclusively for English literature.

The biggest obstacle, of course, is school. Not many schools have unusual subjects available beyond Class VII. Schools that do offer these uncommon subjects, however, also usually provide the books for these subjects, so that's not a problem.

Private tutors are another option. But they are quite expensive, considering good teachers for these subjects are somewhat of a rarity. For French, for example, there are teachers who would teach you if you provide them with only (yes only, according to them) around Tk 2000 per hour for four hours per week. However, there are also good teachers if you're willing to look for them, such as actually qualified teachers who teach in universities- they would provide you with great education for a moderately good fee- but not at the cut-throat price mentioned above, we assure you. If you're not a student planning to give your exams privately however, the teachers at school usually cover these subjects thoroughly enough for you.

So there. That's what all the fuss is about-in fact, it's easy to conquer these challenges once you've really set your heart to taking up the subject; and hey, guess what? By actually taking up these subjects you'll be way more superior than those people who burn and say "Literature/geography/history/ French etc. is for losers", because, obviously, we're sure we know who the real losers here are.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique and Anika Tabassum

Pandemonium in St Joseph

Exams and fun just don't go together. I mean yes, you get pampered with your favourite varieties of food so that you can study properly,you get the free sympathy from everybody which is, these days, not so free and you also get exempted from doing menial tasks that you would otherwise be expected to do; but that's that- once you get to the exam hall it's one huge cause of headache (even after you're coming back from the exam, in which case you have to worry about the next day's exam).

So we really didn't expect much when we prepared for a long 4 hour wait at St Joseph school after appearing for our AS Chemistry practicals there. You see, the practicals occur at St Joseph School in different sessions and students from each session get held up till the last session enters the exam hall, so that the questions aren't leaked out. We finished the exam and headed off to the waiting rooms. The first hour was pretty sane, considering the fact that some of us were busy matching answers, some of us were busy trying not to listen to the people who were matching answers, and the rest of us were gorging hungrily on the lunch which was provided by the authority. It was also the memorable (or not-varies, actually) occasion when many people tasted Mojo and Lemu for the first time.

The weirdness started somewhere around the middle of the second and third hour of what seemed to us the endless wait. People were getting cranky, some people were missing their 'beauty sleep'(as they liked to call it) .

We were randomly queuing up for steaming mugs of coffee, or alternately, for water, and both the queues were becoming equally long. A few guys tried chatting up girls and equally few girls tried flirting with the guys for lack of anything better to do in the queues. People were running around, playing borof pani and OC in their desperation for much-needed entertainment while the ground thudded with their footsteps in what seemed like an earthquake of Richter scale 7. There were games roughly formatted on truth and dare.

Drinking water was another risky business. A lot of people were terribly thirsty but they did not want to drink water because they feared they would have to use the washroom (from which, by the way, an extremely sickening stench was coming out). These people tried to satiate their thirst by staring at the cups of water in front of them, but that strategy backfired and they ended up drinking the water.

Then came the tantalizing part- the students of Session 4 were finally entering and we were forbidden to leave our rooms, so we looked out of the glass windows, looking quite like animals in a zoo in the process. When we were finally allowed to leave, we were each handed a packet of snacks, although the point of being given snacks at that moment was rather beyond our comprehension because then we could just stop by somewhere and have a bite.

Anyway, the 4 'endless' hours weren't that endless after all, because they were filled with mind-boggling insanity and silliness. So yeah, although we slept like dead people at the end of the day, appearing for the practical exams at St Joseph was definitely a wacky experience.

By Anika Tabassum

Ghost of culture-past

At that very moment I was Chitrangada, the unsightly princess who amidst the relentless sword-fighting, horse-riding and war planning lessons had neglected the feminine side of herself and alas after all these years had fallen in love with a man.Imagine my distress when he did not throw a second glance in my direction and then my boundless elation once God Modon had transformed me into a graceful and attractive woman. Finally and unexpectedly, imagine the sense of loss when I gradually came to realize that my true identity was eternally lost and as the allegorical verses went “I am no more Warrior Princess Chitrangada, I am but a frail flower in blossom for a single morning. Then I shall wither away, blend with the earth and be forever forgotten by the world.” Sitting under the bright spotlight, I could hardly recognize my own voice as it recited the verses of Tagore's brilliant timeless piece.

Few months before that show, for a postmodern girl living in a city that was hit hard by the effects of globalization, being handed over the thick leather bound volume of Ranbrinath Tagore came as a shock.

The language was of such an ancient and obsolete form of Bangla that recognizing and pronouncing the words was a mighty feat; memorizing and reciting them was an impossible one. Once I had overcome my initial dread, I found myself embracing the rich literature and relating to its fictitious princess who was so different from me and yet so similar. The soft, feminine side of me was excited at the prospect of a miracle makeover that will attract the love of my life whereas the modern feminist side was downright offended by the concept of beauty and youth being all that a woman has to offer.

My point is even if it was through force (maybe even torture) that my teachers made me go through those hours of practicing for the school play, I cant really say that it all went to waste. It's sad that we have grown up under circumstances where our own culture seems more alien and to some extent maybe 'tacky' in comparison to that of the West. The fact is that it's only the language and settings that are different really between the tales across boundaries; the core human values remain the same. The emotions- love jealousy, pride; the issues-discrimination, evil VS good, deception etc… it all remains unchanged. It is we who lose out when we abandon Bengali classics thinking that these clichéd writers have nothing to offer us, because we're worlds apart. Majority of Enlish medium students happen to be inept in understanding formal Bengali, but then again it was never a conscious choice to begin with. At the same it never is too late to flip through a Bengali book, it is our mother-tongue (with an over-told history) so getting the hang of it should be relatively simple especially where people learn up Chinese in a matter of years! We, the youth, are at the best position to analyze and compare the issues as they are presented by these authors of the past and as we face them in today's world… sometimes the similarities and even more so, the lessons can be astonishing.

By Aniqa Moinuddin



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