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Finding Bangladesh

On August 9, 2008, the posh and sophisticated hotel The Westin was decorated with a broken down boat on wheels and overrun with wild, unruly teenagers wearing traditional gamchas. One may have wondered, did the The Westin decide to turn their premises into Adnan Fakir's garage? No, actually it was finally time for the inauguration of the first part of the documentary 'Finding Bangladesh' at Westin's auditorium.

In case you missed our last article, which might indicate your failing fondness for RS (eek!), 'Finding Bangladesh' is a much-awaited documentary created entirely by college students with the youth of our country as the target audience. Basically, it is an effort to educate the younger generation about the historical places of Bangladesh in a fun-filled, innovative and informal manner that will not act as an effective sleeping pill and will force you to return to your schoolbooks for the said effect.

The documentary was released under Scratch films productions, and the auditorium was buzzing with volunteers who were guiding the guests to their seats, sitting behind stalls to try and sell DVDs of the documentary and giving unwanted information to the press in an effort to be caught on the camera and become famous (I am referring to myself). The walls were covered with the posters of 'Finding Bangladesh' guest starring the famous peeing dog Boo, but the most eye catching of all were the blindfolded dolls made from hangars, newspapers and scotch tape, symbolizing how we, the youth, have turned a blind eye to our history and heritage.

The event started at 3:00 pm with Shihab Arefin Chowdhury and Nabila Mirza as MCs, who began by singing praises of the director Adnan M. S. Fakir, who in such a short period of time managed to gather a small but hardworking team and direct and produce the whole film! Dr. Salehuddin Ahmed, Pro-VC of BRAC University and Chief Guest of the event gave an inspiring speech, which was followed by another one from Special Guest Altaf Hossain Sarkar, Chairman of Dhaka Bank, which also sponsored the event. After this the film premiered for around 70 minutes long, and was met with appreciation, applause and sudden bursts of laughter from the audience. The documentary featured relics from the Dhaka and Rajshahi divisions, as well as mind-blowing special effects, cool comics, humorous incidents and a unique mode of transportation called the Damzel in Distress!

More than 650 people showed up at the premiere and Baishakhi, Channel I, Rtv, Ntv, Etv and others were present. All the DVDs available for sale on that day were also gotten rid of, and the income earned was donated to the organization Society for the Education of the Intellectually Disabled, Bangladesh. The Mastermind Community Service Club also played a big role in event management. All in all, the inauguration was a big hit, and much commendations and compliments were heard during the serving of refreshments. We hope that Scratch Films will have smooth sailing from here on, and that sales will continue to soar, giving them the acclaim they deserve and will help them to create the next version of 'Finding Bangladesh', which will be even bigger, better and weirder than the first one!

By Shuprova Tasneem

Concert against push-sell II

Some concerts can be loud, and very scary…in a good way. That was a lesson learnt on attending the concert on August 8. The atmosphere was very friendly and full of excitement, while the dudes with guitar came in, most of them in black. Apparently, there was a point to this. Walking into the Russian Cultural Center, (RCC) one saw the words Inanimate Presents Concert Against Push-Sell II. Yes, that was the underground concert with the goal, to eliminate 'push sell'.

"Push sell" basically refers to a handful organizers who are forcing the young bands a respective amount of tickets that they have to sell before they get a slot in their concert, an exploitative practice. The young and new bands are helpless, and thus they have to sell this amount of tickets and sometimes have to buy them in order to get a slot. The organizers are nevertheless, getting the profits both from the crowd and the bands. A young upcoming underground band named 'Inanimate' took the initiative against push sell. This event was their second venture against Push Sell.

The bands that played that day were Sinister Shadow, Genocide, Owned, Demonizer, Silent Scream, Xoroastrian, MirrorBlaze, Inanimate, Annex, Orbz, Forbidden Truth, Mechanix and Scarecrow. The names are, however very overwhelming…ahem

Not going into too much detail of all the bands, one can say that these bands have a profound potential in them, which will take them to a very far horizon! The concert started at 2:30 with Sinister Shadow's debut performance. We personally liked the first song they played, (Shritisharok-Artcell) with skillful guitar work and good rhythm. They were followed by some bands and their cover of Seether's 'Remedy' was loud, but they got a really good reaction from the crowd. As more bands went on, the crowd got more involved in the concert, and when 'Silent Scream' started singing, crazier dudes started head-banging, which was a very overwhelming experience!

That was not the most entertaining part. As the band 'MirrorBlaze' started playing, the crowd literally went wild! They had a song of their own composition, named 'Merudondohin'. Then came the highlight of the concert, when Inanimate themselves took the stage, and the girls went fanatical. With their very scary screams you would think they were watching a horror movie, or had spotted a cockroach skipping by. They were good, with very strong vocals and an adept guitar work. The vocalist had to give the microphone away as the crowd started singing loud…! They covered 'Trust' by Megadeth, 'Creeping Death' by Metallica and 'Master Of Puppets' by Metallica they were followed by Annex, who made their appearance after two years, with solos that were just amazing and the guitar work that left us speechless. Hands off to the guitarist!

Then entered the band everyone was anxiously waiting for, Mechanix. That was the performance of the night. They played the title track of their upcoming album, which will be released this year, named Oporajoy, and they played their other song 'Kalo Bikkhob'. The last band was Scarecrow who played their own tracks, 'Deyal Bhenge' 'Chaya Shorir' and 'Jirno Shopno'. The concert ended with this performance…and the audience left with ringing ears.

The organizers want to add the fact that they did not get any financial help from anyone, nor did they get any sponsors. However, they will continue organizing more concerts in the near future. It is just encouraging to see the youngsters emerge and stand up for themselves! Here's wishing them the best for their next show!

By Raida A K Reza and Irfan Noor
Photos by Raida A K Reza

The Story A Korean Venture on Photography

There comes a day in each and every one of our lives we would like to remember vividly. Days of joy, days of celebration and days of absolute togetherness. Days like these are photographed extensively and those photographs are our hold of the past we would like to reminisce forever. That is where 'The Story' comes in. Meet Damaso Suh, a Korean, who has photography in his heart and a brilliant investment plan in his brain. His photography studio 'The Story' is packed with high tech equipments, extensively detailed stages and two highly skilled photographers, just to cater to the photography needs of the Bangladeshi community.

So what is really special about this place? The humble Suh replied, “There is nothing special. I do not even understand what they call the international standard studio. The photographs we shoot here are the ones that pass our standard.” Suh's venture on 'the story' began December last year, and by April of 2008 most of the interior work of the duplex that is the story's studio was done. But the studio did not take off just then. Suh cared to do extensive research on Bengali culture for the next few months and finally on the 21st June of this year, 'The Story' began its service.

Sayor, one of the two photographers of the studio and also the Senior Executive, while taking me around the facility mentioned that they even have plans to one day have a photography school right there in their facility so budding photographers can take their first step to flourishing one day as a professional photographer. The trip around the whole facility revealed all the different props and stages the studio has set up for photography of different kinds. That is when we met Moon the senior photographer of the studio. This duo of photographers, Sayor and the Korean Moon handle all the assignments.

The Story handles all sorts of assignments ranging from Product Photography to Fashion ones. While taking me around Mr Sayor also mentioned that 'The Story' actually tries to put extra importance on wedding photography. For this he brought out these thick tomes, which were the wedding albums. Those would only be a thing worthwhile to have in one's family. The Story does not just print you photographs, it delivers to you an album of your choice picks of photographs, freshly printed out right from Korea itself where 'The Story' has its parent branch. And there are also options for you ordering photographs to be framed. Suh, at the end of the trip around the facility, said pointing to all the equipments in the studio, “These are only the tools for our art. What we cater you with is our experience.”

The price for the service that 'The Story' offers is a bit on the upper end but that should not fool anyone because the finished product would be of your absolute satisfaction as it would tell you a story. 'The Story' is located in H#1, R#35, Gulshan 2. The Studio is currently engaged in being the photography partner of the beauty pageant, Miss Millionaire 2008.

Stick out, sore thumb

I am perhaps the only person in a five-mile radius who wears a hijab to school. I am not surprised when some people assume I came from a nomadic desert type. It is not wholly unexpected of my white peers to know where my country is on the world map. So when they ask me where I'm from, I simply say 'nowhere in the Middle East. That's where the deserts are.' Maybe they find it a little difficult to imagine where else except the Middle East would a girl wear the 'head thing'. I suppose their mild bewilderment is not alike mine, when I stepped off the transatlantic flight and walked right into a freezing non-tropical night. Where are the semi-detached houses? I wondered. Where are the Wisteria Lane-like streets? Yes, we all had preconceived notions, most of which turned out to be just that. Notions. Not facts.

I do not feel terribly left out. Sure, I am the only one of my kind at my school and in my neighborhood. But I'm not bothered by it. I've never felt the need to be bothered by it.

Thank God, I have not been the object of any racist slurs. I haven't had bigots spray paint 'terrorist' on my gym locker. I haven't been taunted anywhere, anytime, anyplace. So I am comfortable here, wearing my full-length garb and my 'head thing' and braving the Texan heat dressed up in 'full body armor'.

But I must admit. It is reassuring when I run into someone else like me, someone else wearing the 'head thing' and the full body armor. And it is funny how I usually run into other hijab-wearing ladies when I'm shopping with my parents at the local superstore. It happened three times in a row. There I was, browsing the cereal rack for Quaker Oats when I turned around and saw two burqa-clad women, speaking in Urdu, staring pointedly at me. I stared pointedly back, then went my own sweet way. The next encounter was with a black woman. She didn't give me a passing glance, but her little daughter was all agape. And the third time, I was striding down the length of the super-center, making a beeline for the bakery section, when I ran almost smack into a tall, slender black girl. I looked up and saw that she too was wearing the hijab. She looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back, and for the briefest of moments I felt that something had happened right here.

A moment where I pondered the power of religion, where I thought about the two girls, from different backgrounds, races and countries, but united in one faith, and wearing an insignia of that faith so that the whole world can see. And when I saw the girl smile back at me I thought, I'm going to be alright. There are others like me.

That's the way I felt the first time I went to a mosque since stepping on foreign soil. A family friend took his daughter and me for Friday prayers. The entire second-story was crammed with women offering the Jumma prayers, all wearing either the burqa or the hijab. And I was awed to think that so many practicing Muslims lived in the vicinity. It made me feel great. It made me feel like I was a part of something that was bigger than me, or anyone else in the room.

Then the prayers ended, and right before my eyes most of the women started taking off their burqas and their hijabs. Underneath the 'full body armor', these women were dressed in regular clothes. Work pants and blouses and dresses. My father's friend's daughter told me that this was the way it had always been; most of the women just dressed up 'Islamically' for the Friday prayers. Once done with that, they went back to their regular lives.

That got me thinking. Sitting in a mosque and surrounded by at least a hundred women who dressed almost exactly like me gave me not even an inkling of that feeling I got when I ran into the hijab-wearing girl at the local superstore. I was more of a sore thumb in a mosque than I was in at a local superstore. And that maybe I'd be the sore thumb, and stick out, whether surrounded by white people or not.

By I Won't Be Named



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