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Biology Lab Tales: Cockroaches

There comes a time in every kid's life when he finds himself cowering behind couches in fear of a certain Arthropod. A tiny, spiky, scuttling insect who also happens to be one of the oldest members of the animal kingdom- yes, I am talking about none other than the 'in'famous cockroach, our very own 'telapoka'. Now this writer was very much afraid of roaches at the age of, say three or four. Forget sweet-talk, they literally made my life hell: “Babu, eat your food or telapoka's gonna eat you”, “Babu, don't be naughty or telapoka's gonna bite you”, “Babu, go to sleep or I'm calling Mr. Telapoka right now” etc. etc. The 'life-threatening' incidences were manifold, as were their grave consequences. And then one fateful day, at the age of seven-eight, when I was particularly pissed at the grown-up world for making me face its merciless ordeals everyday (e.g. being told off by mom, going to school, being force-fed vegetables, going to school, not getting to play games all day, GOING TO SCHOOL!!...etc.), suddenly out of nowhere, in walked, no scuttled, a large, shiny roach. It was the poor guy's unlucky day, because my bad mood was severe enough to make even fear dissipate into thin air. I grabbed a bathroom sandal and there was this loud, angry 'thapash' sound. The next thing I knew, Mr. Roach was lying flattened at my feet.

That was pretty much the end of my 'telapoka' phobia. Good thing for me, terrible terrible thing for the roaches. Because after that I became quite notorious in the roach community. If they had a terrorist-naming system like ours they'd probably call me Sandal 'Chan'du or something, because I was everywhere (with the sandal): chasing them out of their homes, spraying Mortein in their faces, catching them in compromising situations and gleefully yelling 'getta room!'-yeah, my crimes knew no bound. Their side responded with some pretty silly techniques too though, like 'suicide-bombing' by scattering countless eggs that exploded into a gooey mess at the slightest touch and by making a permanent kissing-dummy out of my tooth-brush etc. etc. But c'mon, I had legs, duh! Roaches were for squishing, and they were simply no match for me.

Which is why I was very surprised when our Biology Lab assistant asked me to actually 'capture' a cockroach and bring it to class the next day for our college Biology Practical course. “Are you sure you want me to do this?” I tried to persuade the guy. “You're not really supposed to catch a roach, this ain't fishing, right? You see a roach, you step on it. Plain squashed. No wait, that can get a bit messy. It's best when the thing's flying, you know. You can use it as a shuttlecock and play badminton with it. One square hit and zoom it goes out the window. It's pretty fun, you should try it sometimes.”

The lab guy stared at me for a whole minute before yelling, “Just catch the damn roach and bring it to class tomorrow!”

Roaches are pretty stupid, is what I found out that night. You turn off all lights sparing a table lamp and it thinks you've gone to sleep. Then it comes out for a stroll, advances toward the bathroom for carrying out the daily routine of kissing toothbrushes and goes straight into a scoop inside the waiting container in your hands (my mom never forgave me for using her favourite powder-case for this 'noble' roach-hunting, sigh). Like I said, pretty stupid.

So anyway, the next day our whole class was in a state of uproar. All of our roaches were kept inside a big, transparent container where they wriggled, swarmed and made all the girls go 'Ewwwwwwwww'. Then the lab guy poured formalin over them and began shaking and rattling the container as if he were making 'jhalmuri'. Again the girls went 'Ewwwwwwwww'.

Finally we were supplied individual half-conscious spread-eagled roaches and with them came the main problem: nobody wanted to touch them. Some went pale at the very sight while others began fidgeting with tissue papers. One of the girls actually started muttering “La Ilaha Illa Anta….”. Our biology teacher was heard scolding the students for being such 'chickens'. That stung, so I grabbed my roach by the antennae and began twirling it casually. Apparently, that offended my teacher. “You have to hold the cockroach as if you love it!” she barked.

“I beg your pardon?!” I gaped at her.
We were supposed to extract and identify the mouth-parts of the roaches. That's basically doing a dentist's job for the 'telapoka' society. This was the first time I saw my 'victims' up close, mind you, and was astonished to see that roaches actually had a very small head (no, the flat oily yellow thing with two egg-shaped black spots is not the head). In fact, I was so overjoyed at the discovery that I yelled aloud excitedly in the middle of the experiment, “Haha, so that's why you're so stupid, you pinhead!!”

My classmates gave me strange looks and inched away from me.
Last but not the least, Cockroach mouth-part extraction was actually set for our HSC finals. The other option was dissecting earthwsorm digestives, which was a considerably tougher experiment (I'll tell you why in a different story). So obviously I was happy when my favourite Mr. Roach came spread-eagled at my dissection table for a dental checkup. In fact, I was so happy that I actually grabbed the roach and yelled at it, “I love you Roachie! Mwah!!”

No, I did NOT really kiss the 'telapoka' (as if!), but the other students in the exam hall still gave me strange looks and inched away from me.
Oh well, weird world.

By Kokoro-chan

In a Colourful Frenzy

THE Bangali culture is intricately entangled with the art of making masks. Pahela Baishakh celebrations seem incomplete without Charukola bringing out a mass rally with life size masks. With such a vibrant tradition, what better or more creative way than to indulge children in the process of mask making? While we're at it, why not celebrate this Baishakh with masks made by 12-14 year olds and give them a chance to get unconditionally messy?

With such an idea in mind, Surf Excel launched 'Dekhao Prothiba Mukhoshe Mukhoshe', a weeklong long project between 7 to 13 April on mask making amongst school children that culminates into a daylong exhibition on 14th April this year. Children from 5th to 8th grades from Scholastica, Oxford, Ideal School, University Laboratory amongst a total of 40 schools signed up for the workshop of which 1200 were selected by the Surf Excel Activation Team. The workshop was conducted by students from Dhaka University Institute of Fine Arts as well as arts & crafts teachers from various reputed schools at TSC Swimming Pool premises. After much excitement, paint strokes and stained shirts, the children produced cut and paste paper masks that would adorn what was claimed to be the largest mask exhibition in Bangladesh.

So it was. With a 900 feet roadside exhibition stretching from Shahbagh to Sheraton Hotel, Pahela Baishakh celebrations turned on a new leaf. Colourful owls in red and black, tigers and lions in rainbow shades and creatures from fairy tales were beautifully depicted into the shape of a mask. Attracting much public interest as well as scooping acclamation since its opening on 14th April during the early hours of the day, the exhibition was a vibrant and refreshing showcase of young talents. The displayed masks were judged by renowned painters Mustafa Monwar, Hashem Khan, and Quayum Chowdhury.

Surf Excel a brand of Unilever has always believed children learn best when they're free to experience life. The mask making workshop with that belief in mind was an exciting initiative on its part and has sparked fresh creativity in the children. Surf Excel is thankful to have Charukormi as activation partner and Desh TV as media partner for the event, and hopes to embark upon similar initiatives in near future.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

10 Things to do (and not) on Earth Day

WITH over 12 hours of darkness each day, Earth Hour doesn't seem all that exciting this year. Our lights and fans barely get a chance to be switched on, so on most parts, our so-termed third world pool of people aren't really getting a chance to be on the corrupt list of exponential fuel consumers in the South Asia regions. However, since a large part of yours truly admits to tree hugging symptoms, here's a how-to on celebrating Earth Day 2010.

10. Make a point of using both sides of the paper. If you have assignments or drafts printed at one end, use the other for noting phone numbers, sketching math solutions or better, brushing your drawing skills.

09. Plant a tree. It never hurts.

08. Walk to your class or work. As much as we know how wonderful the jingling of rickshaw bells sound or how cool the car air conditioning is or the fact that street hawkers leave very little room for pedestrians, make an additional effort. You not only lose a few pounds, stumble upon unexplored goodies and know the roads better, but also make an impact on the carbon footprint and add less to the traffic congestion.

07. Come to terms with the fact that streets and roads are not public waste disposal grounds. We do not throw litter there, period.

06. In spirit of anti littering, consider reusing plastic or coke bottles as water bottles. Although this is a common practice anyway, try to not throw away the million 500ml or 1 litre bottles we buy each day and bring them home for further use.

05. We don't really get water, so conserving tap water and remembering to close the tap are off the list. Of course, if you're getting water, it's a different story altogether but leave your address with us. Some of us might be in need of a proper shower.

04. Consider not remodifying your broken Toyotas. Not only do they look hideous, they gobble fuel and aren't exactly well reconditioned, so spit out large quantities of harmful fumes.

03. Prepare for serious floods, droughts and earthquakes. Since we can't give advice on building well equipped and legal apartments that won't topple like a deck of cards at the offset of a natural calamity, we might as well tell you to stock up your goods in case of an emergency. Earth Day seems like a good day to start that!

02. Try to directly switch off your televisions instead of using remote controls. The resulting spark of saved electricity makes 0.0001 percent difference, which when practiced at a mass scale can light up a house.

01. Don't bite your nails. This has nothing to do with Earth Day, simply bad manners.

Although it's too late to start, it's never too late to take an initiative and make an honest effort. Every day is Earth Day, but in case you're wondering, it's today.

By Holy Babble



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