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Art in the Underground

Story: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya & Bareesh Hasan Chowdhury
Photos: Fahad Zaman

The alley next to the WASA building in Karwan Bazar is quiet, other than the usual noises of trucks and construction. The sun glares down and a sense of anticipation comes around. From somewhere, on big speakers, a now instantly recognisable beat sounds out. As the first cry of “Oppa Gangnam Style” comes out the speakers, two guys in faceless pop-locking masks start dancing in the middle of the road. People start to crowd, to see what the hell is going on. And within moments, more and more kids start to join in, wave after wave, all (mostly) in sync.

The planning behind the first public flash mob in the streets of Dhaka traces back to years of failure. Three people - a girl and two boys with very different music tastes - accidentally met up, talked about it and forgot about it. Only a week or two back, on a Saturday night, during a burst of adrenaline they caught up, re-planned and in less than 24 hours, had over 90 people signed up for the flash mob. By Tuesday, rehearsals started at The Bench, in a space behind the building, which until then was inhabited by a gigantic yet lovable dog, named Laila. Around 40 kids showed up on the first day, not knowing what to expect, and by the end of the first rehearsal, not many thought everyone would be ready by Thursday, the last rehearsal.

After exhausting practice sessions over the next two days, it finally started to take shape. On that last day, what was supposed to be a daunting six-hour practice (which in true Bangladeshi fashion started 3 hours late), everything fell into place. Suddenly, nobody was laughing at themselves, nobody thought they looked silly (well, they did but nobody cared anymore), and they were ready to hit the streets. And they did. The street behind the Bench. Blocking up traffic and using a stereo which nobody at the back could hear, around 50 dancers took off and did an out-of-sync, screwed up, insanely fun version of the Gangnam Style, much to the amusement of the cars and rickshaws that were being held up.

By Saturday, they were on the streets. Much to the surprise of the organisers, they were in perfect sync and to the shock of the dancers, no one missed the beats. The first public flash mob in the streets of Dhaka has finally made history.

Although flash mobs look incredibly fun and completely unplanned on YouTube, there is a story behind every 'mob'. Our one in Dhaka came with a protest against the most recent (and thankfully, still suggested) set of policies that controls online mass media. The policies, in a nutshell asks owners of online 'companies' to register with the government at an outrageous 7 lac taka bracket and extends to explain what can go online and what cannot. No, the more recent ban on YouTube isn't a product of it, however, if the policy does get passed, it might as well be.

However, like with anything done by young people, the weight of the cause was (slightly) overpowered by the energy of the activity. Dhaka, which always gets flagged as dingy, dirty, awful and boring, happens to host some of the most interesting underground art movements; the flash mob being the latest addition to the list. A graffiti on the walls of Beauty Boarding in Puran Dhaka, a couple of fire spinners at the shipping docks in Chittagong port, an array of photographs at Rabindra Shorobor, a bunch of musicians at a lone street in Gulshan, or strangers dancing in sync - the Dhaka art scene is vibrant and maddening. It's often frustrating for activists like one of the writers of this article to find people more interested in dancing than in volunteering to teach at a school. Yet as teenagers on Snickers would have it, it's the novelty of anything that leads to everything.

More often than not, we complain how as Bangladeshis, we lack unity. Even when we are in different corners of the world, we are often divided by politics. Our patriotism may always be under check, but the unity of our generation and the next is unquestionable. Perhaps, the drive of uselessness unites us, or the idea of being pioneers. Bottom line, when over 60 kids dance in sync in the streets, unity is the last question that strikes us.

Anger Management

By Farheen Rishta Binte Benazir

So it was just another normal week day, when, flipping channels while having breakfast, I tuned to a channel airing “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. Having heard a lot about it (none of it good), I stopped to see what it was about.

Man! That show is something else (and everything the Internet had to say about it). But it was the episode that drew me. Khloe and Kourtney were having some serious issues and the family decided that they will send Khloe to anger management.

Anger is a pretty big deal. If emotions make us humans, anger plays a large part in us being human. As with most emotions, it is a reaction. Perhaps one of our most common and genuine responses other than fear, unless you are a Vulcun. Often our fear is hidden behind a mask of it. As Yoda said, “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” And he wasn't wrong about the suffering

I don't remember anyone of my acquaintances who never got angry over things they did not like. I have seen some seriously angry people in my life and, God, they can be very dangerous! Some hurt themselves when they are angry, while some hurt others both mentally and physically, and yet there are some who destroy their surroundings when they are furious. You'll always find things flying here and there around them, as if tea cups have been shot full of Red Bull and acquired wings. It can be very scary sometimes though. They can't seem to control their anger, like the Hulk. Not good for bystanders.

For my part, I don't get mad easily. But my little five year old sister says, “Api, you become a big monster when you are angry, and I don't like you like that. I'm scared of you when you are angry!” Not that I do much, it's just that I shout on the top of voice and I scream my lungs out. My face puffs up and my eyes turn red and I somehow transform into some creature that is unknown to me. Okay, maybe I do go a little overboard. I say stuff that I don't mean, and later I regret my actions.

The thing is, anger can be controlled. The trick is to not give in to it. So, one night I asked my dad whether there were any anger management classes in Bangladesh. Baba, after remaining quiet for some time, said, “You don't need a counsellor to manage your anger, if you have a firm grip on yourself.” He said that in Islam anger is absolutely forbidden and even if you find yourself agitated you should take a minute to sort out your thoughts and not get angry. Come to think of it, no religion tells you to get angry and harm to yourself or others.

Baba always tells me that getting angry means losing to yourself. Anger causes more trouble and misunderstandings and often doesn't find the root of the problem and solve it.

Yet there is a positive side to anger. Sometimes it creates a drive in us which helps us to reach our goals. Have you never been angry at a teacher and forced yourself to study just to show him/her that you could beat the test? That's channelling anger to a fruitful end and sometimes gives very good results.

There's a good side and bad side to everything. Anger is a tool that can be used for good or evil. It's up to you to choose how to use it.

By Areeba Binte Tanzim
Age: 7

Armidale City Public School
NSW, Australia
You get friends and you lose friends,
But you always see them again.
You even sometimes have to stay away from family members.
But you do see them again.
Life can be hard without people,
But you always see them again.
You can lose them,
But you remember them.
You always can have a picture in your head about them,
You can be sad a little when you think about them,
But still stay a little happy.
You always get a new friend,
But you lose them again and it starts all over again,
Friends even get a little sad when they think about you.

A movie titled Anger Management came out in 2003, starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson, which is a comedy that deals with anger and confidence issues.

On June 28th of this year, a show based on the movie was launched, with Charlie Sheen in a similar role to that of Jack Nicholson's in the 2003 movie, as an anger management specialist. Perhaps it was the irony of the whole situation, or the fans Sheen gained from “Two and a Half Men”, but the launch has broken cable records for being the most watched premier of a show with 5.74 million viewers.


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