Jul 18, 2013

Since preparations of the tribunal began, the BAL government and many experts created a strong front for the tribunal, fighting off anyone who raised a hair of concern about its legitimacy. It was easy to fight off BNP on this, since they were caught holding Jamaat's hand since last election. Other critics weren't tolerated either, and were accused of being anti-liberation (if that's possible). We, the people, joined in on this, whether fully grasping it or not, but wholly out of desperation for closure. Everyone believed that this time, closure is coming.
With that one year left of BAL's term in power, the sentences have started to pour out of the courts. It has been nothing short of the rise of the greatest conundrum for the people from what I can see.

The big blow was dealt last with the sentence of the big one - Golam Azam. Yes, said the courts, he should be hanged! Yay, cheered the masses! But then, continued the court, since he is old and his health is not so good, we think he should be given a 90 year term in jail. Nay, came back the response from the masses, who just couldn't believe it.

Its a massive imbroglio and its pushing the citizens to mime the position we've been 'taught' (someone taught us, or we taught ourselves) to take - do not question the tribunal's validity (lest you want to lose what we've achieved, yes?), even if from one sentence to the next, things do not make sense to you, or if by next election, this becomes the factor behind your vote.

Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2013

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Jul 13, 2013

There are a few worlds we reside in, different realities when you enter one room or turn into a road. My work hours are spent in a world where I have a 6th floor view of lots of trees and smaller buildings, and a great big sky. Within that ecosystem I have the respect of a team I command and colleagues I confer with to create the solutions we were hired to.

To get to work, I have to take a rickshaw ride over broken roads, over puddles if there was rain, behind men who have separate realities themselves. Some have faces that show desperation, others a defiant arrogance. From the rickshaw I walk among other workers making their way to their workplaces sometimes stopping to have our suspicious and fishy 'law enforcers' search my bag to ensure the security of the masses. These men have their own realities, their own stories that shaped them.

This weekend I went to a garage for my car, on a street that I once crossed many times to get to work before. When driving into it this time, I was surprised that I was blocking incoming traffic. The two lane road was reduced to one by those massive dumpsters laid along haphazardly, and of course with a great amount of garbage lying outside them. Once I stopped at the garage, it was right opposite a couple of them, and the stench was unbearable, at least at first.

Since I had to be there, I got used to it, like the mechanics who work on that corner everyday. You can see the people passing by hold their noses and breath as they pass them. For someone who'd be there for a couple of hours, holding ones breath is not an option. There are a few buildings around there and from one came out one man with his child on his colorful bicycle with safety wheels. Poor kid is also used to this unholy surroundings, and has to have his play time in it.

This was another world, where there were other worlds in it. Soon after the Friday Jummah prayers were over, the roads were a little barren, and suddenly a few kids appeared. Each about 3.5' tall, they were still wearing panjabis, suggesting they had been to the mosque a while ago. What they were doing there at the time, was another unholy thing. These puny human beings were mouthing each other off, with insults that involved their mothers. As one hurled one insult describing what he would do, the other came back with something more sinister. Those were the rules of the game I suppose, and for this surrounding it made no difference to its inhabitants, only to the alien who was visiting with his problems from another world.

Another excerpt from City of Joy:
[Voice of Musafir Prasad] 'I knew that to do my job properly, I needed a heart of stone like my boss. How else would I be able to claim the five- or six-rupee hiring fee from some poor sod whose carriage [rickshaw] hadn't budged from the spot. I knew that some days many of them would have to go without food to pay me. Poor fellows! How are you supposed to pull two clients and all their parcels or two fat women from one of the rich neighborhoods with nothing in our stomach? Every day pullers collapsed on the street. And each time some fellow couldn't get back on his feet, I had to look for a replacement. Thank God there was no shortage of candidates!

Posted on Saturday, July 13, 2013

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Jul 8, 2013

It must have been years since I bought Freedom at Midnight and City of Joy from one trip to Neelkhet's bountiful used-books mart. I finally picked up City of Joy, having lost my copy Freedom at Midnight recently while I was still halfway through it. City of Joy is fat book, the kind I am prone to avoid, but out of a sudden act of courage, I picked it up. If I don't survive the first few pages of a book, its a sign that there is no future there, and here I read over 20 pages in one go! Bravo!

The more I read the book, as the characters unfold, their fates unfold, I realize how after such a long time, after such drastic changes in my country (similar to India, once India, once Bengal), its almost like nothing has changed after all!

Check this:
But when the December wind blew down from the Himalayas and swept through the avenues, it was as cold as death on the pavements. From every direction there rose the same haunting noises. The sound of coughing fits, of throats being cleared, the whistle of spitting. The worst for Aloka was to have to 'sleep on the bare ground. You woke up in the morning with limbs as painful as if they'd been beaten. By some cruel stroke of irony, an advertisement on a hoarding seemed to flout them from the opposite pavement. It showed a maharajah sleeping snugly on a thick mattress. From his dreamland he inquired solicitously, 'Have you ever thought of a Simmons mattress as a present?'

I am a long way from finishing the book, but I feel like this book should be a part of school curriculum. We are growing up now with education, as if a brand of orange juice, has quality levels that depend on the parents' bank accounts. There are even English medium schools whereby you can graduate to own a very good grasp of English while having a very low level knowledge of your own mother tongue. Overall, education can have an effect that creates a distance between a person and the realities that plague the rest of the country. The age of globalization also showers us with images of lifestyle habits that may further exacerbate this.

The fate of a person who leaves his village out of necessity to find work as a rickshaw puller in urban Kolkata (then Calcutta) is easily transferable to our beloved Dhaka. Just see how many people are in that profession right now. To not be able to fathom what they, or those who sleep under the sky at Shahbagh, Karwan Bazaar and other places go through, cannot create a society where the marginalized would ever get anyone to empathize with them. Literature like this, would go a long way to nurturing that empathy.

Dominique Lapierre
Kathryn Spink (Who translated City of Joy)
City of Joy Aid
Simmons Mattress

Posted on Monday, July 08, 2013

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