Mukti

Memoirs of a wimpy kid

Posted in Drama, family, gender, movies, society, TV by jrahman on April 28, 2018

Not only has my pre-tween boy read all 12 Wimpy Kid books, watched various movie versions, played the board game, and been through various activity books, he has convinced me to read (by which I mean listen on audibles) a few.  They are fun.  It’s not hard for me to see a bit of my own wonder years in these stories.

Of course, my tweens were in the 1980s Dhaka, not modern American suburbia.  My teen years were in international schools in the tropics, owing to my father’s job.  I was in high school (in the American sense) at the same time as the gang from 90210.  A quarter century before social media, our social lives were shaped by and mirrored what we watched on the tele.  It was appropriate years before Rage Against the Machine penned — Cinema simulated life in trauma / Forthright culture, Americana / Chained to the dream they got you searchin’ for……

Imagine then how old I felt when watching Dylan McKay grounding his teenage son in Riverdale.

Now, here was an idea — take the key characters from a comic book set in the happy days and set them in a town that must be the twin of Twin Peaks, this was stuff of inspired imagination.  I found the first few episodes of Riverdale riveting, but then somehow lost track.  I guess these days, if it is not binge-watched, it’s hard to watch at all.

Well, I wouldn’t at all recommend binge-watching the other Netflix teen drama from 2017.  Then again, I found the show quite padded, and just-not-good-TV, so I wouldn’t really recommend it at all.

But even a bad show, sometime, makes you think.   (more…)

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How many shades of hypocrisy?

Posted in gender, Rights, society by jrahman on December 5, 2017

Guest post by F Rahman

Too much learning is a dangerous thing – it was an op ed by Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli published by the Daily Star on 2 Dec 2016.  The author tried to show, using satire, the daily struggles of women who are meant to never speak up and are thus shouted down when they actually do. 

The satire was missed by Dhaka’s chatterati, and there was a large hue and cry in the social network.  Incensed, Farhana Rahman wrote the following.  The Daily Star agreed to print it, and then changed their mind, pulling Ms Pervin’s original piece from their website instead. 

Hypocrisy comes in all shapes and sizes in Dhaka. This is just another one…

JR

Every culture has it.  Every race has it.  Every era, including our own, has had it.  We have it too.  When you look within yourself, how many shades of hypocrisy do you see?  Of course, I cannot answer that question about anyone but myself, as I am no one to judge. We all should be the judge of our own selves and all the shades we bring along.

So was perhaps what this writer tried to do – perhaps she was looking within herself to see the life of us, as women, as a daughter, as a sister, a wife, a mother, a home maker, or a professional, and at end of the day, just a person.  A writer whom I never heard of, I came across her on facebook, when a friend commented on her piece that has been shared randomly.

I was curious despite the seemingly bland title of the article. (By the way, I think my title is equally bland. Solidarity!).

So she thinks too much learning is a dangerous thing.

She attempts portraying the typical female life in our everyday society, within her household and outside: the different roles she plays and juggles at every step of her life; and how they affect each other. She goes on to further detail how the complexity of our interlinked but different faces are all too often overlooked by people around us whom we save on our call-list as friends and family.  Forget any hope of real support, she reminds us how callous our F&F can be at the time of need!

We have talked enough about the brother getting the big piece of fish and husband getting the fish head or some versions of such, so I don’t want to bore you by explaining that bit – you get the context. Our writer here goes a step further and points out how even just by being a female in Bangladesh we are taken for granted to put on a number of faces, and then simply expected to live each of them with utmost perfection.  And just because we are women, we are not meant to speak up under any circumstances, even if we appear to wear our faces superbly.

As if being a perfect daughter, sister, wife, or a mother – which are supposed to be the only valid roles society had long deemed for us females – isn’t hard enough, the writer mocks how we seem to be deliberately making our own lives even more miserable by facing the outside world with (un)necessary further roles.

We know that there is no easy way, no chance of mistake, no one to lean on or no one to turn to. People will stand by the side, watching, and they will pretend applauding you as a successful woman, but one simple slip up is all that’s needed to reveal their true faces – the hypocrisy within them.

So my unknown writer friend tries expressing her frustrations and disappointments on all the above with “humour”.

Guess what?  It seems she slipped up!

How dare she, with her bad English (as if every other op ed writer in Bangladesh is an Oxford debater)!

Why couldn’t she be just happy with whatever faces she has to hold. Not only she dared to express her opinion, even worse, she made it to the newspapers in Bangladesh.

And from there, all hypocrisy just broke loose.

Sometimes life puts you in a spot that’s so bad that you have to just laugh at things.  It was pretty hilarious discovering how many of us didn’t take a breath criticising the writer’s education, background, or motive, while completely ignoring the fact that we ourselves lacked total empathy to hear the cry of a wounded heart.  Our reaction seemed to be less about what she wanted to say, but whether she had the eligibility to say anything.

I simply couldn’t stop wondering since when did we need “eligibility” to speak our mind! It amazes me that we are ready to reject someone just because she couldn’t express her thoughts “correctly” or offer any solution to our situations.  She dared trying mockery instead and apparently failed to “capture on a foreign language” her satire, never mind the exclamation mark at the end of her article!

How many shades of hypocrisy?  Tricky question.

We are either hypocrites, or we are not.

We cannot keep lecturing in our stuttering, heavily accented English on International Women’s Day to a room full of men about uplifting women, empowerment, justice or such big heavy words, and then go criticising someone who happens to be a woman, for being brave enough to speak her mind on issues we dare not touch, in whatever language she knows to whatever standard with whatever background she has.

When we do that, the shade is solid hypocrisy.

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All my hope is (not) gone

Posted in activism, blogging, forced disappearance, Rights by jrahman on November 19, 2017

It was over a decade ago, before smartphones, at the dawn of the Facebook age.  Most online communication still involved sitting with a laptop, or even desktop.  And daily routine involved checking a few googlegroups and blogsites over morning caffeine.  That morning, the big news was that Tasneem Khalil had been picked up by the army.  Over the next 24 hours, online activists and offline negotiators, from Dhaka to DC and a dozen other places. worked hard to secure his release.  CNN was involved, as was Bangladesh-related big wigs in the American foreign policy establishment.  And it was impressed upon the big wigs of the 1/11 regime that releasing Tasneem was in the best interest of everybody.

Deshe jacchi, kintu nervous lagcche, Caesar re kara niye gelo….  (Going to Dhaka, but feeling nervous, who took Caesar….) — someone was saying at a social event recently.  Caesar is the nickname of Mubashar Hasan, of Dhaka’s North South University.

Tasneem ke jokhon dhorsilo, ke, keno, kothaye, ei gula toh jana chilo….. (When they took Tasneem, we knew the who, why and where)….  — Tasneem got in trouble for publishing a piece linking Tarique Rahman, the DGFI and radical Islamists in North Bengal.  Mubashar has been missing for a week and half, and no one seems to know who has taken him or why.

His research involved globalisation and Islamisation — could be heavy stuff, sure.  But he wasn’t an investigative journalist or an avenging activist.  He was focussed on synthesis, and practical, policy-oriented research.  Still, he might have come across things that could upset people in Dhaka.

Do you notice I write in the past tense?  Have I given up on the possibility of Mubashar returning?

When you say it’s gonna happen “now” / Well when exactly do you mean? / See I’ve already waited too long / And all my hope is gone

Maybe not all hope is gone.  After all, his near and dear ones have been pleading, begging, from divine and Prime Ministerial intervention for Mubashar’s safe return.  If there was no hope, would they have supplicated thus?

But then again, in a decade, we have gone from defiant activism and applying pressure to quiet submission and passive acceptance — collective despair, you be the judge.

Mubashar was — what’s the point of not using the past tense — hopeful.  Unlike so many others — yours truly included — he did finish his PhD.  He started blogging after the glory days of Bangla blogosphere.  He worked within the system, because he knew that’s the only way to make change.

Most importantly, he overcame issues in personal life to give his daughter a better tomorrow.  We had bonded over not just the stupidity of Shahbagh, but also about co-parenting.  There is a little girl out there hoping his Baba will return with some My Little Pony gift.

I too submit, submit to the Almighty — please don’t let that girl grow up without hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gone Girl

Posted in books, Drama, family, gender, movies, Rights, society, thriller, thriller by jrahman on June 26, 2016

 

What are you thinking?  How are you feeling?  What have we done to each other?  What will we do?

The primal questions of any marriage — says, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) as David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl begins.  Wrestling with the unravelling of own marriage, the questions came as a jolt as I watched the scene in a lonely hotel room after a long day of work.

A decade of marriage, and you realise you don’t know who your partner is.  Worse.  You don’t know who you are anymore.

What have we done to each other?  Indeed!

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Degenerating the Faith (2)

Posted in books, classics, culture, faith, history, Muslim world, society by jrahman on December 5, 2015

Part 1.

Classical Muslim scholars used to divide travel and travel writing into two categories. First is what they called rihla — a description of what the traveller did, saw or experienced.  Ibn Battuta’s travelogues are the best known in this genre.  However, rihla can also be more than mere narratives and descriptions. They can form the basis of scientific enquiry.  An example of this kind of rihla is the 11th century polymath Al Biruni’s description of India.  Travelling under the protection of Mahmud of Ghazni, Al Biruni studied sciences and mathematics and wrote Tarikh al Hind — one of the most comprehensive books on pre-Islam subcontinent. In fact, great rihla, according to the scholars, had to have some analysis as well as description.

There is another tradition of travel and travel writing among the learned Muslims of yore, that of safr.  Safr is the word for travel or journey in most north and east Indian languages, including Bangla.  To the 11th century Sufi philosopher Al-Ghazali, safr meant any travelling through which a person evolves.  To him, safr meant as well as the physical act of travelling somewhere, mixing with the inhabitants of that land, imbibing oneself with their customs and ways, and evolving into a person closer to Allah.

Al-Ghazali further categorised travellers: those who travel seeking knowledge, the best kind; the Hajis; the immigrants — the Prophet himself was an immigrant; and the refugees, the worst kind.

What is the line between an immigrant and a refugee?  Salman Rushdie and VS Naipaul have both written about the uprooting involved in migration.  Both have noted that at some level or other, all migrants are really refugees.  But for Naipaul, the uprooting is mostly a bad thing.  Rushdie is open to the possibility of migration leading to something new.  Migrants are works of translation, he writes.

Those of you who have read the Quran probably have done so in translation.  Translation then can’t always be bad.

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Degenerating the Faith

Posted in books, classics, culture, current affairs, faith, society by jrahman on December 2, 2015

Being a Bangladeshi student in the urban west of the 1990s wasn’t easy.

Leaving home for a strange place — whether from a village in Maheshkhali for Dhaka University, or from Dhaka to foreign cities — is difficult for anyone in their late teens.  And at any age, student or otherwise, it is hard to move to a city.  Cities, metropoles that are cosmopolitan, dense with information to overload all the senses, and yet a depressing place where you are likely to be all alone amid the teeming multitude.  You seek to belong, because you find solace as part of something that is bigger than your mundane existence.

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Coffee House

Posted in gender, music, Rights, society by jrahman on August 1, 2015

As every educated Bengali knows, decades before a bunch of photogenic New Yorkers made it trendy, hanging out in a cafe — the Coffee House was cool.  Hanging out — adda –with your friends after work, who can’t relate to that?

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The Manna Dey classic suggests the great experience mid-20th century Calcutta would have been for young guys — the Art College graduate drawing sketches for marketing firms before making it to Paris, the reporter who would migrate to Dhaka (and write a great book on 1971), the Goanese guitarist who died young, the amatuer actor suffering from a romantic tragedy related breakdown, the unrecognised poet with cancer….

… and the girl….

Ah, yes, the girl…. the one who is supposed to be happy because she has a millionaire husband who buys her jewellery….

Ray’s Big City wasn’t a great place for women.

Much of the subcontinent still isn’t.

 

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For Bergman

Posted in Freedom of speech, Rights by jrahman on July 7, 2015

Not Ingrid, nor Ingmar, but David — the nefarious Zionist Islamist enemy of our Holy Spirit of Liberation.  In a just and fair country, he would be lauded for his effort.  In a normal country, he would be ignored by everyone except for a few academic type.  In Bangladesh, well, sigh…..

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The not-so-curious tragedy of AKM Wahiduzzaman

Posted in Freedom of speech, Rights by jrahman on October 23, 2014

AKM Wahiduzzaman is a geographer.  He used to teach the subject at Bangladesh’s National University.  A keen sportsman, he represented Bangladesh in basketball in the 1980s.  And a vocal BNP supporter in various online platforms, he has been in jail twice in last three years.  For the past year, he has been in hiding. He may well be going back to jail soon.  Seeing his ordeals, his father has become seriously ill.

Make no mistake, his ordeal is because of his politics.

He is a very good Bangla commentator, with verve and wit.  He writes galagali free polished Bangla, not indulging in ad hominem attacks — itself an extreme rarity in Bangladeshi cyberspace.  Just as rare is his steadfast and frank support of BNP.  Unlike so many, he does not hide behind so-called non-partisanship.

Because of his politics, he comes under attack from the Awami Leaguers (and their ultra-nationalist ‘useful idiots’) as well as Islamists.  There is nothing curious about that.  And that’s not particularly tragic either — your opponents will try to hurt you, that’s how it works.

It is, however, tragic when those who claim to be neither Awami collaborators nor Islamists — the so-called non-partisans — don’t stand by Mr Wahiduzzaman.  If there is one genuine case in Bangladesh where free speech is under threat, he ought to be the one.  It is a tragedy that this is not the case.

But it’s not at all surprising.  No, not to me.  I am not surprised that our so-called progressives don’t speak out for him.  You see, to our progressive intellectuals and activists, Wahiduzzaman is BNP.

Sanaullah Babu was hacked to death four years ago.  He was BNP. There was no human right violation for him.  Similarly, no rights for Ilias Ali or others who have been abducted.  They are BNP.  So why should it surprise me that no one cares about Wahiduzzaman?

It doesn’t.  And this post isn’t about demanding justice for him.  Because he won’t get it.

Over the fold is an example of Mr Wahiduzzaman’s writing.

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Shahbag to Shapla Chattar — songs of water and fire

Posted in activism, Bangladesh, blogging, Freedom of speech, history, Islamists, media, politics, Rights, uprisings by jrahman on March 26, 2014

The blog went into a hiatus about year ago. The reasons for that extended absence are, unfortunately, still relevant. That’s why the blog has been far less frequent than was the case in the past. However, it is what it is. I am not sure when the blog can be fully operational again. For now, pieces will come infrequently, and the blog will often be an archive for material published elsewhere. Also, the comments section will be off —it is disrespectful to not respond to comments, but since I can sometime be offline for days, if not weeks, it’s better to have the comments off.

This means no direct interaction with the reader.  But this also means the blog will become what blogs originally were — an online diary, a weblog, where one records one’s own thoughts and observations.  I guess it’s somewhat fitting that the first post in the new format is on the set of events that rocked Bangladesh as the blog went into hiatus.

These events, according to the contemporaneous analyses, were going to change everything forever. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the contemporaneous analyses were mostly wrong. This is a for-the-record post summarising my evolving thoughts as the events unfolded between 5 Feb and 5 May 2013. It is important to note what this is not.  This is not analysis — I am not trying to offer an explanation of what happened, nor provide any insight into what they mean for our past, present or future.  This is not activism either — I am not arguing any particular case.  Rather, this is an extremely self-indulgent post, the target here is really myself years down the track.  If anyone else reads it, that’s just bonus.

 

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