Shamim Reza is a very talented bloke, and this is my latest acquisition. He has exhibited at the Bengal gallery and has a bit of a quirky style. This painting is not typical of his work. In fact, to tell the truth, I prefer his experimental stuff to his farbric work. Having said that I have seen some of his larger fabric creations and they are simply stupendous .He has typical ’shilpi’ like traits - he invited me last month to view his works in pitch darkness at his home. I kid you not.
Yes. Surprised? And what if I told you that some muslim kids celebrate Israel’s national day, eat kosher food, learn hebrew etc? You would think I have gone potty right? Well I haven’t.Â See for yourself - click to read about King David primary school in Birmingham. Stereotype that!
‘Compliance’ in the bangladeshi garments industry refersÂ to certain codes which guide the way companies should treat their workers, the wages the workers should be paid (currently what is agreed is below a living wage!) and how to provide safe working conditions. Well, those are the essential top of the list items….And from today, after years of foot-dragging, prevarication, procrastination and downright greed, the industry has to deliver.
From today things must change - so says the military-backed emergency administration currently in charge of the country.
And strangely we haven’t heard too many complaining squeaks from the owners. They are notoriously ostrich-like with their heads buried in large stashes of lolly….and refuse to see the social catastrophe that awaits if they get it wrong. Anyway, maybe in a couple of weeks, on St Valentine’s day, they will follow up by giving the women workers chocs and red roses?
I flew back on an Emirates flight yesterday. I always like to make small talk on these long flights with my fellow passengers, and make it a point to do so even if they are not female and pretty. However I was stumped yesterday. The two chaps next to me sat down and immediately grabbed magazines on golf and Formula 1 motor racing. For me there can never be a stronger conversation stopper than people expressing an interest in golf and motor racing. I mean what the hell man…?
Anyway, all that is a long preamble to tell you that I was forced to switch on the inflight radio as a result and found out about an amazing initiative. Emirates is doing quite a few charitable projects in bangladesh but this one is particularly interesting: it concerns the work Runa Khan is doing, supported by Emirates Airlines, in remote parts of north-west Bangladesh. I had vaguely heard about it but listening to Runa explain the way the whole hospital ship thing started was fascinating. Locals call her ship the “angel.” Read about it below. Another hospital ship is on its way mid-2007.
Runa Khan is not from an NGO background, and that is very telling in the way she speaks. Whilst one has to be careful about the whole business of charity this one is certainly pushing the boundaries in more ways than one including capacity development and skills transfer.
I searched on the web for more information and found something HERE.
So here is Dhaka. Described unsentimentally, sceptically, passionately and dispassionately and even prophetically. Sharper than a photograph, and only faintly but excusably narcissistic - I present to you Azfar Hussain’s “Dhaka, tobuo tomakey”
[Freely translated from the original
Bengali poem ‘Dhaka, Tobuo
Tomakey’ by the author]
by Azfar Hussain
So where is history written/except in the poems?
â€”Audre Lorde, Our Dead behind Us
They have told me I only talk about politics now.
â€”Ernesto Cardenal, Zero Hour
Forgive me if my accent keeps falling on the wrong syllable. Forgive me if my poem invites crude prose and even coarse statistics. And forgive me if I blurt out the unsayables in the middle of your darbari music or mess around with your late-night discourses on Zen. And forgive me if I miss cues and clues from your City Corporation or Stock Exchange for my reality check.
But I am no apologetic poet. I don’t tighten my lines taut like a bowstring so as to sling off words straight at a target from twenty yards out. And words are not machine-guns or even arrows, but there are some that hurt and kill. And, dear sir, I don’t fine-tune my sentences with humble submission to your style manuals. But, frankly, I rehearse the lines of my favorite poets whenever I get a chance. And I relish repetition, am madly in love with awkward alliterations, and occasionally reach for rhymeâ€”full or half or para- or masculine or feminine, if never royalâ€”depending on my stress.
And I swear.
These chaps were on their way to Riyadh when i met them. They come from Tangail - just north of Dhaka. They had a wait of 15 hours at Kolkata airport for their connection. The airport’s airconditioning was far too cold, and they complained many times but to no avail. In desperation they got their towels out and tried to keep warm. They told me - Sir, this is not the worst of it. At least we are being fed here. In Dhaka we had a wait of five days and often with erratic food delivery.
I asked them if they knew what they wouldl be doing - they replied that they would be faciliatating the pilgrims on hajj in Saudi for the next month, and then after that cleaning work. They had no idea what their wages would be or where they would be working. Anything was better than being jobless at home. Being powerless is part of the package. You are at the mercy of middle-men and employers, and that is the way things are done. This is globalisation. Like it or lump it.
And in Dubai I saw hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims clad in white sheets and towels. Acting out of a force as inexorable as globalisation these chaps are on their way to Mecca. It was an awesome and overwhelming sight. Allthough I am not religious at all, I could not help but be moved by this devotional act. All dressed in simple white garb, it was an affirmation of how insignificant/powerful we are.
I missed my connection in Dubai and Emirates put me up at Le Meridien. In my room there was a little arrow indicating the direction of Mecca for prayer purposes. And downstairs, in the foyer, Filipino migrant workers were entertaining the 5 star guests to Christmas carols. I listen moved by their efforts. I wanted to stay but I had to rush off to Deira for a recce of what is to come next year for me.
I got home in the nick of time….and so, merry xmas from bonnie Scotland.
Bangladesh hails “messiah” Zidane: BBC storyÂ
credit: Focus Bangla
And the crowned messiah with the other crowned messiah Yunus.
Welcome to Dhaka Zizou! with Les Bleus in our hearts!
It was Aminul Islam, an extremely well regarded painter in bangladesh who said : “Great art is something more than just formal beauty. It should carry a message, reflect the spirit of the age, and, at its best, prognosticate and prophesy.”
Well I think S M Samsu has managed to do that here with this particular rickshaw painting. The text reads “Visa, Free, Bangladesh to America.”
Samsu is one of Dhaka’s most prominent rickshaw painters. With this one, he has left his usual theme of bengal tiger tea parties or bengal tigers and monkeys as traffic controllers, and has correctly captured a popular aspiration. Sadly political and social commentary in art is a rare thing these days in bangladesh. And one finds it only in niche forms like this. The Kamrul Hasans, the Abeddins, the Quayyum Chowdhurys and others who had a socio-political vision in their art, at least at some point in their lives, seem not to have too many successors.
I hear on the grapevine that Patricia Butenis has had tea and perhaps some milk shemoy (vermicelli - an eid favourite) yesterday with the proposed head of the caretaker government - Justice K M Hasan. Is this the writing on the wall for the former chief justice? And why is Patricia doing the writing?
With all this noise around Mohammed Yunus, this year’s Nobel Peace gong winner, I decided I should find out how rich this banker to the poor is. I have no idea about his regular income. The only information I have is that he has bagged 10 million Swedish Kronors (about 723k GBP). And his share his half given that the award has been made jointly to the good professor and his Grameen outfit. Let’s say that he sticks to his celebrated wisdom of not handing out money to the poor - meaning he doesn’t do donations - that means he will keep approx 360k. That income, according to information based on figures supplied by the World Bank Development Research Group, would make Prof Yunus the 107,565 richest person in the world! Not bad going when you think there are six billion people knocking about. Well done again Mo!
She took her life along with those of her two children. Her mother tells the story.
British bangalis still send their kids “home” to get married. The prospective spouse from “home” will not have been exposed to “bad” western behaviour….yes, because they are all “pure” back home. Additionally the bargaining power is greater for the British family negotiating a marriage. For the families back “home” a prospective spouse living in the west is a ticket not to be dismissed. Its an instant solution to the uncertainties of life and life opportunities in Bangladesh. Everything else comes later - including the welfare of your child who is going off blind into the distance…
And although Musammat Mumtahana’s story is extreme, there are many stories as hauntingly depressing as hers.
And Mr Yunus has won the ultimate accolade.
And here is the press release of the Nobel Committee:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.
Oh yes she does by over 75,000 when I tried. Try it yourself HERE.