imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for March, 2006

Mar 7,2006

HSBC has always been agressive with its advertising. But recently their opportunistic advertising has been getting up my wick. Take this ad here:


I photographed the above picture on a billboard near the Shakura market opposite the Sheraton (pls excuse the telegraph wires). This is a clearcut and shameless appropriation of a national symbol for commercial purposes. But it didn’t end there. At the Ekushey Book fair, HSBC apparently organised a quiz “with a view to diseminating knowledge on the glory of ‘Amar Ekushey’ among the new generation.” See HERE. ( Yes our journo fraternity love re-printing press releases without any critical input). And of course if you got things right, you would get one of their pens and one of their Amar Ekushey posters.

But that is not all, I kept encountering HSBC posters with the words “Celebrating One Hundred Years In Bangladesh.” Correct - that is the exact wording. That is what the posters said. Now my calculator is a cheap casio one but it functions acceptably, and tells me, even after repeated inputs, that Bangladesh is not that old if I subtract 1971 from 2006. Was my history wrong? Nope. True the All-India Muslim League was born in 1906 and so was the novelist R K Narayan but not Bangladesh. So what could it be about? Well according to Steve Banner, the CEO of HSBC, it was to “promote local culture and heritage as well as diversity.” And it was to celebrate the last one hundred years of bangla music. Bangla music is older but the last 100 years is a good number of years to celebrate, isn’t it? A century is a nice round figure after all. And of course the hugely long but totally false association implied in the ad between Bangladesh and HSBC can’t do business any harm - can it? So it dawned on thick old me that the title of the ad has no particular reference point in 1906 but the resonance of 100 years was too good to miss for the ad men. And that got up my wick. If you can be bothered to read the Daily Star about the event HSBC organised, do note again the sycophantic and uncritical journalist’s comment at the end. One hopes that the artistic community are, or will become, a bit more discerning about patronage than this journo Karim Waheed would like.

So what is behind it - I suspect all the above is fluff around what HSBC might be upto. Fluff to win the consumers’ hearts and minds. And they will need to. According to The HSBC Watch HSBC is rolling out its dodgy and high cost Household finance in Asia. ( In 2003 HSBC bought disgraced predatory lender Household International and apparently it has not dropped the infamous business model). I also understand this year HSBC are going into Islamic Banking in Bangladesh. I look forward to seeing their shariah compliant ads.

Mar 7,2006

A “terror chief,” to use current journo phraseology, whose existence was long denied by Khaleda Zia and a long list of her ministers, somehow managed to get arrested in a violent confrontation with the authorities. Read about it HERE.

Will Khaleda manage to turn this capture into yet another propaganda success like she did with the arrest of Shaekh Abdur Rahman a few days ago? If so, it can only be a testimony to the gullibility of the public and the lack of acumen and disorganisation of the political parties. If after all the evidence showing BNP-Jamaat alliance feet-dragging, lying, negligence and, dare I say it, complicity…if they still get the credit, well then something ain’t right, as they say.

Shaekh, rattle and roll

Mar 2,2006

Politicians of every hue have been lining up to condemn Shaekh Abdur Rahman after his capture this morning. And the news channels have been having a real song and dance about it. The bearded fundie, responsible for bomb explosions all over Bangladesh, had some interesting ideas about things. Recently extracted confessions from his captured mates and relatives include Shaekh’s teachings telling JMB operatives that it was not a sin to loot valuables of Grameen Bank, Brac, Proshika, Asa and Karitas because these groups encourage women to shed Burqa (veil). Bit too fashion conscious I think.

The Bangladeshi government had offered 50 lakh taka reward for information about his whereabouts. However the landlord’s brother - the guy who first informed the police - is unlikely to get it I hear. Every agency working on the case is clamouring to get a share. The landlord himself is an ex-pat living in London! He is a certain Mr Abdul Huq and he will probably be receiving a visit from her majesty’s constabulary shortly.

Mar 1,2006

Mofidul Hoque wears many hats. He is a prolific writer, a publisher of books, a translator of books, a cultural pundit and many other things. I caught up with him the other day when he had on his curator’s hat for Dhaka’s Liberation War Museum. I went to see him on some matter but took the opportunity to get him to fill out my “five things interview” sheet - hastily typed minutes before I saw him. I threatened to put it up on this blog if it was remotely interesting, which it was bound to be, and he politely, but I guess a little reluctantly, agreed.

Mofidul and Spanish Brigade Mofidul Hoque in London earlier this year at my all time favourite piece of sculpture - remembering those who fell in the International Brigade fighting fascism in Spain . Taken with Nokia 6680.

For those of you who don’t know, the Liberation War Museum is an institution with potential to be of great societal value given the current circumstances in Bangladesh. As well as the preservation of relics and artifacts of the liberation war, the museum has an inspiring outreach and oral history program. If you are wondering about the circumstances I refer to above, let me quote Yvette Claire Rosser from her 2004 monograph “Indoctrinating Minds, A Case Study of Bangladesh: “…the history of the genocide, the bravery and camaraderie of the Liberation War of 1971 is in jeopardy of being obscured.” Yup. Correct. There has been a concerted attempt to induce a memory loss regarding those times. In this context, the LWM is a critical and essential project. Anyway here’s the “5 things interview” (answers received 27 February). Next time I see Mofidul Hoque, I will need to ask him what “neutrality in depicting history” actually means. Isn’t history a contested space? (more…)