Thursday, July 22, 2004

History 1971: Our diseased and 'illegitimate' incubation?

Are we brave enough to accept that we have had a premature birth and it is this unexplained illegitimacy that is causing all the heartburns and that for thirty-three God forsaken years we have not been able to come out of the faulty incubator placed on us to breathe easy, to taste freedom, as we really MUST? .....To the sore point of legitimacy, the debate as to who 'declared' the Independence of Bangladesh, is equal to two fathers claiming paternity of a single child, little realizing that the 'mother' in the melee has either been raped, was a two timing flirt, or worse a slut or whore ? surely Bangladesh our 'motherland' deserves better.

"Aspirations of the people, are best understood by those, that transpire and conspire, in a MIND GAME called Power"

What are we really arguing about?

The recent trend is not new, nor is there any chance for anybody accepting anything other than what serves the existing status quo. Before long, yet another new 'value added' power player will appear in the horizon to checkmate whatever has been 'undone', add newer distortions while editing out 'old distortions' and the plain bottom line; we would be back to square 1, to where it all started: to 2 steps forward and 3 steps backwards to - nowhere?

Lord behold, we are the only 'nation' on God's earth to have our eyes placed at the back of our skulls!

History as played out in Bangladesh is only for those with a conceited vision of the present in relation to the past. The pasts again are rehashed moments of our glorious warrior's fame, battles and skirmishes, but the irony is - try as we might to fool ourselves, we did not WIN the war, so forget the oft bulldozed terms: 'Proclaimer of Independence' or the 'Father of the Nation'.

We were never WINNERS - we were merely on a 'win, win spree' in 1971 and breezed through some skirmishes which we heroically call 'battles' in which the poorest of the poor got killed, not us city bred educated elite who have since taken upon the mantles of the 'Liberation War' only to protect our inadequacies, and reap a bonanza HISTORY literally brought to our shores.

Winners do not behave as badly as we do. If it was WAR that we have WON, then thirty-three years down the line, the idiosyncratic repeat of differing and conflicting versions of 'history' would never have occurred. NOT at tax payers expense, not in the Parliament where we had voted some irresponsible jokers to sit in air-conditioned comfort, and hoped would guide our bleached destiny into things more tangible, like law and order, food and the emancipation of the common man to set himself firmly in the global world.

The faults is certainly OURS - for we have convinced ourselves into believing that our politicians are our only solution, while HISTORY tells us that they never deserved the trust we unflinchingly reposed on them, despite their countless treachery. Remember all those the pre-polls 'ongikaars' or 'commitments' ?

History is a constant search (or is it research) in trying to get a fix on all the coordinates possible, more like a modern day football or cricket game with two dozens cameras following every move of the ball and how it is played about. History ought to be the domain of historians, not that of half literate Members of Parliaments, or heads of Government and Opposition.

Like it or not, we tend to think history is a simple eatable in the menu. Far from it, it is more complex than rocket science, for it has neither beginning nor an end, and there are no FINAL words in history per se. Destinations are not what history seeks, they look for variables in versions and try and locate the ordinary out of the apparent 'extra-ordinary'. Sieving lies from half-truth and so-called truth is the prime reason history was born. History is an inordinately dangerous commodity to be left entirely in the hands of politicians, (like wars are equally dangerous left in the hands of Generals alone) who would rather fixate on their much 'beloved' (or loathed?) supremo with their Stalinist or Hitleristic visions and 'dreams'!

"We are a halfhearted nation, desperately redefining our halfhearted freedom, debating: if this was a donated moment from the past, arguing passionately, if it was worthwhile for so many to have died and call this BRAVERY, or sensible to have indulged in treachery, with the enemy, with all his savagery"

Little do we realize that this charade of HISTORY being played out doesn't make any of us look intelligent and the annoying debates and the reams being written only points to our bankrupt morality, our foggy imagination, our constipated egos, our pathological lying, our wasted sense of value, our myopic incapacitation, and per chance if all of the above is not enough - we have somehow decided that we will sit back and take it all in stride and clap the sides that does a 'quick fix' on the 'other?' outsmarts and out debates one debater after the other, or to suspend them 'temporarily', as providence creates new 'threats to our INDEPENDENCE' with floodwaters ominously close and on verge of actually wetting the bottoms of our well ironed pants!

So much for our patriotism, and much of it depends on the side of history you choose to accept as the truth. It is this MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY mentality in play here, and while we would write a million words on the Bushonian caveat of "Either you are with us or with the terrorist" - there is no Iranian among us Bangladesh patriots to remind Khaleda Zia or Sheikh Hasina - that we are with neither of you, because we have better things to do, and importantly what your spouse or your father did - was no FAVOUR, but a sacred duty that was done, because it had to be done.

Thanking the two leaders, their wives and children and their children's children and so forth, we have done aplenty over the last thirty-three years, but expecting us to thank them all of the time, is expecting a thanks one too many.

It is not a question of who the bigger hero is; the question is one of duty to the nation. When the enemy attacks and kills your brother or rapes your mother - you have no time to even think how HISTORY will record your reactions, for when you retaliate, you also know for a fact that you may not even live to see the next morning. You go about annihilating the enemy the best way you think fit, and by that the last thing on your mind is to be decorated for gallantry or some fine 'golden lines' written in a history book. Macabre as this may sound, WAR is a theatre where the living tramples over the skeletons of the dead and makes the most when they come out alive. Dying is cheap - so living has got to be expensive and the best thing to do is con yourself into becoming a historian or an expert on this or that. That is a lesson from history that we ought not to forget.

The past as told to us in relation to the present is again hazardous material. Consider for instance how history would have been written if Sheikh Mujib and Ziaur Rahman were both killed in 1971? Consider also, had the tide of war changed and went against our aspirations where we would be today?

Lest we forget, history typically has never been fair to losers.

None of the major players in the 'real game? of 1971 being alive, what we have been deluged with over the weeks are sidekick versions of the 'real story', by people who were in the right position at the wrong time or vice versa. Compare that with times in football or cricket's 'history' before the advent of television; and you would have fifty different versions depending on where in the stadium you managed to place your itchy back during the course of the game. Sidekicks are well sidekicks!

The referee being the most important part of the game, would usually be the last to know what happened. Today this nation called Bangladesh is positioned to speak up as the 'referee' in the 1971 HISTORY saga, and to be fair it is not an entirely enviable position to be in.

If we are to accept the reality of the 'referee' hypothesis, the first and most important thing we need to examine is: Why is this nation Bangladesh a 'Motherland' yet by some quirk of fate also has a 'Father of the Nation' ?

Does it mean that we had a 'virgin Mother' all along and just needed a father to 'do us a favor' for us 'offspring's' to be born - and a Bengalee for all practical purpose would be more like IT?

The question therefore has fewer answers for it borders on our legitimacy as a nation, i.e. if that be the case, who was it that impregnated Bangladesh to cause the Mother to deliver the much diseased fetus - 'nine calendar months' never being the full course of gestation for any physical birth? Are we brave enough to accept that we have had a premature birth and it is this unexplained illegitimacy that is causing all the heartburn's and that for thirty-three God forsaken years we have not been able to come out of the faulty incubator placed on us to breathe easy, to taste freedom, as we really MUST?

To the sore point of legitimacy, the debate as to who 'declared' the Independence of Bangladesh, is equal to two fathers claiming paternity of a single child, little realizing that the 'mother' in the melee has either been raped, was a two timing flirt, or worse a slut or whore - surely Bangladesh our 'motherland' deserves better.

Not much changed since this poem was written in 1994 where it ended:

"Bangladesh in 1994, is like a ravished, well bedded, over used WHORE, who smiles with pride each time, for a price to its next CLIENT, and calls it INDEPENDENCE"

Does the 'Motherland' weep in shame as much as we do?

Quotes from Mac's poem Bangladesh '94

News From Bangladesh

Monday, July 12, 2004

BAMBA - the way it all happened - Part 5

9. The Mother of all 'kicks'!

Nearing the stage, the canon like sound got progressively louder - but as it turned out much to my relief, was nothing more than Fanty checking out the sound of his kick drums!

This was the first time in my life, or for that matter anybody in Bangladesh had heard a bass drum being kicked at 10,000 watts peak in the stillness of a wintry Dhaka midnight! There were probably about 200 people from the surrounding neighborhoods and many students from the residential halls. Writ large on their face was curiosity and amazement as what would be happening the next day. To be entirely honest I could not answer one question that many asked - 'who is the chief guest of your function'?

We had none - and this they found very perplexing!

Back to Fanty still not happy with the sound and Masud of Obscure our engineer getting exasperated by the hours we learnt a whole lot of things about sound - of the 'canon fire like variety' and we knew 16th December 1990 was going to be a BLAST.

10. 'There is hope for the nation': Rumi

I was back home by 2:30 and woke up at 5 a.m. to get going. At 6:45 I was at the Mall Square and we had more musicians at that point than audience! You could tell by their bloodshot eyes that nobody had slept properly the night before - excitement and enthusiasm was overwhelming.

I asked Tulu of Chime if we were going to have 1000 people by afternoon to come and watch this free show and would it not be better to start instead at 10 a.m.? He told me the grapevine suggests we will have an 'assured crowd' of no less than 20,000 people and that we may not be able to provide standing room for the audience in the evening.

He promised me that if we start on time the 'Natok' stages in and around the vicinity would soon fold up and the entire crowd would rush in by the sheer magnitude of the sound system we had hooked up. "Trust me Maqsood bhai" he pleaded and 'OK ' I said, the show will start on time.

In retrospect that was the best decision Tulu ever gave me. It was time for the professional sound system to take on the chonga once and for all, but heck still not one new face other than us musicians and in came the first lot - a bevy of heavily made up beauties heading straight for the space in front of the stage!

The ground was wet with overnight dew, so I designated Shuvro the 'good looking' one in BAMBA of K-Oz to welcome the ladies! He went out of his way by graciously arranging a huge tarpaulin for the ladies to sit on instead of the grass made wet by overnight dew and fog.

By 8 a.m. the first band clambered on stage and had more or less started tuning up - and it was amazing to see how the huge Mall filled up all so quickly. Word of mouth publicity about the concert it seems was on everybody's lips and especially among the Dhaka University students and those in the residential halls expectations were huge - there was to be no let up.

There is no denying that BAMBA on 16th December 1990 seized cultural leadership of Bangladesh. All other cultural functions around town had to close down as words spread like wildfire all across of our great success. By afternoon bus loads of fans were arriving from far off places like Narayangunj, Savar, Tangail and even Mymensingh.

Overall the atmosphere was festive and jubilant and the crowd appreciative and full of humor. Again I found myself MC' ing but it was for the first time in my life that I discovered that the audience had so much to do with what I was saying.

It all started with a young lady rushing on to stage early afternoon with a look of desperation "Maqsood bhai please make this missing person announcement, somebody backstage is inconsolable". Momentarily stopping Feelings mid-way through their set and without even waiting a minute, I rushed to the microphone to make the announcement.

The note I read out without first cross checking said:

"This is Zeenat - please darling Ershad come backstage to rescue me - some mastaans are harassing me - please"!

The joke was on me!

The pun was intended on the fallen dictator and his alleged mistress, and the crowd was hysterical with laughter. More imaginative practical humor and ribaldry followed given a vibrancy and spice to the entire daylong performance.

All the bands played brilliantly the 30 minutes each slot assigned to them - and by evening keeping with Tulu's prophesy we had more than 30,000 people and YES there was no standing room. Some in the crowd, hired rickshaws to perch themselves to see whatever was going on - on stage. All said and done - the concert was HISTORY and Band Music of Bangladesh certainly carved its own niche in the alternative domain of mass entertainment.

We knew the fire was soon to spread all across Bangladesh.

'Bengalee Heavy Metal' had its debut and Warfaze did not displease the audience. Sanjay was simply prolific in the three songs he sang. 'May-tal' as people would call it later was to destined be a mainstay in Bengalee alternative rock.

After the bands ended, Pablo of Feelings introduced a blind Baul friend of his, who proceeded to hold the crowd for another hour or two. Our identification with our rural folks roots were made complete in the Baul songs that drove the thinning audience to tears.

Closing the show I bumped into somebody using a camcorder and up close discovered it was non-else but Rumi, owner of the fashion boutique CATSEYE. He went back to Canada in disgust over the political situation in Bangladesh and returned the very same day - wasting time enough to dump his suitcase in his house in Dhanmondi, and retrieving his camcorder to shoot the historical concert.

He had been a life long music aficionado and I therefore asked him what he thought of the concert.

"Unbelievable Mac - this is the tip of the iceberg of changes definitely coming - there is hope for the nation"

BAMBA and music historians please make notes. If Rumi has not erased it - I suspect he is the only person in Bangladesh that has footage of the historical BAMBA concert of 16th December 1990.

Back home after three days on the run in which I slept for probably 8 hours - I broke down and cried. The experience was simply overwhelming and I thanked God for his blessings and mercy in making all of this happen without any incident, without any fuss - and importantly giving us the courage to conduct ourselves with dignity in a genre of music we all loved, which I knew will see us favorably in the days ahead.


This article is dedicated to all Bangla band music enthusiasts all over the world.

A special thanks to and its brilliant forum participants who welcomed me into their fold, and showered me with their unadulterated love and affection.

I hope they would find this first person rendering of events on BAMBA, which I have penned as honestly as I could, of some use in the days ahead.

...Keep Rockin'...and Never give up the fight.....

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A response to Editorial by the so-called 'Board of Editors' of BangladesherDak

Also Clarification on 2 Emails circulated by BangladesherDak

Dear Readers,

I refer to the link that has appeared as an Editorial in BangladesherDak and I want to put in my clarification - point by point.

Two years ago, Shumu, Maqsood, and Chotton started this news portal. Maqsood was responsible for updating and for a weekly editorial. Shumu was taking care of the administration, logistics, salaries, and supervising Maqsood and the other BDak staff. Chotton was responsible for overall supervision. However, since the 6th of July 2004, Maqsood is no longer with the Bdak; he resigned from the job on good terms and by his own volition, which is clear in the emails he sent us on the subject . (Those interested to know more please consult the e-mails (Email 1 ,Email 2) that he sent to us on the 5th of July which are self explanatory).

1. First and foremost the links in the emails purportedly containing my 'resignation' is not working i.e. when one clicks on it says: "The address type is unknown or unsupported". I hope the "hijackers" (the term 'Hackers' would from this would be an understatement) of the site would be kind enough to display for benefit of BangladesherDak readers the totality of this email and my 'so-called' resignation.

2. The question of 'resignation' would legally be applicable, if I were in anybody's employment. I would request the so-called "Board of Editors" to immediately publish in the portal my "letter of employment" and whatever terms and conditions it may/may not have contained URGENTLY.

3. Also for clarity 'if' in the event I have 'resigned' as claimed above, it would be nice to read the 'release order' from 'service' that this "Board of Editors" is claiming and the hand over and takeover of charges documents for public scrutiny.

4. I note the names of 2 other persons in the above Editorial. It would be only worthwhile for readers of BangladesherDak to ask the so-called "Board of Editors" to produce documents to support the line wherein it is mentioned that: "Shumu was taking care of the administration, logistics, salaries, and supervising Maqsood and the other BDak staff. Chotton was responsible for overall supervision."

5. Receipts, invoices - anything worthwhile to share with the world by this so-called "Boards of Editors" would be welcome. If my job was 'supervising' as claimed above, readers please do not miss out the line where it says in the end that there was yet an another gentleman who was the 'overall supervisor'!

6. Readers are requested to note that this is Cyber Hijacking of the worst kind and really what transpired is that a disgruntled employees of the web support company was brought over by some very unscrupulous elements, awed by the fact that BangladesherDak is receiving such huge visitations.

7. Last if not the least, readers of BangladesherDak, please do ask this so called "Board of Editors" of Bangladesherdak to reveal who they are. I have not seen any names - has anybody else?

Part 2

With reference to the 2 emails circulated by the so-called "Board of Editors" of BangladesherDak updated on the 10th July instant as per link

appears in the PDF format for everybody to scrutinize are now truncated below this message for clarity and easier understanding:

1. With reference to the Email 1 - please note the word "Dissociate" means that I was in no way in the employ of Mr.Zilhurain Jaigirdar (Shumu) and neither were we business partners. Therefore the first line in the Editorial: "Maqsood has been working with us for the past two years." Is totally false, concocted and motivated.

2. Please also note another line in the Editorial: "Two years ago, Shumu, Maqsood, and Chotton started this news portal" directly conflicts with Email 2 where I state; "I tend to agree with him when he pointed out that at the outset BDAK was his and my idea, and we had an understanding that you would be the one handling disbursements and supervisory functions - while he sourced for funds". It therefore proves that whoever is writing out Editorials on behalf of this so-called "Board of Editors" has yet LIED for a second time.

3. Considering point 2 the role of Shumu was thus a mere 'supervisor' - which under very rationale terms is a position in any situation much below that of an Editor!

Therefore when this so-called "Board of Editors; say:" Dear readers, it is now up to you, to judge what really happened behind the scenes." - the REAL facts 'behind the scene' were as follows:

  • My friend Chotton and self started the BangladesherDak project with our own resources in the year 2002.
  • Under friendly terms it was decided that till such time we went online with a proper website, Shumu would be providing token financial support and that we would display his company advertisement as and when we went on-line i.e. outside of listserve and into
  • That precisely happened when this time last year went online and the only two advertisements that appear on our site J.W.Worldwide Ltd and Brilliant Heera Ltd were prominently displayed and still remains there as part of our earlier commitment. Therefore under the friendly understanding - at best Mr.Shumu was a client of BangladesherDak and nothing else.
  • The disbursements/payments etc mentioned in my email precisely refer to the payments he was making within the purview of our 'friendly understanding'.
  • He was never my employer or even a partner in this project, although we did consider forming a company, which regrettably never happened.

  • For reasons quite unclear to me from the middle of June 2004 Mr.Shumu suddenly started sending me series of threatening and intimidating emails which I have in my files and can produce for public scrutiny should this be required at a future date. Needless to mention this would only cause considerable embarrassment for him and one I am not quite inclined to share publicly unless as a last resort.
  • Other than threatening and intimidating me he also managed to hoodwink several employees of Nascent Systems Ltd who were providing web support that he was indeed the real 'boss' of BangladesherDak, and in particular 'brought over' Mr.F.I Yousuf Emon so that the entire website and all functionality are effectively HIJACKED.
  • I want to put in record that all invoice, agreement, lease for the office premise as much as all dealings with Nascent Systems Ltd, were executed directly with me as Editor of BangladesherDak and have the relevant documents to support this statement.

  • Shumu's intentions however became very clear when in an email he asked me to send in a NOTICE FOR RESIGNATION to which I forcefully declined, saying he has no legal, moral or ethical rights to make any such demands. .
  • Left with no option, I informed my friend Chotton that its time for me to disassociate from BangladesherDak as things are spiraling out of control. He was himself extremely embarrassed to see this escalation. This is well explained in my comments to Shumu : "I do not wish to escalate this any further because it is turning very sour and unpleasant" and a copy of the same email I sent to Chotton which is evident.
  • To quote from the Editorial: "He met us on the morning of 6th July where he declined to commit himself to a disciplined time schedule for the Bdak", is only indicative that Shumu had made up his mind to hijack BangladesherDak. Who was he to dictate "disciplined time schedules"?

  • NOT being his employee or even a partner, I asked him WHO the hell was he to dictate such terms to me - was my retort.

  • In reality Shumu wanted me to 'surrender' BangladesherDak through threats and intimidation - and in the meantime he called my assistant Nipu and ONE PERSON i.e. Mr.F.I Yousuf Emon then in Nascent Systems and 'brought them off - BEHIND THE SCENE'.

  • When I asked for the balance due for the advertisement - he flatly refused and threatened me that unless and until I "surrender" BangladesherDak unconditionally to him, he would have nothing to do with me and would not pay the months advertisement due.

I shook his hand and walked out.

Readers this exactly how things stand as far as this sordid drama is concerned.

I am now waiting for the so-called "Board of Editors" to respond whilst making it amply clear that unless they apply reason and take responsibility for their most unethical and criminal actions, I will pursue this with all the vigor required.

2 E Mails :

Disassociating from BangladesherDak from 1st August 2004

Dear Shumu Bhai,

I have considered all the pros and cons of our recent communications and feel it is to my best interest that I disassociate myself from BangladesherDak, effective 1st of August 2004.

I have discussed this in some details with Chotton and have learnt many things about our project that I was not aware of in the past. Please do accept my sincere apologies for I was dwelling under some very serious misconceptions

It was a sheer pleasure and honor to have been associated with you and please be rest assured that I leave with no personal ill-feelings towards you. You have been more than kind in your dealings with me, but recent events make it pertinent for me to move on and try and do something that gives me the peace of mind, which is most important for me, and which has been sadly affected over the last 2 weeks.

I will be grateful if you will be kind enough to give an appointment sometimes tomorrow the 6th of July at your convenience so that everything is settled amicably during the transition period. However between now and the 31st July 2004, please be reassured that my commitment to BDAK will remain unchanged. I will also be more than willing to help and assist anybody that you may designate to oversee this project after I have left.

Finally, I will be obliged if you can arrange to send the disbursement amount i.e. my remuneration, as I have to clear the house rent, newspapers etc as well.

It seems you have already settled all else with the concerned parties including my assistant Nipu.

Thanking you


Not an Agreement but a Friendly Understanding

Dear Shumu Bhai,

I do not wish to escalate this any further because it is turning very sour and unpleasant.

I have discussed this with Chotton and I think he is CORRECT in pointing out that we had NO 'agreement'. For clarity I am also copying Chotton in this communication.

What transpired between us over the last 2 years was in effect a 'friendly understanding'.

I tend to agree with him when he pointed out that at the outset BDAK was his and my idea, and we had an understanding that you would be the one handling disbursements and supervisory functions - while he sourced for funds.

Based on the above, and since I wish no longer to be associated with BDAK I want to settle my departure once and for all - in the very same friendly terms that we started and which was ongoing. I do not want to dwell on the past and having said that, there are many areas to cover which I intend to cooperate to the best of my abilities so that the transition from me to the next person you choose to run this operation is smooth.

I am coming over to meet you tomorrow at 9:30 to discuss the transition and NOTHING ELSE. Paying or not paying me for my services rendered over a month - the prerogative lies certainly with you and your conscience. I just want to shake your hand good bye, so that you never have to see my face ever again.




Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Merchants of Gloom and Doom: Of Fears and Worries

If there were anybody in the world without worries, the 'creature' would most certainly not be human! Humans are a worrying race designed to communicate their worries. There is an 'infectious dynamism' in the methods worries are relayed; the easiest and most common is sharing or passing along personal worries to people who we think are less worried than ourselves; yet in so doing the 'circle of worries' only enlarges. We do it by making 'pleas to conscience' of others and, quite crudely, get carried away by the obsessive gripes and sour benediction of the 'original worrier'; a group or perhaps just ONE individual cocooned in deceitful yet powerful oblivion, who can easily turn this around, sometimes into a worldwide pandemic. Consider the worldwide 'War on Terror'

Worries are characteristically 'lateral' and harping on half-truth and lies is the hallmark of 'pathological worriers', passed around innocently at the outset to juxtapose any unsubstantiated theory or premeditated hunch, which sets into motion domino-like chain reactions of collapsing 'literal' hypothesis--most of it calibrated nonetheless by efficient spin doctoring. Through our obsessions we allow 'institutionalized worriers', our propagandists - or 'merchants of gloom' to emerge. Sadly over a period of time when worries have diminished as those inevitably do, we invent 'less worrying worries', allowing our cascading communicative skills to either give past worries a 'decent burial' and move on, or if situations permits or dictate, to be overtaken so passionately by 'merchants of doom' - the fear mongers. Inevitably the longer worry lurks in 'good health', the more danger or opportunity for those to be instinctively made available for capitalization of public ignorance and fears. Consider 'the WMDs in Iraq'.

Fear is no peculiarity - it affects all species, which in turn activates what we refer to as 'defense mechanisms' - justifiable behaviors to react, and /or resist. Man unfortunately is man's greatest predator, but circumstances permeating fears are ever so baffling. Fears trigger psychosis mechanisms which affect our personalities, our little understood or rationalized 'deeper unknown'--well within our control, but apparently unable to either find a strong mooring or how to have it 'beached' when situations overwhelm us. The objective of 'doom merchants' is to use fear as a weapon of subjugation and propagate what is not easily available for consumption in the public domain. In effect the human species fears what he knows NOT - not what he knows. Fears stem from ignorance, in illiteracy of literate, and it is therefore 'the job' of the 'doom merchant' to exercise this to the hilt, making the simple extremely complex and vice versa. Consider Osama Bin Laden and his 'Global Jihad movement'.

Consider also a motorist suddenly having to face the prospect of switching from a right hand-driven vehicle to left, would be gripped by two basic fears. First a fear of frailties being exposed in public even though he/she may well be very good drivers, and a fear of either killing somebody or getting killed in the process. That is one way of looking at fear, and we only fear what we do not know or what is likely to happen, NOT what we know will happen and/or are mentally prepared to handle. The same would be the case of anybody seeing a public escalator or an auto ticket vendor for the very first time - fear of 'first experience', but there is a marked difference to the latter fear i.e. the motorist example, in that there is actually no fear of death existent, rather a fear of losing one's self esteem and that, too, in PUBLIC. Nobody quite wants to end up being a 'laughing stock' - is a fear that 'doom merchants' play upon with obsessive and beguiling impunity. Consider "Who'll be the fool tonight?"

The other basic fear for man is the fear of unemployment, that of going hungry because there would be no 'livelihood' to support oneself and family. This particular fear is a fallback from the slave-master periods of infamy in man's history which to this day haunts society like the plague, other than in advanced societies where unemployment is considered a curse and states bear the burden to own up for failures to provide decent jobs to individuals. Ironically in corporate or other high profile jobs in any country, fear is often the key to guarantee performance of 'newer slaves' who are termed 'employees', and the whip lashing bosses, the new 'Slave Master Generals' -- less the white horse of the dark night! The weapon quite shamelessly used is a threat of a 'kick to the stomach' - should one dare question. Let us not consider Steve Jobs of Apple Computers -- fired only to save the fruity PC Company he founded - some miracle there?

Hiccups occur when worries are used to scare, or scare is used to cause fear. In effect worries and fears are not the same thing but they do have marked similarities, for worries cause fears and fears causes worries - the real man is the one who can see through both extremes and remain nonchalant and oblivious; yet focused on any set of practical goals. Predators and preys among the human race are always the first bone of contention and probably saw the rise of communes and nationalization within the Socialist or Communist systems. 'Profit' never being a dirty word was used as an ultimate argument in the kill and thrill bonanzas of this so-called globalized world. Nothing significantly changed other than the immediate facade of how newer oppression was being perpetrated, either in the guise of civility - or in the protectionist trap called 'employment'.

In the prey and predator relationship, it is difficult for instance to rationalize why dolphins are so 'man friendly' when other mammals are not - and why they do not consider man a predator. Little do dolphins realize that their overt friendliness dictated on human term's make them susceptible to die for our food, or for fun? In other words we all too often use our access to other creatures to actually inflict slaughter when they expect it the least - and since they cannot communicate other then in their body languages we have taken it for granted that they actually enjoy dying much more than we do? Consider Qurbani - what brainwashes us to contend that those animals are 'happy' going to heaven!

Likewise we should stop and ponder if we are doing the same to humans, whether it is because of color, creed or religion - or plain 'we instill fear, cause we need to instill fear, and we need to do it, because we know we are the very BEST - so bugger of all laws and lawyers'. Consider George Bush's comments after 09/11 as quoted in Richard A. Clarke's book "Against all Enemies" (page 24) - "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass."

Problem with insane impunity is one doesn't realize that the human race ends up kicking its own butt IN 'collectively', when there are none to kick anymore.

Consider Alexander the Great bereaving, when he learnt there was no country left to conquer?

Do we need to go any further?

First Published 5th July 2004

Friday, July 02, 2004

BAMBA - the way it all happened - Part 1

1. Bogey boogying up a dream - the formative days

It seems like only yesterday that Faisal Siddiqui Bogey came up with this exciting idea of forming an association of rock musicians in Bangladesh, but wait a minute - this was in 1985 - and I am talking about nineteen summers ago when we were still grappling with the very concept of how and where we are, music wise in a genre that we all loved, yet knew, there were few takers.

Bengalee rock music had all but faded away in 1975 and we were pretty much stuck eking out a musical existence by playing cover versions of Western tunes to unemotional diners in fashionable clubs and hotels across town. Some of us by that time had a Bengalee album or two to our credit, however we had no way of knowing if we had an audience, because there were hardly any LIVE concerts where anybody played Bengalee music. The media by and large was unaware about our existence.

Back to Bogey: for a starter I had no inkling as to who would be interested in an association, and bands then were only a handful, and not everybody seemed to be all too excited about the idea. Bogey remained persistent and made it a habit of sauntering over to my office then in Dilkusha 'just for some gup-shup' as he would put it, and ever so candidly drop the idea over and over again.

He felt is was 'do-able' - 'after all we are friends, aren't we' ? No denying that.

In a bid to avoid his routine pestering, I kind of half agreed - and in about two weeks time he called a shingara and tea adda at Hotel Blue Nile in Elephant Road (made popular by the Chittagong band SOULS using it as their jaunt whenever they were in the capital). Two dozen of us enthusiasts jammed into a small corridor and formative steps were taken; first the naming.

Bogey has had a life long penchant for Latin music, and instantly suggested BAMBA, the acronym initially for Bangladesh Amateur Musical Bands Association. While we all liked the musical ring to it, none of us were entirely 'hot' to be perceived as a bunch of amateur musicians. So, out went Amateur and we turned around the BA to mean Bangladesh and thus Bangladesh Musical Bands Association (BAMBA) was agreed upon.

Nothing was decided on formation of a committee or elections etc, as those were things furthest in our mind. All we wanted were gigs where all bands could play together. Naming over, we once again rolled back to another round of lethargy and that's the way it stayed, with the exception of Bogey's relentless pestering whenever we met. I was beginning to avoid him!

2. FLOOD AID '87: The First Gig - The evolution of BAMBA

In 1987, came this huge flood, and in town then on vacation from the UK was Rebecca Haque. She and her sister Naomi had formed Flood-AID Committee for Bangladesh and by the time she caught up with us, had already organized a matinee concert of new bands and had several press clippings to her credit - all of this transpired without anyone of us knowing.

Bubbling with energy, Rebecca had an infectious dynamism about her. She wanted to hold a three-day rock festival with 'all the bands in town' she could get her hands on at the Sheraton Ball Room (then the Hotel Intercontinental). She succeeded in persuading the hotel authorities to donate the ballroom free and all she wanted was all of us to agree to play free. As if we would charge?

Then came a series of meetings and heated debates limited to Feedback, MILES, SOULS and Renaissance and all said and done the 3-day festival were a massive success. Other than playing together we discovered that it was possible for all of us to work together (and tolerate each other!) for a common goal, and leading the way partially with his cool composure was Hamin Ahmed Tukon of MILES. However at that stage Hamin like me was unenthusiastic about forming an association.

The proceeds from the concert went to the President Relief Fund, and Rebecca and Manam Ahmed from MILES were shown on BTV handing over the cheque to the then President Ershad.

Post Flood-AID we slowed down considerably, and despite many efforts by Bogey we could not sit for a proper meeting and sort out the egocentricities that had cropped up during Flood-AID '87, and continued to divide us unnecessarily.

Part of the misunderstanding was due to a press report (in the now defunct Dhaka Courier) on our post concert partying at Rebecca's house in Gulshan. Suspicions were it was an 'inside job' as other than the musicians that performed there were no outsiders, and the press wasn't even invited.

We found it hard to believe that anyone amongst us could be this malicious, but then we had no way of knowing the source of the report which till today remains a mystery and therefore wild guesses and 'whodunnits' continued.

The magazine did print our angry rejoinder, but the damage was done.

On the flip side however, there was something very positive up in the air.

There were many replications of the Flood-AID Concert all of 1987 and on to 1988, and those crudely organized events gave us the first indications that it was possible to hold concerts with many bands playing at the same venue. It had become by the time, sort of a small-scale business by young enthusiast cum would be entrepreneurs, and none of us could be happier.

Then came the flood of 1988 - more devastating than the previous year and Dhaka itself was deluged.

One evening while trying to return home to Mirpur in a boat (this is true!) near Rokeya Sarani, I saw another boat coming from the opposite direction. It was different from boats used by displaced people because its cargo had drums, keyboards, guitars and amplifiers and faces I thought I knew from somewhere.

There was Biplob, Shelly and Tipu (then belonging to the band WINNING) and they were evacuating their equipments from their practice pad in Mirpur which had also gone under floodwater!

As we crossed there was jubilant shouting between boats much to the chagrin of the affected people in the vicinity. There was however one sentence that rang out loud and clear from the trio: "Maqsood bhai BAMBA must hold a Flood-AID concert."

Unhesitantly I gave a thumbs-up and carried on. Little did I realize that I had unwittingly made a public commitment for a concert in the thick of a tragedy, in the dire realities of flood waters and little did I know that all of us rock musicians of Bangladesh were on the verge of making history.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Sparkle: "Good Taste" as a Weapon of Oppression

"Ah Good Taste - what a dreadful thing" - Pablo Picasso

Taste is in general a very vague term. What is maybe 'good taste' for one could well turn out to be extra-horrid for another; yet determining 'good taste' have long been subjective and speculative sets of arguments and never an agreement has been reached. In the time-honored tradition of the aesthetics, one may reasonably conclude that taste is more about shared interests and passions that, all too often, results in controlled tendencies of a small group of people towards identical behaviors and or proactive appreciation of very many habits, sincere or otherwise.

Ironically confluence's of acquired modern day 'tribalism' or plain cultish propensities are all too often considered 'superior taste', and this fastidious approach leads on to snobbery that begets behaviors most unwanted. The worst victims in the bargain are none other than the perpetrators themselves who veer between thin lines of acceptance of their so-called 'refined taste' and those in his/her immediate vicinity who often have to swallow their pride and 'change' as the status quo determines. Frictions and divisions lead on to further divisions, and before long one is left to wonder how it all started and when will it, if ever, STOP.

Most people tend to equate taste on terms of commonalties associated with what we eat. For example, all of us can identify and appreciate things that are sweet, sour, bitter, or whatever. The 'taste' exercise in aesthetics is however more complex and has a tendency to hover around the parameters set by the marginal on the masses. All too often the marginal are as we mentioned earlier 'marginal', and use their taste as a weapon to stigmatize and ultimately overpower the masses into acceptance - regardless of how it is done. Wealth (read money) for the marginal is an important criterion for those involved in the gruesome exercise of ''furthering evolving taste" and their societal behavior revolves around how they wish to unleash their most inappropriate weapon.

However, for the man on the street constituting vast majorities in any third world country, appreciation of cultures 'foreign' are considered important in the acquisition of 'good taste'. Whether they be endless nights spent watching Western serials on TV, to music and books - down to jaunts and binges in the nearest 'fast food joint', 'good taste' in the so-called global scenario is up for grabs, just around every corner. Yet none of those 'taste' necessarily has to be 'newly acquired', for very many a generation have grown up knowing nothing else. From the sixties on to this new millennium Western influences on cultures have had a tendency to gravitate across a large spectrum, for no other reason than it comes packaged, labeled and produced for mass consumption - not necessarily for the 'majority', who actually catch on a wee later and proceed to become it's biggest CHAMPIONS!

As time went on, not much changed other than on the periphery, 'good taste' also came packaged with elements to lead man's surge on to notions of 'success' in a world that all too often-needed generic standardizing to be on any real significance - as generic as say for common understanding; how does Bangladeshi
nuts fit into French screws, or coat hangers have the same size, or shoes of various fits have numbers?

Gone are the days of herbal sticks used for brushing ones teeth. In came toothpaste and toothbrush to replace what was essentially 2 in 1 and, for most purpose, free!

Mouthful of man-made chemicals to sparkle our teeth and freshen our breath and do make us look (or think) 'fresh' every morning, but what remains unexplained is the amount of toxic poison our system has also have begun to accept and will probably 'die' without, in our malignant dependency.

That leaves us asking - are we then to throw away these modern-day implements and return to scrubbing out teeth with charcoal…..ugh! (Bad Taste?)

No easy answer there - but what is never even pondered for reasons of being dumped into heaps of 'uncivilized' behavior and bad taste' for the time being is: Are there any guarantees, say 20 years down the line, people with newer 'emerging taste' would not brand us WRONG, and question us - as probably what we have set into motion are sets of generalized behaviors on consumption bordering on the plain idiosyncratic?

Would they go back to the good old days of herbal sticks and CHARCOAL powder?

No hypothesis this - any 'taste' that goes against the natural process leaving us to eat too much, sleep too little, and have more questions than we have answers to submit, makes us love to hate or feel queasy when it is TRUTH that it hits us squarely on the face, leaves us despondent and uneasy to handle any situation which is unexpected or uncalled for, are indications forceful enough that the time is on the horizon for our so-called 'good taste' to go through a thorough overhaul.

The notion of "simple living and high thinking" is as old as 'old taste', but their die-hard practitioners seemingly enjoy a level of peace that can only be equated to BLISS. Narrow mindedness under disguise of apparently civilized behavior to indicate 'good taste' is a worn out but a much practiced catechism among those who seemingly masquerade in public, unbeknownst that they have a case of the 'bad breath' no matter the millions spent on toothpaste and mouth fresheners!

Private behavior lurking on and latching on to the PUBLIC realm all too often exposes things without our knowing; the problem is the one with the acquired 'good taste' of bad breath is the last to know, that the world has caught up and are actually 'smelling things most foul'!

Most people hide jealousy or plain ineptitude behind the facade of 'good taste', when it is wealth, acquired for real or through robbing the masses at large, or maybe even through some stroke of an Aladdin's Lamp; yet for the masses rejection of those with 'good taste' has been usually very brutal.

Nature plays its own part in regulating 'good taste' (if there is at all any such thing) - and whatever may be it resultant equation, there is not a shred of doubt, that unless and until we discover an alternative to our demeaning 'good taste' hang-ups, and try to evolve standards of acceptability in a cohesive and centripetal manner, 'Good Taste" as a Weapon of Oppression's days are numbered.

End line: Money can buy most anything - what it cannot is GOOD TASTE.

Any doubters?

First Published 1st July 2004