Eishob Ki?

A “wtf?!?” commentary on events and issues that Bangladeshi youth all over the world should care about.

Reigning Queen of Fashion May 7, 2009

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Here’s to obsession with women and fashion! Check out galleries of Michelle Obama’s fashion on the HuffPost. Even Americans can’t help but judge their first lady on her color coordination skills .

I must also add that Khaleda Zia is Bangladesh’s equivalent of Jackie O, when Maj. Zia was president. [This is not an endorsement of Khaleda’s politics, just an appreciation of her rainbow of French Chiffons.]


The 3 M’s

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In attempt to answer the questions set forth in my previous post, I conclude that there are three basic forces at play in sculpting the imaginations of malleable young Dhakaites. I call them the 3 Ms: Men, Media and Mothers.

Men:–Disclaimer: Girls get dressed up for other girls, more than they do for boys.– But in reality, how I decide to express myself depends largely on how I want the opposite sex to see me. I assume this rings true for most Dhaka Girls. Although I’m the first to claim that I’m a feminist at heart, un-shaved armpits and plaid flannel shirts just don’t do it for me (I’m having a ball with stereotypes!). The typical Dhaka Girl look evolved after trial and error, with men as the judges.

MediaHigh-quality fashion based programming on television channels  such as ETV, nTV and Channel i give viewers round the clock access to the ideal image of a trendy, modern woman who is willing to sacrifice a month’s salary to buy the latest designer kameez. Not to mention the effects of Indian soap operas, whose fashion extravangances defy time (notice how they wake up in the morning perfectly dressed, without bed head) and space.

Mothers: Mother say, daughter do is how it works in my family. The female role models in my famly, namely my mother and her sisters, set the limits for how far I could the push the envelope in trying out new styles and experimenting with beauty products ranging from cosmetics to full body spa treatments. Our mothers themselves have strayed so far from Nazrul’s ideal Bonolata Sen that they indluge in expensive Beauty Parlour treatments, which promise fair skin, weight loss through massages and ridiculous glitter highlights for your hair.  Daughters are left little wiggle space to  partake in different activities. The ‘norm’ has been turned on its head!

The 3 M’s are reflective, in that, our judgements about ourselves are reflected back to us from the perspective of men, the media and our mothers. I think it’s time to own our personal images and let how we dress relfect deeper qualities embedded in our diverse personalities.


Dhaka Clone Wars

Filed under: Uncategorized — eishobki @ 7:28 AM
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Is is just me or does the cohort of 16-25 year old girls in Dhaka look indistinguishable to you too? A couple decades ago, if I were asked by one of my foreign friends to describe the typical Bengali woman,  I would describe a woman with large, almond shaped eyes, jet black hair parted on one side and combed into a  bun, or let loose down her back. She would have a dewey complexion, a sharp nose and and a furtive smile. I realize that may be the stereotypical “Bonolata Sen,” a figure of idealized Bengali beauty that is both idyllic and restrictive. The generation X of young, well-to-do Bangladeshi women have undoubtedly broken away from this stereotype Or have they merely created a new one?

If you camp out at any of the popular teen hangouts such as cafes and hookah lounges in Dhaka, you’ll immediately be able to identify the conspicuous species of the typical Dhaka Girl. She is thin but curvy, with wisps of red, burgundy, blonde or even green highlights in her artificially straightened hair. She has dark, kohl rimmed eyes, often a small nose piercing and her costume of choice is a  shalwar kameez in the latest Bollywood inspired style, paired with an adorable purse, or a school bag and stylish flip flops. Depending on the climate and environment, this get up could change into cargo pants teamed with a form-fitted top, scribbled with incoherent expressions that had it sent to Bongo Bazaar in the first place.

The typical Dhaka Girl has also learned to move in pairs or groups of three. After all, finding Rickshaws for a fair price in Dhaka City is a quite time-consuming affair. She is most often spotted in her natural habitat–the coaching center, where she can socialize with fellow Dhaka Girls and even strike it lucky and find a potential mate in a Dhaka Boy.

I don’t intent to sound demeaning, since I was once of these fair maidens myself, hence the intimate knowledge of customs, behaviors and habitats. Having been removed from that environment for some time, I question why the diverse range of personalities: the tom boy, the aggressive girl, the nerd, the class clown or the popular girl, who have distinct personalities in their adolescence, gravitate towards a homogeneous image as they grow into young adults. Where my punks, the poets, the artists or athletes at?


I tweet therefore I am March 23, 2009

Why is the western world obsessed with dead, white men?

While walking  down the street at 2 am yesterday , my friend Ben mentioned that he was writing a paper on ancient Greek philosophy, which got me thinking: why all the ruckus about the likes of Aristotle, Plato and Sophocles?

Did the Greeks usher in modern, western civilization as we know it? Probably. But what about Oriental civilizations? Confucius was definitely a force to be reckoned with. While Persian gave birth to great writers, politicians and thinkers, notably Rumi, whose works often take a backseat to ‘Rhetoric‘ or ‘The Republic‘. So, why are students in US universities denied an education which gives equal importance to the works of these great minds, whose ideas and theories are on par with the complex nature of thought espoused by ancient Greeks?

It’s unfortunate that I lack knowledge about acclaimed Bangladeshi thinkers. I generally turn to The Daily Star for high-quality, contemporary analysis and social commentary. Yet, I’m left at a loss for historical accounts and thoughts about the evolution of Bangladeshi society. I am familiar with Rabindranath, Nazrul and Biddasagar, but I can only assume that there have been countless academics from Dhaka University, the Bangla Academy or those who migrated to Shantiniketan, with intimate knowledge of the history of Bengalis. Beyond personal apathy, the lack of information and scholarly articles accessible to the public  makes it difficult for one to go on a personal quest of cultural self-discovery.Unfortunately, this same reality makes it easy for political parties to alter history at will. But that is a story for another day. Of course, there are solutions, namely digitization. The digitization of scholarly articles on JSTOR has made it possible for the college students of today to write papers overnight, and perhaps Bangladeshi universities should invest in digitizing their publications and archives of information. Maybe learning about Bengali philosophers and thinkers might just replace the hours I spend on facebook. Or maybe not.

Philosphy itself=lots of time + great imagination.  It’s true that ancient Greeks are credited with having asked some tough questions: Why are we here? What is life? Does faith exists? How do we control the masses? etc. The way I see it, if every human being on the planet were  given a lifetime’s worth of time and no access to the internet, I’m sure a few ordinary folk could crank out a couple of universal and might I say generic, questions.

I’m sure that if Aristotle had access to the internet, he too would have a Facebook profile. Plato would most definitely be on myspace and Sophocles, one of the earliest great thinkers who had more enemies than friends, may have been one of the loner pioneers of  Live Journal. If ancient greeks knew about modern day, social networking site, what do you think that they would say?


And then there was light March 22, 2009

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I’m a sucker for metaphors. Every creation story I’ve heard so far, be it Christian, Muslim or even Pagan has involved the world coming out of darkness and into the light. Cliche maybe, but this metaphor has universal appeal and approval (this is in no way a vindication of creationism) because it makes sense. You’re in the dark, someone switches on a light, and now you see the world much more clearly.

Over the past couple years, a transformation into adulthood if you may, I’ve begun to not only see but I’ve begin to observe  Bangladeshi society through an illuminated lens. Things I took  for granted, such as my relationship with my mother, patriarchal society where my father is considered the head of the household, the expectations my parents of me to be both successful in my career and in the household and social norms that all other Bangladeshi youth are destined to follow are actually a result of a civilization worth of history, politics and culture.

Bangladesh studies is not a cultivated and widespread subject of study per se, but it is incredibly important for us to study ourselves. Or else someone else will. My generation needs to exchnage stories of our experiences of growing up under Bangladeshi cultural rules, so as to identify common experiences and dissect differences. I’m not a scholar and I don’t pretend to be , but I think will try my best to analyze my every day experiences an synthesize them into a collective narrative. That is the beauty of a narrative, and a blog, there is no right or wrong. Just a collection of thoughts, to be shared with the world.

Enough philosophizing! I need to be stirring controversy and challenging the status quo. Lets make haste and shed light on our Bangladeshi identities and force people to use the refrain: “Eishob Ki?”