Saturday, 19 June 2010
How Butterflies Create Cute Colors
How Butterflies Create Cute Colors: http://biggani.com/content/view/1353/115/
|লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam|
|Tuesday, 22 June 2010|
Dedicated to Dr. Manzare Shamim, Chairman, Anatomy Department, BSMMU, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
For the first time, Yale University scientists have used a small-angle-X-ray scattering (SAXS) imaging and found that butterflies use their complex gyroids, three-dimensional biophotonic nano-structural crystals that interact with light to produce vivid colors. Imagine your future cosmetics have these functional features of saturated vibrant colors which will never fade even in the rain. The Los Angeles Times featured this fascinating article: 'How the butterfly wings build their color'. Explore and enjoy!
Now we can grow colored cotton. Can we grow colored jute? Further, we can modify the jute fiber for the futuristic functional features. NanoCrystalline Cellulose is the super-strong materials ever known to human. NanoCrystalline Cellulose of jute fiber may show promise for developing advanced materials for challenging applications.
More to come....
Acknowledgements: TexTek Solutions & MW Canada.
Courtesy of Los Angeles Times, 2010 June 19;
ইমেইল: firstname.lastname@example.org :: ওয়েবঃ textek.weebly.com :: Canada :: www.linkedin.com/in/shafiul2009
লিখেছেন সাদ আব্দুল ওয়ালী, June 23, 2010
লিখেছেন salmaAkter, June 25, 2010
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, June 25, 2010
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, June 25, 2010
লিখেছেন B banu, July 17, 2010
Very interesting and fascinating.
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, July 17, 2010
How Butterflies Create Cute Colors: http://biggani.com/content/view/1353/115/
Sunday, 13 June 2010
|Interfacing Emotion with e-Textiles|
|লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam|
|Sunday, 13 June 2010|
উৎসর্গঃ সৃস্টির সেবক, রেডিও আবিস্কারক স্যার জগদীশ চন্দ্র বসু - যার স্পর্শে পৃথিবী ধন্য!
e-Textiles are used today for many sophisticated applications. Remotely, smart textiles sense your pulse and heart rate to ensure your physiological and psychological welfare. Even emerging e-Textiles interact with your very personal emotion. A group of passionate artists, scientists and technologists in Canada and England has been merging an interdisciplinary collaborative approach to provide this unique challenge into opportunity. Read more....
“You must be the change that you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." -Charles Darwin.
Shafiul Islam, Global Parents, Volunteer, www.unicef.ca
Acknowledgements: TexTek Solutions :: MW Canada.
Interfacing Emotion with e-Textiles : http://biggani.com/content/view/1349/158/
ইমেইল: email@example.com :: ওয়েবঃ textek.weebly.com :: Ontario :: Canada :: www.linkedin.com/in/shafiul2009
লিখেছেন Saad Abdul Wali, 6月 13, 2010
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, 6月 13, 2010
লিখেছেন Saad Abdul Wali, 6月 14, 2010
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, 6月 14, 2010
লিখেছেন Ayub Hossain, 6月 15, 2010
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, 6月 17, 2010
লিখেছেন salmaAkter, 6月 25, 2010
লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam, 6月 25, 2010
Saturday, 12 June 2010
|Knowledge Enhancing Stepping Stones|
|লিখেছেন Shafiul Islam|
|Sunday, 12 June 2011|
|Education is instrumental to build one's foundation of knowledge.
Research and innovations are the stepping stones of knowledge creation.
The vision and passion for innovation stimulate creation of new
knowledge to further advancing science and technology.
In the information age, we are often flooded with too much information. Channeling the right information is vital as we plan to utilize our time effectively for enhancing our knowledge and furthering our specific research and innovations. Here are a few hints and tips:
Acknowledgements: TexTek Solutions :: MW Canada Material Innovations.
Knowledge Enhancing Stepping Stones : http://biggani.com/content/view/1591/126/
Friday, 11 June 2010
Lalon Geeti By Farida Parvin : Jaat Gelo Jaat Gelo Bole
Uploaded on Jun 11, 2010
Farida Parveen is known as the Queen of lalon songs and Lalon Konya. Lanon songs is a kind of folk songs of Bangladesh and Bengali areas.In 2008, she won the" Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize" for Best Music in Japan. In 1987, she received Ekushey Padak(one of the highest civilian awards in Bangladesh), and in 1993, she was given the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer.
LicenseStandard YouTube License
Farida Parveen, Lalon Geeti, ফরিদা পারভীন, লালন গীতি, Songs, Audio, Video,
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
It was quite a crowd in the house. Everybody was in a festive mood. Laughing, talking, giggling. Not a gloomy face anywhere. The elders were sitting comfortably in the garden and ruminating over the times gone by. The little kids were running all over the house with their colorful dresses on. The college girls found a shade under the shazna
tree to speak in low conspiratorial voices, and bursting into spontaneous laughter from time to time. A short distance away a bunch of young guys gathered with bottles of diet coke in their hands, apparently unmindful of anything but their own affairs, yet keeping their eyes and minds tuned to what was going on under the shazna tree. They were not strangers in the house, these boys and girls. They were cousins. Their parents were siblings from the same family. They were young adults, acutely conscious of their growing body and approaching maturity. A few of them have started exchanging love-letters to each other, by surreptitious means, of course. They do not have the opportunity to see each other often, with their parents living in different parts of the world separated by thousands of kilometers. Roashan and Tariq’s parents have come from Bahrein, where their father Efran is an executive in an oil company. Zarina, Sadeque and Omar’s parents are from London where they have been settled for a long time. Their mother Farida is a younger sister of Efran, their father Halim a physician. Another sister younger than Farida, Selina, traveled to Dhaka from Chittagong where her husband has a prosperous business in auto parts, as well as a garments factory. They all descended in their elder brother’s big house in Dhaka for a grand family gathering. One of the most exclusive areas in town, called Baridhara, where this house was built on an area of one acre. Tall walls all around the perimeter with barbed wire on top reinforced by a layer of sharp shreds of broken glass. The steel gate at the entrance is under constant watch of a round-the-clock armed guard. On either side of the gate there are large blocks of cement pillars with lots of decorative artwork engraved on them. Best sculptors of the land were employed to carve the likeness of two brave freedom fighters on solid marble stone. Mr. Maqbool didn’t have an opportunity to join the war in person, having been away from home at that time, but the idea of this sculpture came to his mind almost immediately after the liberation. What a splendid idea, he often congratulates himself for having had the foresight to do the right thing at the right time. Currently he is the Director of a major crown corporation under the Govt. of Bangladesh. A very powerful man in the country. And, of course, very rich.
This house hardly needs an occasion for celebration. Occasions seem to present themselves automatically. Yet, this particular day is different from others. There is not one but two reasons for celebration. First, the fifth birthday of Mr. Maqbool’s youngest daughter Alicia. What a pretty little girl she is. Her father’s pearl of the eye, beat of his heart. Modern children tend to scoff at her old-fashioned name, Alicia, while elders can hardly pronounce it. But this is the name he chose for his daughter while watching a TV program in his hotel room in New York, where one of the characters had this name. Somehow this name stuck in his mind.
However, celebrating birthdays is not a big deal in this house. There always seems to be a birthday for somebody. So Alicia’s birthday would not necessarily bring in visitors from around the globe. What did is the very unexpected and long overdue visit from America of the family’s patriarch, Dr. Abdul Latif, the oldest of all brothers and sisters—whom they call their Latu Bhai. He has come to visit with them, for just 2 weeks, after having been away for twenty five agonizingly long years. He was the brightest and smartest of all. Did his doctorate in Oceanography from Glasgow University. The outstanding work he did in his thesis brought him name and fame from home and abroad. Almost immediately after his thesis defense he started getting calls for invited talks at reputable universities and research institutions. In his area he quickly became a well-known man. He made headline news in top newspapers, became a popular guest for TV interviews. He was the dream child of a middle class Bangladeshi family, a treasure for his country. He could have given so much to his homeland, help build so many institutions, enrich so many lives, brought so much hope to an otherwise hopelessly depressed people.
But then the news came from abroad, like a bolt of thunder packed in an airmail envelope. Latubhai got married! Not to a Bengali girl, not to an Indian, not a Pakistani, but to a white Catholic girl. They met in Glasgow and got married in Seattle, Wa.,
where he got a tenure track job in the university. Rumour has it that they even slept together in a single room in Glasgow, long before they got engaged. That piece of scandalous news was a bit too much for his father to take. He had a severe stroke shortly after that, which eventually led him to his death two years later. A telegram was sent to Latubhai with the sad news, who sent back a message that because of difficulties with his teaching schedule it was impossible for him to come home to attend the funeral, but he would try to come sometime later. His mother waited and waited for that “later” to arrive, which never did, until she too closed her eyes for good. At dinnertime in an evening of the month of Ramadan she asked everybody to go ahead with their meals while she was going to have a little rest as she was feeling a bit strange in her head. So she went to bed while the others finished their fast breaking snack. But she never woke up from her “rest”. Prior to her last breath she was able to mutter a few barely audible words: “Sorry Latu, I couldn’t wait for you any longer”. What a cold-hearted, cruel man he was. Even his mother’s death couldn’t move him enough to a take flight home. Not then, not later, not in the last twenty five years. A quarter of a century! Must be made of steel. So many things have happened in the meantime. Wars, genocides, uprisings and independence movements. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost. So much bloodshed, so many ruined lives and uprooted families. And now out of all that blood and sweat there is a new country, a new nation, with new life and new hope. Too bad that it didn’t take long for the new dreams to turn into new nightmares. The new nation has witnessed in the recent years a lot of turmoil, a lot of fresh blood, a lot of more ruined lives. All within a quarter century of Latubhai’s absence from his home country. Its population has doubled over that time, a lot of millionaires have mushroomed, most of the poor have become poorer, the middle class is struggling to remain in the middle. This country has gone through so much. It could use all the help it can get. But not from a vacationing genius from a bygone era and far away land. This country doesn’t need a reluctant expatriate called Dr. Abdul Latif. And yet, this time he came on his own, taking leave of absence from his precious work for 2 weeks. This time he didn’t need anybody’s asking or pleading. What a difference it could have made if he had taken this leave twenty five years earlier. 25 years is an awfully long time in a man’s life. So many things can and do happen over that time. The young become grownups, the grownups grow old, and the old start dying. Men get gray hair, lose their teeth, their eyesight, and the texture of their skin. The only thing that seems to last for ever is the memory. The memory of loss, loss of the ones you loved, the ones you cherished, the ones who gave you so much and yet you failed to give anything back. It is the dull, unspeakable pain that settles in your heart, that seems to defy the barriers of time. That is why after all these years of bitterness and acrimony, no one could keep their eyes dry while receiving their old Latubhai at the airport. As if a big blast of hot air had blown in from somewhere to melt away all the frost and ice that had gathered in their hearts. Selina was like a wounded child in her heart, deeply hurt by her brother’s cold indifference through all these years. Once upon a time he was her idol. He was the only one she really cared for in the whole world. He, too, used to love her like his own daughter. He would buy her presents whenever he could afford, take her out wherever she wanted to, shield her from every possible trouble at home or out. On every festive occasion, be it the Ramadan or the Bakr Eid, she would invariably get a new dress or a pair of new shoes from him. In case he ran out of money he wouldn’t hesitate borrowing from friends to buy the presents for his precious little sister. How could the same brother turn so utterly cold after getting involved with a Catholic girl, she never understood. Before his arrival she was determined to give him a bit of her mind at the airport. She would take him to task, put him to shame in front of everybody. She even prepared a little speech in her mind. But the moment she saw that sad worn face at the gate, she forgot all her lines. Everything just melted away. To her utter surprise she found herself sobbing like a child in the arms of the long-lost brother.
In his long professional life Dr. Latif never needed an appointment book--- real scholars hardly need those things. But here at home it looked like he was going to need one, after all. Somebody was inviting him for a meal, lunch or dinner, almost every day for the entire two-week period of his stay. Not just from his close relatives, but from anyone that ever knew him before. Most of these people are very well off. In his childhood there was just one relative who owned a car. But they were such a snobbish bunch that his family never dared socialize with them. In a cruel twist of fate, today almost everybody has a family car except them. So getting a ride was no problem at all. The only problem was to keep track of the invitations.
Guests had arrived. The birthday party was about to begin. Suddenly there appeared an elderly fellow, uninvited, who just slipped through the gate somehow. A very ordinary rustic old man, clad in nothing more than a shabby old pajama, a greasy skull-cap, an unwashed knee-length jacket with a few patches here and there. His shoes were probably black at one time, but now just a lump of worn leather. The shoe on his right foot was torn in the front thus exposing his toes. The poor man was a sharp contrast with the colourful dresses the invited guests wore for the occasion. In his right hand there was a very large carp fish. With hesitant steps he stopped at the doorway to the living room. All eyes were instantly trained on him, all voices muted. Everyone seemed to have stopped breathing. Finally Mr. Maqbool rose from his seat to greet the old man, forcing the few words out of his mouth: “ It’s you Mamujan (maternal uncle), please come in”.
Uncle Barkat was very embarrassed with all the fashionable folks looking at him as if he was from a different planet. Still he managed to force a smile on his face. His teeth were all black, thanks to a lifelong habit of chewing betel leaves with nuts and lime and catechu. A few were missing from his upper gum. He handed the fish to one of the domestic servants, took a stool and said in an awkwardly apologetic tone: “I heard that our Latif mia has come for a visit. So I came to see him.” At last it dawned on Latif that this awkward and clumsy man is none other than his own uncle, the youngest brother of his mother. They are only a year apart in age, so they used to be more friends than nephew-uncle. He is the same uncle who was his constant companion in all his dare-devil adventures in the fields and brooks and rivers. He is the one who taught him how to swim, how to climb a tree with his lungi tied in the waist, to catch a fish trapped in the flooded jute field with an improvised fishing rod. There were a lot of memories with this man. So many secrets they shared, so many mischiefs they committed together. If it were only a different point in life, different place, and a different time, Dr.Latif could easily find himself locked in an eternal embrace with this man, could easily be overcome by an uncontrollable surge of pent-up emotions. But now everything had changed---time, space, people. It is more than 30 years that they had no contact. Not even a post card. He has lived long enough abroad to know when and how to keep his emotions in check. Besides, how can one leap across a span of 30 years in 30 minutes? So all he could master is a bland and feeble muttering: “So glad to see you mama. You took so much trouble to come and see me. How is mami?”
Uncle Barkat doesn’t live in his village any more, nor does any of his other uncles or aunties. Their village life, as they knew, had come to an end. Uncle Barkat sold his ancestral home and landed property, then moved to a small hamlet near Dhaka, called Maotail, and built a little house with rattan sidings and corrugated tin roof. Maotail used to be a real village once upon a time, with its annual yield of fruits and vegetables, and a lot of peace and quiet. But no more. Big city had spread its big arms all across the entire region. The tall towers and big factories are everywhere. Four-lane highways carry heavy transport trucks round the clock every day. It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep. Uncle Barkat had converted a small portion of his land into a commercial fish-pond, like most other farmers in his new village, for an alternate source of income. Unfortunately his own pond doesn’t produce big carps but one belonging to a neighbour of his does. That’s how he managed to get this large fish for his foreigner nephew. He let off some of the small tidbits of his hard life that Latif couldn’t possibly have known about. Eventually the two of them found themselves slipping out of the living room, into the garden, beside the wall, away from the crowd. Time and space seem to have removed quite a few layers between them. The drawing room where they were sitting a few moments before seems to have disappeared behind an invisible screen. Latif felt immensely grateful to his mama for not raising the topic of his wife, a topic that hardly anybody else in the house could resist. How could a semi-literate farmer acquire a sensibility that some of the most polished people in the upper levels of the society seem to have difficulty grasping? This is a very sensitive spot in Latif’s mind---a chapter he’d rather not open to anyone. Soon they found themselves transported into that magical world of childhood—as if some divine hand had steered them away from the hurts and bruises of real life and landed in another world where nobody had to cry in silence, nobody had to suffer alone. They were in a world where one was not a world famous scientist and the other an ordinary fish farmer, but two playmates who were inventing new ways to play tricks on their unsuspecting victims. Those were the times when they didn’t know what sorrow means, what being responsible means.
“Do you remember, Latu, how naughty we were? Almost set on fire uncle Chandu’s house? I carelessly threw my cigarette butt on his haystack. We were so scared! Somehow we managed to put it off. We burned our clothes in trying to douse the fire. You were so scared that you peed on your pants. Ha, ha, ha. Do you remember, Latu?”
“ Oh yes, I do, I do mama. How can I forget? There are a lot of other things, too, that I remember. Remember that bad-tempered girl, mama, what was her name, oh yes, Fazilat, yes, Fazilat. We stole her bracelet, and you hid it in a robin’s nest up on a olive tree. The girl got absolutely crazy over her lost bracelet, swearing to kill whoever played the trick on her. She was looking everywhere like a mother hen looking for her chicks. You and I had a great chuckle over it. Then you started feeling a little sorry for the poor girl. You whispered in the ear of Lalu to give her a hint where to find the bracelet. She started climbing the tree as we kept watching her from below. Quite a delicious sight it was, wasn’t it? She, almost a full-grown girl, with nothing but a piece of loin cloth wrapped around her waist like a loose-fitting skirt, no underpants. We had quite a panoramic view, didn’t we mama? Oh, how naughty we were. How scandalously naughty!”
So they talked and talked. And talked a little more. An inexhaustible treasure of memories. Then suddenly uncle Barkat got a bit serious.
“ Remember, Latu, you had one little regret, like an unfulfilled longing, that you always carried in your heart. A bit childish, to be sure, but for you it was very real. You always wished somebody would knit a nice sweater for you. Especially for you. But nobody did. Every one of your brothers and sisters had a knitted sweater, except you. You used to say that it was because you were the eldest child in the family. Too old to wear a knitted sweater, I suppose, you used to lament. You were so sad about it.”
Yes, he does remember. How silly of him to fret over a small thing like that. Strange that even Barkat mama didn’t forget that.
Late afternoon was slowly rolling into the mist of dusk. Time for Magreb prayer was getting close. Time to go. They asked Barkat mama if he would care waiting up for dinner with the family. He politely declined. Before leaving he got Latif promise to visit his poor mama’s humble home and have a meal with his family. His mami would love to meet him, whom she had heard so much about, but never had an opportunity to actually see in person. His youngest daughter, Ranu, had asked him not to forget inviting her cousin, who was like a legend to her, one she would always boast about to her friends. Once, just once, she would like to have a glance at him, the idol whom she almost worshipped. Yes, their house in Maotail was quite a way off from the fashionable house in Baridhara, where he was staying. Yes, Dr. Latif made the promise. Next Thursday, the day before his flight. Not much time left.
But, there was a problem. Soon after Barkat mama left he remembered that he was already booked for another engagement at exactly the same time. Tania, Maqbool’s eldest daughter, and Latif’s self-appointed tour guide and appointment manager, had set up all his engagements for the entire 2-week period. Next Thursday there was going to be a big party in his honour at Motaleb mama’s place.
“ No way you can skip that, uncle. They have invited over a hundred guests. Lot of dignitaries, too, that include an ambassador, a cabinet minister, and the chairman of the water board. How can you possibly make it to your Barkat mama’s”? She exclaimed.
“ Indeed, indeed, how can I? What a mess I have made, haven’t I? How can I get out of it? Any ideas? “
“ Don’t worry Latubhai”, Maqbool came to his rescue. “ I’ll take care of it. I’ll send word to Barkat mama that you will not be able to keep your promise for reasons beyond your control. We have an office bearer who lives in the same area. All we need is ask him to carry the message. Simple!”
It was simple indeed. But Latif didn’t feel quite right about it. He could see how utterly disappointed his mama would feel. Yes, he was able to connect with mama after all these years of absence, and indeed to open his mind a bit, despite the enormous gap between them in every aspect of life. Barkat mama was a very poor man, had lived a very hard life. Must be looking forward to have his favourite nephew set foot in his humble dwelling. Specially mami, and the children. Wouldn’t it break their heart, Latif wondered aloud.
“ Oh no. No, Latubhai. You really don’t know these people at all. This man isn’t quite as simple and harmless as he looks. Quite a crafty fellow, he is. Very calculative. He takes full advantage of his relationship with us. Doesn’t let his folks and friends forget in what positions his relatives are placed. Your visit in that shack would give him an instant status of celebrity. And he will never miss an opportunity to cash in on that status wherever he goes. Oh, don’t I know him!”
Maybe Maqbool is right. Maybe not. He didn’t feel good about it. Somehow Latif was having trouble believing everything that his brother was saying. Does every action of an ordinary human being have to have an ulterior motive?
So the next Thursday came and went. It was Friday, the day of his departure. Time to say bye to everybody. The VIP lounge at the airport was full. People came from all over to see him off. It took him 25 years to come for a short visit. And now he was leaving, probably for good. They were all in a sombre mood. VIP lounge was a restricted area, closed to ordinary passengers. Suddenly Maqbool’s secretary spotted a very plain and haggard looking man arguing with the guards at the entrance. He immediately recognized who he was. “Oh what a pest”, he murmured in his mind. But he was, after all, a relative of the boss. How can he not allow him to get in? So he went ahead and asked the guards to open the gate for the old man. There was a neatly wrapped package in his hand.
Instead of handing over the packet to Latif and let him open, or put it in his suitcase, which would be the proper thing to do, Barkat mama opened it himself and handed the contents to his nephew. As if to assure him that there was indeed something of value inside, and not an empty box.
“ My little girl worked day and night to have this sweater knitted before your departure time. Such a talented girl, this cousin of yours. We waited for you till late in the night. It’s our bad luck, you couldn’t come. Something must have held you up.” He looked a bit tired. And suddenly a lot older than he looked the other day. He said what he had to say. What would there be to say anymore, anyway?
Maqbool was looking a little pale in the face. God, he completely forgot about it! He forgot to ask his bearer to give that message to Barkat mama. The poor man must have spent a fortune preparing an elaborate meal for his celebrity guest. Latif was absolutely shattered. Miserable. He took the sweater in his hand and completely broke down. He sank his head in the extended arms of his mama, and repeated the words again, and again, and again, “Forgive me mama, please forgive this wretched nephew of yours. Please ask my mami to forgive me. Ask Ranu, my poor Ranu, to find in her heart a little kindness to forgive her unworthy old cousin from abroad.”
What else was there to do or tell anyway, but to ask for forgiveness? At the moment of his departure this ordinary man from a poor village gave him a very potent lesson: poverty in this land has its own vault of treasure.
(Translation completed by the author from his 1993 Bengali article “Sweater”, Dec.12, 2007.)
(Revised June 9, 2010)
Mizan Rahman, মীজান রহমান
Every morning it’s the same story. She is the first one to wake up at the sound of alarm. No matter how late she goes to bed or how little she sleeps at night, she has
no choice but leave the bed the moment the alarm goes at 5. Before entering the bathroom she wakes up Keya. Not a hard task at all, since she is usually up at the first call. Doesn’t make any fuss about it. She is only nine, yet she will have you think she is a seasoned adult in the head. There would be no problem if there were ten of her, such a good-natured girl she is. But alas, good-natured girls don’t come in pairs. Just look at the younger one, Kheya. She is the opposite of Keya. Waking her up in the morning is a chore, a real battle. Let alone responding to your first call she won’t move even after ten. You have to shake her whole body to make an impression. Then she will open her eyes for a second only to close them up right away. Champa sets aside a quota of full fifteen minutes every morning just to have Kheya out of bed. Sometimes she gets so frustrated. When is this girl going to grow up and bring closure to this tiresome routine every day, she wonders. She is not a little baby any more, a month past her fifth birthday. One would hope she would show some improvement, but no, not this spoiled little brat. Champa enters the bathroom leaving Kheya crying at the top of her voice. Screaming would be a more appropriate word. She always worries about her neighbors knocking on her door to complain about the noise. But what can she do? Sitting with her trying to calm her down would be a waste of time. She has to run her life on a very tight schedule. She gets in and out of the bathroom in a little under ten minutes. She must rush to the kitchen to get the girls’ cereal on the table, boil the eggs, toast the bread and spread the butter and jam on them. Finally she prepares her own breakfast, usually a dry toast and a cup of tea. The hardest part of her morning ritual is getting the lunch bags ready for the three of them. First, Kheya. She has to be taken to the Daycare by 7. It’s not a city-run daycare nor is it a fully equipped professional facility. One Bengali lady takes care of five children in her own apartment, for a small fee. It saves a lot of money, and the service is very good. Kheya feels very comfortable there, and has the added advantage of learning to speak some Bengali. It’s also very convenient because the lady lives in the next building, so there’s some money saved on the bus fare.
After Kheya’s lunch Champa gets on with Keya’s. She tries her best to pack different foods on different days, keeping an eye on the need for a balanced diet as well as a change of taste. If it is peanut-butter sandwich today, perhaps tomorrow it is chicken or beef sandwich, hard-boiled eggs, donuts or hamburgers on other days. A bottle of milk, an apple and a banana are the daily staples. Keya’s good nature shows even in her eating habits. She will eat quietly whatever she is given. No complaint. Complaining is just not her nature. It becomes a bit worrisome for Champa, sometimes. Doesn’t the silly girl know how little the society cares for girls, how little attention people are willing to give to what the girls want to say or do? On top of that if you don’t open your mouth to let them know how you feel then how are you going to survive? The thought makes her want to cry a bit. Pent-up emotions want to well up inside of her, but she regains her control.
It’s no time to emote. There is no room for emotions in her day-to-day life. She sets her mind on her own lunch at last. No problem there—that’s the easiest task of all. She can do it while sipping at her tea-cup. A sandwich and an apple, that’s all she needs for lunch. She doesn’t care much for variety, or taste. Enjoying her food with relish is a forgotten idea for her. All she needs is the bare minimum to sustain life. Sustain her life is something she must continue to do, for the sake of her two little girls. They are the reason she goes on living the way she does. They are the centre of her universe, her dream, her future. As far as she is concerned, the world doesn’t exist beyond these two girls. She is a lonely traveler on a desolate road. She is a single mother.
Champa must report for work by 8 sharp. First she drops off Kheya at the lady’s apt. in the next building, then rushes for the subway station holding Keya’s hands. Her school is close by, just a short ten minutes walk. After school Keya comes home alone, enters the building without anyone’s help, gets up to the fifth floor on the elevator, and unlocks the apt. door with the key tied to her waist band. A little child as she is, she has the wits to turn the keys even if there were no lights in the hallway. Champa can’t get back before 6. She leaves the office at 4:30. First she gets on a bus that drops her off at the train station 15 minutes later. Sometimes, in the rush hour jam, the bus doesn’t stop to take anymore passengers. Then she starts walking, as briskly as she can. She can’t afford to miss the 4:55 train. It’s a good 25 minutes ride on the subway to her neighborhood station. She pushes her way through the crowd to reach the apt. building where Kheya has to be picked up. It’s a great blessing for her that the daycare lady doesn’t get annoyed if she is late a minute or two, never makes a sullen face. She herself has 3 children of her own. The girl in the middle is almost Kheya’s age. When the other children leave she just keeps the two of them busy with toys. If they get bored with toys she opens up her kitchenware for them to play with. Champa feels infinitely grateful to her—she is such an angel. She can’t imagine how she would have managed if this kindly lady wouldn’t agree to take care of Kheya for the full day. She would then be forced to take the child to a public Daycare two miles away. But they wouldn’t keep her after 4 in the afternoon. What would she do if that was her only choice? How could she keep her job with the Company? They wouldn’t listen to her daycare problems. They would just find somebody else. Getting a job these days is already such a big problem. On top of that she is a single mother from a remote land called Bangladesh. Thank God, she was smart enough to go to a computer school right after her arrival in this country. It’s not exactly an executive job, no more glamorous than a junior office secretary, but enough to put dinner on the table. You can’t get rich with this income, of course, but a family of two little kids and an adult can survive with that. The rent takes $500. It would have been 800/900 if she had gone for a downtown apt. near her work. This area is, of course, not as clean and tidy as the fashionable downtown ones, but it has its advantages. Because the inhabitants are mostly new immigrants it has lots of ethnic stores and other facilities. You can speak in Bengali. The girls don’t have to feel lonely and left-out on traditional festive occasions. Champa herself has no great longing for Bengali contacts, but it gives her comfort knowing that in times of urgent need she may be able to count on some help from her community.
She spends $300/m on daycare, which is cheap compared to professional facilities. And yes, there is one more thing she does that others might frown at: she sends Keya to a ballet school at a cost of another $ 300/m. She didn’t have to do that. Bengali parents usually have no love for ballet. They would rather teach Tagore songs, Indian dance, piano-violin. The more conservative ones would take their kids to religious schools hoping to shield them from western influence. And, of course, the girls must learn to be good at homemaking. But Champa is different. Her fascination was with ballet. She herself wanted to be a ballerina like Margot Fontaine and Martha Graham. There was no way she could get her wish, but the dream stuck in her head. Now she wanted to give that opportunity to her own little girl. This is not Bangladesh. There are no built-in inhibitions here. It is more important to be a good human being here than to be a good Muslim. There is nothing to prevent a girl from going to a ballet school here. Yes, there are raised eyebrows and hushed gossip about it in the Bengali community here too, but she just doesn’t care. She didn’t come to this country to please her fellow Bengalis, rather to free herself from those mental shackles. She is here to raise her girls the way she likes.
There are a few more Bangladeshi families in Champa’s apt. building. Most of them are new arrivals—over the last 2-4 years, no more. There are some 15 more Bangladeshi families in the adjacent building. It’s rough going, for many of them. Hard life. Small businesses or low-paying jobs, or nothing at all. Most of them are very religious. They say their prayers 5 times a day, fast through the whole month of Ramadan, set up regular prayer meetings in their apts., and are very particular about teaching their children how to read the Holy Quran. Their women put their veils on them or cover their heads with the traditional headscarfs. There are a number of them who give birth to a child every alternate year. And every other year they go home for a visit. Their ambitions do not seem to be much more than eating halal meat, raise money for the masjid fund, avoid contact with the infidels, keep the children out of reach of western culture, and above all, earn enough money to send home to pay for a new mosque in the ancestral village, and a multistoried apt. building in a fashionable area of Dhaka. They embrace each other at Eid prayers, fight each other on election days, and write slanderous letters to the local Bengali weeklies vilifying their opponents. It is this community that Champa tries to stay away from. They have no clear understanding of what ‘single mother’ means—they probably think it is some kind of a strange creature from another planet. Even if someone tries to explain to them what it really is, they are not likely to change their view that a single mother is either a widow or a fallen woman. In their minds a husband would never divorce a nice woman, so she must be bad. Champa knows that she is not going to fit in with these people. Everywhere she goes she is an outsider. The women stop talking as soon as they see her, as if she is a man they do not know. Interestingly though, the men have a curious attitude toward her. They are quite willing to come forward and try to stick up a conversation, provided their wives do not catch them talking to her. They feel attracted by her haughty style. Champa is not an arrogant person at all, but the way she dresses, the confidence she exudes while talking to people, even the way she walks, seem to give them an impression of arrogance. She seldom wears a sari. She can’t go to work in a sari, anyway. They are not going to like it. Yes, they adore saris as an evening dress in formal parties but not while you are working. She got so used to not wearing saris that even at home she keeps her jeans on. Besides, how can a working woman who has to walk everyday on city pavements, in rain in summer and a foot-deep snow in winter, manage to keep her sari on? Sometimes she doesn’t mind wearing a skirt, which shocks the neighborhood women from Bangladseh. In their eyes she is a shameless, ultramodern, immodest woman who is a bad influence on their kids. They try to avoid her. They are convinced that Champa has shed her Bengaliness in every possible way, maybe even looks down upon other Bengalis.
How ignorant they are indeed. In reality she is probably more Bengali than any of these women. She never lost sight of her Bengali roots. She speaks in Bengali with her daughters all the time. She reads Bengali rhymes and stories every night to them. Teaches them how to read and write Bengali every Sunday. She herself tries to stay in touch with Bengali culture as much as she can. After the girls go to bed she sits down with a Bengali book or paper, or puts on her favorite Tagore song on the CD player. At home in Bangladesh there was a time when she would write poems in Bengali, even got some of them published in the daily ‘Jonokontho’ and monthly ‘Shaili’. Her neighbors do not know these things, nor does she have any desire to let them know. If gossip and backbiting is what makes them happy, let them be happy. She is not going to be bothered with these petty things.
And yet, she can’t completely deny that things do hurt at times. She has the same flesh and blood as everyone else. She has feelings. When the other ladies are visiting each other every day chewing betel leaves in their cheeks right in front of her eyes, talking for hours on the telephone, exchanging home-cooked delicacies, but never bother to drop by her apt., never stop to say hello in the hallway, yes, that can be a bit hurtful. She feels particularly bad for her two little girls. Most of their friends are nonBengalis. Many are from India, Srilanka, Bosnia, Egypt, Nigeria. It is the Bengali children who seem to deliberately avoid them. There are some exceptions, of course. That kindly daycare lady is one such exception. Only the other day she came with a jar of homemade morabbas that her mother sent from home. She said she couldn’t bear to think of eating them without sharing with Keya and Kheya. How terribly sweet of her to think that way. It brought tears to Champa’s eyes. There are one or two more such exceptions in the Bengali community. And that’s what she is counting on for a bit of mental support.
The funny thing is that occasionally a Bangladeshi man or two will make an unexpected appearance at her door. There was one gentleman whose wife had gone home for a visit leaving him alone for a couple of months. One day he came along with a bag of two kilos of freshly cut beef in his hand. Looking very meek and humble he offered a lame excuse in his heavy provincial accent: this is a small present from his meat shop for the two little girls. Pure halal meat, he assured her. Champa couldn’t remember having ever met this person. It was clear that he was the owner of that shop. Champa politely asked how much it would cost her. He said he couldn’t live with himself if he took money from her. It was meant as a token of his love for the children. But she insisted. She couldn’t, wouldn’t accept his gift without paying for it. That was her final word. With that she was about to close the door on him. Poor man had no choice but to accept the price. It was not clear from his face if his real objectives were satisfied. He probably didn’t expect to be rejected in this manner. Nobody had to tell Champa that his real intentions were more than an honest gesture of kindness for the two fatherless girls. She had no trouble figuring out the real reason for this unexpected visit at her door. What an irony! Even a butcher believes a single mother is easily available.
There was another occasion when a smart looking, well-dressed man came calling with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates. When she opened the door he bowed in a very courteous manner, announcing that the flowers were for her, and the chocolates for the girls. Before she could protest he started giving a reasonable explanation for his visit. He was a tenant on a tenth floor apt., he heard about her daughter’s birthday, so he couldn’t resist feeling sad for the child—having to spend her birthday with no friends and no gifts. He couldn’t bear the thought of living in the same building and letting that terrible thing happen to an innocent little girl. What’s a neighbor for, after all? Champa said a polite thank you to the man, took the bouquet and chocolates, asked the girl to say thanks to her new ‘uncle’, then shut the door on his face. She hates to be rude with anybody, but hates even more to open the door to any unaccompanied man. They are all the same. She has absolutely no intention to repeat the mistake she did once, just once, in her life.
Yes, she did open the door once to a young man. That was when she was a foolish young girl with no brains in the head, no idea of what real life means, and the hormones in her body were working on all cylinders. She didn’t want to care about future, or talk about the character of the man. She ignored the misgivings and warnings of her family. She offered herself blindly and unconditionally to the young, good-looking man hoping for eternal love, and nothing but love, which he professed with great passion. These two girls are the fruits of that love. But ill wind started blowing shortly after the birth of Kheya. In her mind, deep down, she always knew that her man was not quite the saint she thought he was. It didn’t take long for her to find out that he had a weakness for the bottle, a weakness for extramarital affairs, and quite a few other unspeakable vices. There were many nights when he didn’t bother to come home at all, especially after Kheya’s birth. Once a close friend of hers called to tell her that she saw her husband enter a fashionable hotel with his arms around a young girl’s waist. She cried a lot but said nothing to him. She felt so humiliated. But the last straw was when he disappeared completely, and the word got out that the police was looking for him as a suspect in the murder of a political enemy. She learned that her dear husband was a common criminal, a hustler and a muscleman for a political party. Fortunately for him, that was the ruling party, which saved him from a term in the jail. But it didn’t help save their marriage. They decided to split, and on her terms, not his as would be more natural in the Bangladeshi society. That’s what she wants to announce proudly to this wretched community of hers in Canada—that it was not her husband who divorced her, rather she divorced him. It was all settled remarkably amicably. The husband didn’t want custody of the children, perhaps because they were girls. If they were boys he would likely dig his heels in, and demand to take custody. Boys are assets, not liabilities, as the girls are. They can’t be sacrificed at any price.
Sometimes she can’t help admitting to herself that there are weak moments when she feels a bit lonesome. She has not lost her capacity to feel the emptiness in her life. She does crave for a bit of love, a bit of tenderness. But that’s only for a moment. She had to learn how to harden her soul, and fight off all those little weaknesses and cravings. She remembers her mother and her siblings sometimes. They wanted her so much to go back home. They always worry how she is managing all alone in a far away land with two little girls to take care of. How are you going to handle the tough life all by yourself, they asked. She tries to laugh. They don’t know how tough she is. No longer that love-sick weakling who can be easily manipulated. She has learned to stand on her own feet. She has a special dream here. A dream that has nothing to do with her personal life, but everything to do with the future of her two daughters. It is this dream that keeps her going. She doesn’t need anything else in the world. She comes from an ordinary Bengali family, but she is not an ordinary Bengali girl. She is a single mother.
June 9, 2010
(Translated by the author from his Bengali article” Single Mother” that appeared in the book Proshongo Nari)
Mizan Rahman, মীজান রহমান