Saturday, March 31, 2007


I attended the Toronto premier of a Bengali documentary Deshantori at the Univ. of Toronto this evening. A question and answer session with the director followed the movie. Before I go on about a couple of funny incidents at the premier, or talk about the issues this documentary raised, let me give a brief outline of what the movie was about [trailer].

The documentary is a reenactment of the story of a few migrants who left Bangladesh to be smuggled illegally to Europe. The stories are narrated by a few of these migrants themselves, who even acted in the reenactment. The 250-seat capacity lecture hall was nearly three quarters full.

The movie started by having the camera talk to the common people on the street, be they students, couples on a date, a fuchka wala, a labourer, a rickshaw puller, a professor or a businessman. From everyone, you get the feeling that they are tied down by Bangladesh, nothing can be done there, and the only solution to better one’s lives was to go abroad.

It’s amazing that despite 30 years of independence and for all the talk of patriotism, given the chance half the country would bolt. They have in their mind an idealized version of life “abroad”, without any thought of the hardships they would have to endure. Given such a background, it wasn’t hard to fathom why our protagonists would decide to sell all their assets, borrow huge amounts of money and coax and beg to pay the smugglers to get them to Spain.

Their story starts at the Dhaka airport where bribery allows them to clear customs. It was interesting that the very corruption in the system that they held as a reason for Bangladesh’s lack of empowerment was used by them to escape that system. Then it continues as they travel to Libya, then traverse through northern Africa to finally reach the Mediterranean shores of Morocco, from where they would be forced, all 40 of them, to board a 9 meter rubber boat to take them to Spain.

Halfway into the sea, after a grueling 16 hours of fighting the waves, the boat’s motor dies. Seven days later, still stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, with hordes of their comrades dead – this is where the full toll of their hardships becomes apparent.

For me, one telling moment was when one of them, dying of hunger, points at a corpse of one who is already dead and suggests, “let’s eat him up.”

A normal person would reply, “What? It’s a corpse of our friend!”

Instead, we have our protagonist ask, “How? We don’t have knives to cut off the meat.”

After the movie was over, the question and answer provided a few light moments.

For example, with all the different issues and reasons raised in the movie about migrants, you would expect a few heavy questions. Rather, we had one lady ask, “These migrants, are they concerned about how their lives are going to effected if we don’t do something about the greenhouse gases?”

Well hello! These are people who don’t have a full day’s meal and you want them to think about the environment? Shobuj Shanti (Greenpeace) kothakar!

There was also someone taking into issue about why a particular scene was 6 seconds long rather than 10 seconds whereas “studies have proved that for a full impact of a motion picture scene it had to be 10 seconds long”. Something about shorter attention spans, or whatever. My attention span was shorter than the length of his question.

Of course someone got a little bit too excited and into the movie and decided we should use our knowledge of the TTC to help improve the bus service from Gulshan to Mirpur. Having used the TTC I think it is they who will need all the help they can get!

The movie had a couple of quotes that I remember. For example, this girl chides her friend, "You are ready to get up at 6 in the morning and work hard all day once you reach London, yet today in Bangladesh you stay in bed till noon and then decry nothing is getting done in Bangladesh! It's not the country's fault that you are lazy!"

There was another. The professor rants about how Bengalis tend to have an inferiority complex where anything good is foreign and anything bad is homegrown. He pointed at the example of a chilli we call Bombay Morich. It's big, spicy, expensive and so titled after Bombay. Where is it grown? Somewhere north of Borisal, Bangladesh.

This same professor also asks "whose fault is it that people choose an uncertain death abroad over a certain life in Bangladesh".

Overall, it was a good and enriching experience. It made me think about certain issues and reconsider my black and white views of illegal immigration. It also made me realize how lucky I am to be in Canada when so many other people in the land of my birth say "it is not right for us to dream. For us, living is a nightmare". And then wonder in amazement at this same group of people who are so happy with so little, so content and so optimistic with nothing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


(Don't miss the pictures of the Danforth celebrations)

I had the chance to visit Buffalo over the week. Other than my work, I was looking forward to a little shopping (they had an Outlets place there and I was hoping to get some cheap brand name shirts). I was also keen to try out International House of Pancakes (Ihops) - a famous breakfast place we don't have in Toronto.

The adventure of course starts at the border. Usually it takes five minutes but I was driving my friend's car (who wasn't with us) so the officer decided to be extra diligent. At this time, I am telling you - one thing works.

Be the ultimate FOB.

"So, why are you going to go to Buffalo?" He asks.

"I.." I replied, ".. I want to do some shopping and see Ihops."

The officer looked at me funny.

"You want to ... see ... Ihops?"

If it was possible he would have actually said 'LOL'. In any case, we entered the States without further delay.

I could not believe Buffalo - there's actually a town more boring than Hamilton (haha!). There's absolutely nothing to do if you are not going to the Sabres game. At least in Hamilton I got my good friends.

I wasn't the only Bengal Tiger in town

I must say after all the hype I was a bit disappointed with Ihops. While it was good and everything, it was more quantity than quality, and everything was just fried to make it better. No taste - very bland. No wonder Americans keep getting obese.

The best omelette I ever had was actually at this Indian dosa place - full of spices and masala and not to mention - meat. I think we need a Desi House of Pancakes on our side of the border. Any takers, anyone?

Danforth Celebration of Bangladesh Victory

As soon as Bangladesh beat Bermuda to qualify for the next round of the Cricket World Cup, I headed to Danforth/Victoria Park (Little Bangladesh) of Toronto with my friends.


This is T Sr.'s SUV, with T Jr. out of the sunroof waving the Bangladesh flag. Notice that we are now all part of a convoy (lineup) of cars, all sporting Bangladesh flags.


Pretty soon a crowd started to gather around. Note that one man in the picture (to the right) above has a megaphone, he has already started trying to lead a march!


Strangers were just congratulating and hugging each other!

white ppl

Even people who had no idea of cricket joined in the fun.


Soon the lineup of cars (more than 30!) all made their way into the Indian/Pakistani part of the town - Gerrard Street. With the Bangladesh win having knocked India out of the Cup, needless to say, the Pakistanis were more pleased to see us, than the Indians! (too bad I was inside our car and couldn't take a proper picture of the flag decorated cars)


If you squint you can make out the flags though!


At the end of the day, shopkeepers were giving out free rosogollas and samosas. Who says we are cheap?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ireland, Bangladesh devalue World Cup - British Guys


The BBC has always been a patronizing old white men's club. Yes, they do deliver (mostly) fair and balanced coverage of the Middle East, but when your main comparison is the CNN, that doesn't say much. These old white men have a few set ideas and are scathing when reality begs to differ.

One of the few constants the BBC cricket analysts had over the past decade is their scathing arrogant dismissal of Bangladesh.

When Bangladesh upset Australia in 2005 in Cardiff, the BBC wrote "... although they beat India at home in January this year to show they should not be regarded as total write-offs."

I now refer to what the "analysts" of the World Cup of cricket are saying about the current progression of Bangladesh and Ireland into the Super 8 round. India and Pakistan are out of the World Cup, while Ireland and Bangladesh has progressed.

Jonathan Agnew starts the ball rolling with "I can’t say that I really believe it is for the good of the sport that one of its finest and most passionate contests – India against Pakistan – has now been replaced by Ireland against Bangladesh."

He then goes on with "The Super 8’s will be the duller and more predicable as a result of the presence of Ireland and Bangladesh, rather than India and Pakistan."

While Indian and Pakistani fans may agree, cricket is not played on paper. Teams may be strong on paper, but results are obtained on the ground, and on that fateful day, both Ireland and Bangladesh outclassed Pakistan and India, respectively.

Moving on, we have Martin Gough.

"Had the tournament gone according to seeding, England’s opening Super 8 match would have been against Pakistan, against whom they have had some epic battles in the last 12 months.

Instead they will face Ireland, who they outclassed in Belfast last June."

Ireland outclassed? England made 301/7 while Ireland replied with 263/9 [scorecard]. I would hardly call it "outclassed". As usual, the English press has overhyped its own team - but then, what's new?

Yet This has led to criticism of the format.

"In no way do I want to show disrespect to Ireland and Bangladesh but ..."

[there's always a but]

"... their qualification has come on the back of a single result each.

If you were asked to rank the top eight teams in world cricket, these two would still not feature.

Let me say this again.

Yes, the World Cup does deserve the best 8 teams making it into the second round, but the World Cup is not about how you performed last year, the World Cup is how you performed at the World Cup. As for the criticism of the format by Rahul Dravid, when he said that previous world cups allowed you to start bad and still recover, the best reply was given by Habibul Bashar, the captain of the Bangladesh team.

"It is true that if you have two groups then you get more matches and have a better chance of recovering from a bad result but those who are criticising the current format should also remember that the so-called big teams actually wanted it so that they don't have to play 'inconsequential' matches against weaker teams. If you are a top side then you should have what it takes to qualify."


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ujjibon Lessons

Given Bangladesh's woeful performance today, I felt the need to write about something cheerful. So, without further ado, here are some things I learnt during our show last Friday.
  1. Do not trust a bunch of guys who haven't had lunch to deliver a couple of boxes of fresh pizza to the girls' change rooms. It just won't get there.
  2. The proper definition of adrenaline pumping is when the stagehand comes to your locker room to inform you that you have 30 seconds to your act. And you lost the drawstring that holds up your pajamas together. And the performance is a dance medley that will require you to jump several times in the air. Not to mention your jeans are missing.
  3. If you do not know how to wear a lungi, the proper time to ask someone who does, is NOT when someone is present in the changing room WITH A CAMERA.
  4. Guys can change clothes anywhere.
  5. A ten year old who knows how to work the camera will take a better video than a fifty year old uncle who keeps focusing on the stage lights for some reason.
  6. I have to remember, just because I walked off stage does NOT mean my clip on mike has stopped working.
  7. Currently listed as Missing on the "Lost and Found" section of the BSA web forum:
    1 lungi.
    1 dark pair of jeans.
    1 black pants.

    All that's missing from the missing section is 1 underwear. We are the BSA not the PSA, people! I meant Pantless Students' Association, of course.

Medley Group Dance:

Click here if the player does not show up above.

Disco Mollobi:

Click here if the player does not show up above.

The videos were shot by my brother on our digicam. Thanks to Isheeta for the help in putting them up online.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


As I have made it known on this blog I was in a cultural show last Friday. It went well, and I heard good reviews of it from many people. However, while rehearsing for the show and during the show itself, I met a new type of desi that I had not before.

You see, most people are familiar with the two extremes of desis. There is the FOB (Fresh Off Boat). This is the guy who has a thick accent, puts oil on his head and sets off the fire alarm when cooking. Then there is the coconut – brown on the outside, white on the inside. He has hardly seen an Indian movie or eaten a samosa, yet can be spotted sitting awkwardly at a desi party trying in vain to keep himself updated of how badly the Leafs are sucking. The rest of the desis fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Yet, last weekend, I met - the FOBonut.

FOBonuts, as the name suggests, are FOBs pretending to be coconuts.

You see, FOBonuts are in reality FOBs, with one major difference. Whereas genuine FOBs know they are FOBs, they are comfortable with that fact. They are really nice people. Yes, their accent may be thick, but so are their bank accounts. They will gladly and proudly go to a Hindi movie because they love it, and they enjoy themselves watching Shah Rukh Khan ham.

FOBonuts, on the other hand, are ashamed of being FOBs. Ashamed of being desi at all. Yet they live in a contradiction world because they really LOVE those desi stuff.

“No, I am not buying Hindi movie tickets, I hate Hindi movies. Yes, I realize I am right now in a Hindi cinema hall buying Hindi movie tickets … but they are for my friend! I am just picking them up… ya, that’s right!”

They try in vain to pretend to be coconuts.

You see, coconuts are genuine stuff. It’s not that they hate desi stuff, they just are not interested. They are cool with that. FOBonuts see this cool attitude and want to copy that.

“Who the hell wants to go to a Bengali CULTURAL show? What’s so cultural about it? You want real CULTURE? You should see an opera, like in that movie Dil Chahta Hai – oops! I mean that French movie I can’t recall now. Opera! Now that’s real culture. Of course I don’t understand what they are shouting saying but it’s real CULTURE!”

I have no problem with opera man but dude! Don’t pretend to like something just because it’s the “in” thing to like.

FOBonuts come in a variety of forms. One such interesting one is the “well done FOBonut”. I say well done when I meant burnt. When things become burnt they become black. And that is what has happened to our “well done FOBonut”. It seems he has taken a knock on the head and woken up convinced he is a black man.

There are some Bengali kids around Victoria Park near Toronto that act like this. Loose baggy pants, bandannas, chains, and huge dark glasses form their attire. Yet there are two fundamental differences between genuine black thug people and this wanna be black thugs.

Number one, size. Get your mind out of the gutter, I meant height! Bengalis are not six feet one, they are usually five feet eight. And fat. These thugs spoil for a fight yet run away as soon as they are challenged and alone.

When we had our shows some years back they used to come by the dozens to cause trouble. And then they would see the lone policeman hired as security and run away.

Number two, vocabulary. These kids could hardly swear even if their lives depended on it. All swear words are restricted to a biological sibling combined with a biological act to produce another sibling.

Moral of the rant: Don’t pretend to be something you are not. You are brown. Accept it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bangladesh Beats India

I was going to post some thoughts and pictures about our show last night. However at the moment I am too hyped. I am off to Danforth (Little Bangladesh) to party, here is a photo shopped image from Rotmans, where we had all gathered to watch the game on a giant TV.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Random Snippets

Dear Diary,

I made a conscious decision to go for The Namesake when all of my mates were going for The 300. I don't regret my decision - it was a good movie. I don't know - something about The 300 just didn't attract me. If I wanted to see images of men being gutted or killed I would just switch on the tube to watch the latest news from Iraq. And marvel that there are Americans still dumb enough to justify this war. And also that there are dumb Canadians that support those dumb Americans.
* * *

A friend called me the other day.

"Hey, there?"

"Yes," I replied, even though I was busy at work.

"Ok, hold on for a minute, will you?"

What the..! YOU called me, and YOU put me on Hold? Well then... click!
* * *

And there there is the one guy who messaged me while at work.


"Here." I hit my reply, even though I was busy.

"What do you think of Pakistan's batting?" He asked.

And so I gave a detailed response analyzing why Pakistan's batting sucked. He digested all of this with a "hmm."

And then "brb".

You don't 'brb' me! I am the one at work, you are the one who's at home enjoying a "sick" day because you wanted to watch the game, and you 'brb' me?!!!

I see your 'brb', and raise you 'brb, boss here, server crashed'.

Although if you are my MSN friend you will keep wondering why my server keeps crashing all the time. Rest assured, it doesn't. I just didn't want to talk to you.
* * *

Cricket world cup started today. It sucked that I couldn't watch it. And it also didn't help when my kid brother, home on March break, called me up every time there was a six.

"bhaiyya! Did you see that six? It was huuuuuuge....."

On the plus side I played cricket today, that too at night. I cannot believe I am outside in double digit warm weather, playing cricket at 9 pm in March, in Canada!
* * *

For Bridge players.

It's the last hand. My partner and I need a game call to win. And what cards do I get dealt?


Friday, March 09, 2007

Why An "Islamic" State is Impractical Today

It's Friday, so here's a bit of religion to think about.

Apparently all the main social ills that plague the various parts of the Muslim world today can disappear in an instant if we implement an "Islamic State" - according to some of my more zealously religious friends. The "Caliphate" is the magic cure-all that the world needs.

Well excuse my cynicism but in today's world, the Caliphate as it was practiced by the Muslims of the Golden Era is no longer practical. And I am not talking about just any period of the Caliphate, I am talking about the Khulafai Rashideen - the Rightly Guided Caliphs - Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman and Ali - the first four Caliphs of Islam.

Let's see why such an idealized "Islamic" state such as theirs would be impractical today.

First, a Caliph was for life.

We cannot have that today. No matter who the guy is, or how holy, we cannot appoint someone for life without any checks and balances. How do we hold him to account if after an election he won't have to face the electorate ever again? And we always need fresh blood, new ways of thinking and innovation to keep the State competitive in the global environment. Thus, a Caliph cannot be for life - and already we have changed a fundamental aspect of the Caliphate.

Second, Abu Bakr did say "follow me only as long as I obey the laws of Allah and His Prophet and if I go astray do not obey me". The question is, who today will judge a leader if the leader chooses to go astray? The so-called ulemah (clerics)?

In the time of those Caliphs, almost everyone could be called a cleric - everyone was a Companion of the Prophet and their knowledge of religion was taught by the Prophet himself. They all had a similar level of knowledge of Islamic law, zeal for justice and peace, and selflessness in spirit. We can see that as soon as that fell apart, anarchy started to seep in. We can see that increasing in the rules of Usman and Ali - as new generations, brought up after death of the original Companions, differed in minute aspects of religion and differed from the Caliph in how to interpret Islamic rules.

Moreover, today's ulemah are not immune to suspicions of ulterior motives. For example, when Umar ruled that a husband who uttered three divorces at the same time had issued an irrevocable divorce to his wife, no one accused Umar of implementing that law to subjugate women. Everyone believed that Umar had come to that decision keeping the best interests of Muslims at heart and after a sincere and honest contemplation. Again, Umar had codified that a woman whose husband had been missing, and therefore she had remarried, must return to her original husband if he reappeared. Again, this was Islamic Shariah.

And then Ali came and changed both of these rulings (and here we see examples of Islamic Shariah being changed). Under him, three divorces together was counted only as one, and once missing for four years, a husband could not claim back his wife if he returned and she had remarried in the meanwhile. In both these rulings, no one accused Umar or Ali of any ulterior motive. Both applied their interpretations of Islamic Law suited for their times as they best saw fit.

Today, however, the clerics have dubious motives for issuing edicts - be it money, power, fame or cultural reasons. Thus, we cannot trust our ulemah to interpret Islam in a just manner, and one of the main pillars of an "Islamic" state thus falls.

Third, what about non-Muslim citizens and women? Are they allowed to hold positions of power, authority and leadership within the "Islamic" state? Can they be Caliphs?

We see that even in the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, they followed certain Arab customs. The Caliph had to be from the tribe of Quraish, as "rest of Arabia would not follow a non-Quraish" as Umar had reasoned while championing for Abu Bakr, after the death of the Prophet. Similarly, the leader was from a noble tribe. Politics played a big part then, as they do now.

However, today, a Hindu man, for example, has the legislative power and Constitutional right, for example, to run for Prime Minister in a Muslim majority country such as Bangladesh. It's another matter that he will never be elected leader, but he has the right to run. And why not? He pays taxes, he is another loyal citizen of the country, why should he not have the same rights as any other Muslim citizen? Yet in a proper Islamic state as demanded by the fundamentalists, non-Muslims will always be second-class citizens.

And not just non-Muslims. In Umar's time, when he had conquered Persia, he made the Arabs live on a garrison by themselves. Different time, different values, and I am sure he had good reasons to do so. Today's time, however, we cannot have such a system of apartheid. The Prophet had said several times that there is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab, a lesson forgotten by many of our ulemah today as they adopt Arab customs because it's more "Islamic". It can be argued that even today we do discriminate rights (for example we do not allow landed immigrants, who have lived here for a while and pay taxes, to vote until they become citizens) but no one is discriminated against by law due to their religion and race.

What is important to note from those Caliphs, and what many Muslims, miss, is that the reason they were such successful men and the State enjoyed such prosperity was not because they had a Caliphate. It's because the rulers were just, honest, God-fearing, sincere, not driven by power, upright and steadfast men. And they were surrounded, supported and critiqued by men of similar stature. That's the lesson we need to take. Today, what we need to fix our countries is not a so-called Islamic State that starts by legislating what a women can wear (something that the Caliphs never undertook, for example). No, what we need are honest, intelligent and sincere men (or women) leading our countries, and similarly capable men (or women) supporting those leaders, in solving the REAL problems of our societies.

That's why countries such as Malaysia, UAE, China and India forge ahead, while Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia continue to lag. It's not quantity or category, it's the quality.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Calling All Girls Re: CWC

It has come to my attention that some girls have no idea about cricket. Given that the Cricket World Cup (CWC) is beginning in a few days, here's a few pointers to aforementioned friends about cricket.

Vat is Cricket?

In the words of my uncle, Cricket is a vast conspiracy unleashed by the British Empire on their unsuspecting subjects. While the colonies wasted their time playing a game that required 5 days to finish, the British invented soccer (which took 90 minutes). Thus the decline of Eastern civilization can be attributed to the rising popularity of cricket.

Today, of course, we have reduced the game to last just 8 hours ONLY.

And NO, we do not know who is winning at hour # 7.

Vy Are Desis So Good At Cricket?

Cricket requires the batsman to hit the ball and run. The concept of hit-and-run comes naturally to us desis.

Vat Is An Over?

An over is 6 deliveries long. A bowler bowls 6 deliveries at the batsman. Then another bowler comes in. The time between this change of bowlers is the ONLY time you girls can talk to us guys watching the game. Suggested topics of conversation include "what toppings do you want on your pizza" and "do you want fries with that".

Vat Are Things To Avoid?

Girls, do not be corrupted by Western feminists that tell you the best way to bond with your man is to learn about his sport. We men do NOT want to teach you about cricket. We want to revel in your ignorance when the commentator says something like "That shot was better executed, but rather than dissecting the field, he managed to pick out the fielder at fine leg."

Statements by girls that can lead to broken marriages include, but are not limited to:

  • "I want him to score runs. He looks soooo cute."

  • "Is Imran Khan still playing?"

  • "So, how many goals did we score?"

    Cricket Statements That Sound Naughty But Are Not

  • McGrath's balls are lovely to watch.

  • Dravid punishes the opposition by making them chase leather all day.

  • That was a lovely stroke by Tendulkar. He got into it early and held his poise perfectly.
  • Sunday, March 04, 2007

    Ice Car and the Legends of Cricket

    Woke up on Friday and discovered that my car was buried under an inch-thick layer of ice. Whereas I thought I had to brush off snow, I now had to scrape and hammer the ice away (even had to resort to pouring hot water on it).

    Here's a view of the ice from inside the car.

    On Saturday went to the Legends of Cricket game at the Roger's Centre. Despite being billed as a friendly game of cricket between former stars of the game, an India vs Pakistan game is always intense.

    Pakistan collapsed to 109 all out off 35 overs. India finished on 114/3 off 17 overs.

    I leave you with a panaromic view of the stadium. It's the first time I managed to shoot a panaromic picture with some success.