Thursday, November 29, 2007

Woman Arrested For Naming Horse After Prophet

Medina News Network (MNN): A young housewife who is charged in Medina with insulting Islam and showing contempt for religious beliefs will be brought to court on Friday, the Shariah court has announced. Aisha bint Abu Bakr was arrested after complaints that she had named her toy horse "Sulaiman".

"It is true." Her husband, Muhammad, is reported to have confessed. "I entered the house and I saw her playing with her dolls and toy horses. When I asked her what game she was playing, she answered 'Sulaiman's horses'."

In her defense statement, Aisha stated that she did not intend to cause offense, and only mentioned that "Sulaiman's horses also had wings" in reply to a query by her husband as to why her toy horses had wings.

Some Islamist groups are also upset at Muhammad's reaction to his wife's 'travesty'.

"Rather than admonishing Aisha, Muhammad laughed until his molar teeth could be seen." A community member commented under anonymity. "His failure to 'correct' his wife is clearly another insult to our Prophet."

Medina's top clerics have called for the full measure of the law to be used against Ms. Aisha and labeled her actions part of a Meccan plot against Islam.

But in Mecca, the Islamic Human Rights Commission was among the many (secret) Muslim groups to call for her immediate release.

Chairman Abbas ibn Muttalib said: "Both the Government of Medina, and the media, must refrain from using Islam and Islamic principles to legitimise this fiasco, which may result in the unjust conviction of an innocent person, and which will only lead to the promotion of Medinaphobia and further demonization of Islam." He also stressed that Islam was the fastest growing religion in Arabia.

In a separate news, charges were filed against Aisha's husband Muhammad himself for insulting the name of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and hurting religious sentiments of Muslims. During the treaty of Hudaibiyah, Muhammad was reported to have crossed out the words "Muhammad the Prophet of God" and replaced it with "Muhammad son of Abdullah".

In issuing the arrest warrants for Muhammad and Aisha, the lead prosecutor stated: "We are an Islamic nation that cannot tolerate, be silent or be lax when someone, whoever he or she is, insults our Prophet and sanctities."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Do You Believe in Feng Shui?

I have started to become a big believer in that whole Feng Shui thing. I have been very grumpy and tired recently, and I have noticed that it may have something to do with the state of my room. I haven't really gotten down to cleaning up my room, ever since I came back, and everything is still in a clutter all around. ORGANIZED clutter though, I should add.

I mean like, I can say, "Oh, the charger for my cell? It's in pile no. 3. Should be under the receipt for the DVD writer I bought 4 years ago." See what I mean, everything is in a mess in my room, but I know where is it.

Or may be my grumpiness has to do with the fact that I have an exam tomorrow that I am absolutely NOT prepared for, and I am blogging when I should rather be studying.

I can't help it - the more I study - the more I don't know - and the more I am tempted to Facebook or blog. I mean, I am even secretly willing other people to update their blogs so I can have something else to read beside cost curves and consumer surplus and willingness to pay.

My life is now progressing from deadline to deadline. On this day I have this exam. Then from this day to that day I have this assignment due. Then start studying for this other exam. I mean, it's gotten to the state where I am unhappy November has 30 days, as that means 1 less day till December 4 which is when my term project is due. Oh yea, I work too, so have to squeeze those 8 hours in somehow. And it doesn't also help that Ahmed praised Heroes so much, that I got the whole season 1 on DVD, and now am hooked.

I will be so glad once the break starts.

On another note, I am leaving, again, for yet another conference during the Christmas holidays. And no, I have not confirmed the hotel yet, and still have to clear the credit card bills from the last trip. You deal with travel agents and shocking bank statements and international hotel receptionists who can't speak English and study 200 pages of demand equal to P=100-2Q with marginal cost = marginal revenue, and you will start to believe in Feng Shui as well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Things That Puzzle Me

  1. Why is it that no matter how much I work out, it's either:

    a. My weight drops but my tummy remains the same,


    b. My tummy shapes up but my weight shows no sign of dropping!

  2. Why are people in a hurry in the morning? What are you rushing to... to WORK? You want to be early FOR WORK?!!! Slow down, enjoy the sights... such as ... the following.

  3. Catholic school girls. Aren't you supposed to be going to a, oh-I-don't-know, RELIGIOUS school? Then why is your skirt so short? And it's the mandated uniform?!!!

    My question is: with that skirt, how do you keep warm in the winter? I know you think you are hot, but are you that hot?

  4. The Toronto police are calling a suspected revenge killing involving a gang member "disturbing". Why is it disturbing when a gang member shoots another gang member? I say let 'em shoot each other up and you arrest the last guy standing.

  5. Why do pedestrians get a mind freeze when crossing the street? Just because it's your right-of-way doesn't mean I can stop a 3-tonne car on the slippery ice going downhill if you just decide to step out in front of my car when the lights are green. You'll be right ... DEAD right.

  6. Why do I start getting hungry at exactly 11.45 am?

  7. When is my nagging cold going to go away?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sidr Anger

It is hard to be a Bangladeshi and not think about Sidr.

First, I was reading an aid worker's diary.
Then there are local policemen, people who are meant to be trustworthy, who are using this disaster for their own ends.

I heard one story of a policeman stroking a young girl's cheek and telling her that if she went with him, he would give her some biscuits.

The girl, who had lost her mother in the disaster, told him that he should bring the biscuits out if he had some.

But how long will they be able to resist these kinds of men?
Doesn't it make your blood boil?

Second, I was reading Rezwan's post on Operation Sea Angel. To summarize, in 1991, Bangladesh was overwhelmed by a huge cyclone. The United States responded on May 10 1991 by launching Operation Sea Angel, a relief operation that involved over 7000 US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. The relief efforts of U.S. troops are credited with having saved as many as 200,000 lives.

Think of this vast number and contrast it with this story. Last month, when I was in Dubai, I was at a store buying some bread, and got talking with the Indian owner. When he found out I was from Canada, he asked me, "so have you seen the California fires?"

Before I could reply, he continued, "Praise be to God! So many people dead and may God kill some more!"

I just ... did not know ... what to reply.

To be honest, it's not a one-way ingratitude. Hardly many people know Bangladesh contributed $1 million in aid to USA (that still sounds funny) during Katrina. Yet on my travels down South, especially in the Bible Belt, people were hardly bothered by what's going on outside their state.

"We should make the Middle East one big glass bowl," said one (it's a slang, meaning "nuke 'em"). "India, Pakistan, what's the difference?" Said another. "You guys are all weird." This was another (and I am not even from one of the two!). This ignorance and callousness goes both ways. Why?

"Bangladesh is being over-run by the militants." Said one New York junkie to me. "I know people are being dragged from their homes by the fundamentalists. They are raping Hindus on the street. We should send in the army."

*shakes head*

I don't know what the point of this post is. I am just upset at the scale of destruction and the callousness of people involved. I guess we can take relief from one thing - in 1991 the death toll was 138,000. This time it's officially 6000 and unofficially 10,000. It seems the early warning system and storm shelters have helped.

International Federation and Red Cross and Red Crescent Society:
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society
A/C No. 01-1336274-01
Standard Chartered Bank
Dhaka Bangladesh

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Hunt for A Red October Turkey

This happened during the Canadian Thanksgiving (Oct. 8), but I never wrote about it, so might as well post it now.

It was 3 pm Sunday and next day was Thanksgiving. We never celebrated it as such and for me it was mostly just another day I would not have to go to work. But suddenly, I felt the deepest, darkest desire to sink my teeth into a juicy, well cooked, stuffed turkey.

At that moment one of my Brampton buddies called. "Hey, what you doing?"

"I am going to No Frills." I told him. "They have a halal section and I saw turkeys there."

"Oh great! I am off too!"

I went to No Frills. Damn! The halal section was COMPLETELY empty. I never saw it like that. It was the first time I thought "man! they let too many Muslims into this country when a man can't find a decent halal turkey!"

Next stop - the local Muslim butcher store.

"Of course we have turkey, brother!" The Afghani guy told me. "It's X dollars per pound."

I did a quick calculation, and my jaw dropped. The guy was going to charge me $60 for a turkey! A turkey that is perfectly available in the non-halal section for $20!

And this is where I thought of a perfect rant - Muslim butchers who deliberately over charge you for meat because they know they got you. In fact I see no valid reason why halal chicken should be costlier - it's chicken! Which is why the No Frills halal section is good, the prices are comparable.

At that moment my Brampton buddy calls me, "Hey thanx! That was a great suggestion! I got the last turkey at our No Frills!"

@#!$^#@% him!

"Did you get yours?" He continued.

What can you reply? Of course I lied. "Yeah sure, I got mine."

"How much did you pay?" He asked.

"Well, how much did you pay?"

"It cost me $20." He informed me. "It's so many pounds."

"Ah," I answered. "Mine was only $15, and it's way bigger." Of course.

Dejected, I decided to head to the local Walmart - had to get some toiletries.

And guess what? They have a halal section too!

AND they had a turkey, for $15, at so many pounds heavy.

Moral of the story: Turkey is tasty. Yum!

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Things I Missed About Toronto

Yes, I am back! While a trip abroad without the stress of work and school can be fun, it's always good to be back. Home Sweet Home and all that. Here's what I missed about Toronto:
  1. Hot water and cold water from the taps.

    Unlike hot water and even hotter water (Dubai) or just ice cold water (Dhaka).

  2. Proper sized tea MUGS.

    Unlike the plastic cups (Dubai) or the miniature airplane-cup-sized-cups (Dhaka).

  3. Courteous drivers on the road.

    Unlike rodeo drivers (UAE) or naam-ka-wasta drivers (Dhaka).

    I just drove for a week in UAE and already my driving skills have deteriorated. People are amazed here if I speed up and try to cut in (oops). And I wouldn't have thought it was possible to drive rashly at 20 kmh, but Dhaka proved me wrong.

  4. Tim Hortons.

    No comment! :-D

  5. PROPER Chinese food.

    It's amazing how Bangladeshis are convinced there's no Chinese food like Bangladeshi Chinese food. It is almost a sign of patriotism to sing praises of Chinese restaurants in Dhaka. I have been to a few. SWEET! It's like they dip everything in sugar. Think Manchurian Roshogolla and you get the idea. Blech! Toronto is great that way, you got authentic cuisines from everywhere in the world.

    Of course Abu Dhabi is still the King when it comes to food. Even the pizza of UAE tastes ten times better. Next time I have to schedule a few days in Abu Dhabi just to eat. *drool*

  6. My car.

    May not deserve it's own entry but there's nothing like slipping into the driver's seat of your own car and just taking in the familiarity of it all.

  7. Just going to bed.

    Without having to bother with mosquito nets, Aerosol or the coil that gives you second-hand-smoke.

  8. Old people not farting or burping whenever they feel like it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Rongpur - Day 2

One thing about villagers, no matter what their level of education - the men and the kids are eager to be photographed. As soon as they see a lens they strike a pose. The women, on the other hand, run like rabbits at the sight of a camera.

Here I was trying to take a picture of the cow eating peacefully. As soon as the cow saw me, she charged up. Enter the cow farmer to the rescue. "Sir, let ME help you." And of course I had to click his picture with his prized possession.

People here are extremely proud, regardless of how little they have. And when they saw us coming, they would insist we sit at their house and take some tea. I had to engage all my negotiations skills to squirm away without causing offense. At times, their overt hospitality gets irritating to one's "Western" sensibilities.

The following picture is of the village washrooms.

I was surprised here when my uncle said villagers had a tendency to use the 'open space' to attend to the call of nature. Which is probably why it's not a good idea if you are a newlywed couple to go romping in the fields - you don' know who's been, er, busy, there.

"I built this pair of washrooms," my uncle said, "and have hired two people to clean them regularly, yet the hard part was getting all the villagers to use them rather than go for it in the open." Thankfully most of the villagers now use the washrooms. Baby steps for Bangladesh.

The above is the ancient way people still farm here in Bangladesh. Most farmers are too poor to buy modern machinery and the government is too busy fighting amongst themselves to help. It is such a shame that despite such high quality fertile land, hard working people and year-round-utilization of the farm land, Bangladesh is still not self-sufficient in food.

Most of the villagers I meet have a bad tobacco habit. At 50 taka per pack for the cheap ones, it's not an inexpensive hobby either. They sell their valuable land, stop their daughter's education, borrow more money to pay for a wedding, and yet will not quit smoking. And EVERY one chews beetle leaf (paan). Their teeth are red (and gone by the time they are 45) and they STINK - yet they won't leave their bad habits. A lack of education is the direct cause of most of Bangladesh's woes, it seems to me.

The above is a single kitchen unit. The room inside is where they store the cooked food. The room outside is the kitchen. Women use clay stoves to cook the food. And the fuel?

What are these stuff on those sticks?

Dried cow dung.

Very good as a fuel, I am told.

As I said, the people are very friendly. When I tried to take a picture of some ducks and hens feeding, they ran away. One little girl told me, "Don't worry." She then went back in, brought out more food (and chicken feed is expensive recently) without any thought and called the ducks to her again.

This was the strangest thing. The white dome like thing is the mimbar of the local Eid-gah.

Right next to it is a small shelf full of little cubicles. In each of those slots is a bottle of water, with the cap left open.

I am told when someone is ill or there is some misfortune in a family, the head of the family will take a bottle of water, read some prayers, then leave it here in the Eid-gah for the night. The place has a graveyard where lots of saints are buried. The villagers believe the spirits of those saints come and 'bless' the water in the middle of the night. In the morning the villagers come and get their respective bottles and drink the water. The problem is then supposedly 'resolved'.

Of course I didn't have time to test this theory, but I find it funny that Islam has been co-opted into superstition with such imagination by these unlettered folks.

Rongpur is an interesting place - too bad I don't have much more time and have to leave tomorrow.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Rongpur - Day 1

My uncle's house in Rongpur.

When I was asking him to pose for a picture, I told him, "Imagine you are a jomidaar (landlord) and pose like that." Very indignantly my uncle turned to me and said, "What do you mean imagine? I AM a jomidaar!"

The view of the house's main courtyard from inside.

In the whole village this is probably the most developed house (or so the guardian of the house tells me). Apparently people when they go by, stop and come to look at the house.

I am just glad the washroom is comparable to those fancy ones in Dhaka. Wherever I go, the washroom has to be good. Before, I had to, er, calculate and plan bathroom breaks for the whole trip.

The multi purpose pond behind the house.

My uncle had let some fry in the pond, the guardian used to feed them daily. Now those fish are really huge (pangash, ruhi, mrigel, kaatla, silvercup and more). And undoubtedly no food beats the taste of freshly slaughtered chicken and fresh caught fish, prepared and cooked right there with those unique spicy style that Rongpur people have.

This hen found this corner of the house, gathered some straw and built itself a nest. Now it spends its time here, incubating the eggs. My uncle says they are almost ready to hatch.

Other hens run around the tube-well. My uncles have built a tube-well for every residence in the village.

It was hard to refuse to drink water at every house we visited, but man - the water had a terrible taste! It was pure and clean alright, after all it's fresh spring water, but in these parts the water has a lot of Iron in it (Fe). They give the water a ... unique ... taste, not to mention a slight reddish tinge.

This hen called her chicks to her as soon as she saw me. And the chicks responded immediately to the cry, gathering under her as fast as you could say snap. "If only my kids listened to me that well!" My aunt complained.

The hen and I eyed each other for a moment. Seeing that I was not moving, she cautiously led her chicks, single file, to some other place, keeping maximum distance between as as much as possible.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

On The Way To Rongpur

I can't believe I am blogging while I am ON A BUS. In an hour I should be at our ancestral village in Rongpur, and the little modem that I talked about here is allowing me to check my email and surf and upload pictures while in between villages that don't even seem to have electricity.

Our trip started early in the morning, when we drove to the bus terminal just outside Dhaka.

Our bus was the 'executive coach' style - air-conditioned, lots of leg space, overhead bag cabins, separate luggage storage and comfortable reclining seats. And surprisingly, it's only 330 taka (at this time 1 CND is roughly 72 taka).

We passed many a local market (like the one showed above). Even while passing through sparsely populated villages I got why Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world - there seems to be a crowd EVERY where.

Perhaps this is why the government is sponsoring signs and banners like this one.

Roughly translated, it means "No more than two children, one is actually better." Rezwan talks on this issue here.

The following is a (bad) view on Jamuna Bridge.

Jamuna Bridge is the eleventh longest bridge in the world and the second longest in South Asia [wikipedia]. I remember before this bridge was built, we would have to disembark at this point and wait for a ferry to take us, cars and all, across the mightiest of the three rivers in Bangladesh. The ferry trip alone would take 3 hours. Now the whole Dhaka-Rongpur trip took 6 hours.

This is a food / rest stop the bus made half way into the journey.

I was a bit apprehensive about eating outside, but my uncle assured me it was safe. And not only was I impressed at the cleanliness of the kitchen and eating area (which was air conditioned, again), but more importantly the washrooms were CLEAN! Spotless!

Of course it was a bit weird to have a washroom which was both for males AND females. I mean it's strange to try and blow your nose in one sink while a woman was fixing her makeup next to you.

Bus names on the road are interesting. There's this line called Digantor, which means 'far and wide'. Except maybe the bus is perhaps travelling only 40 km. Bengalis have a tendancy to exaggerate. There's also the Digantor Express, which means it's moving 0.5 km per hour faster.

If you were slightly religious, you can fly Borak. Of course with the way these drivers drove, ANY one would start praying. See the picture below.

Now imagine that bus in front is coming TOWARDS you. At 80 km per hour. And you are going at the same speed as your driver is trying to overtake a rickshaw. Somehow, at the last minute, someone swerves, and you heave a sigh of relief. Until the next minute.

It's winter in Bangladesh. Unlike some other countries, Bangladesh has a crop for every season, and the scenery outside at times was truly beautiful.

Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to wake up early morning and capture some of the village scenes.