Monday, February 27, 2006

The Prescription

"So how come we don't see you here a lot more?" The man jovially asked me.

It would make sense if the man was my uncle or a friend or some other guy at a welcoming place. When it's your doctor asking you that question, you need to have a WTF look.

I always used to wonder at the guys/girls who dress so fashionably (read, flimsy clothes) in bitter cold weather. Don't they feel cold? Well, today, I was one of those stupid people. You see, I was finally starting to see the fruit of six months of gym and a healthy diet. So I put on a thin, stylish, shirt, with matching trousers from Gap, and then just a leather jacket on, and went to work. Since I drive to work, I will either be in my comfortably warm car, or equally warm office. I was totally oblivious to the fact that Toronto was under Extreme Cold Weather Alert.

Well, I get into work, and one of our remote sensor chips malfunctioned. Since the Guy-In-Charge-Of-Everything is on vacation, that makes me The-Guy-Responsible-Now. So I had to walk a kilometre in the freezing weather to another building and take a look. Halfway back, I start to shiver. And chatter. And shake. And headaches. Before I knew it, the world began to move in slow motion around me. I finally knew what a hangover must be like. It was really scary, I was shaking like hell.

So I take a day off and drive (barely) to my doctor. The regular guy (a desi dude) is not there, so I see his Italian partner. The first thing he does (when I finally get to see him after sitting for an hour in the waiting room beside a screaming kid), is look into my file and comment, 'Well, we finally get to see you. You should come here more often.'

WTF?!!!! No, thank you. I would rather go to the zoo.

After a lot of questioning, poking in my ear with a thermometer (so he told me), shining a light in my eyes, he finally prescribes Tylenol. TYLENOL? To paraphrase Geoffrey Boycott, my mom could have prescribed Tylenol. I told him straight out, 'Doctor, I got an expensive health plan from work. Feel free to prescribe anything. Don't give me an over-the-counter stuff.'

He looks at me for a couple of seconds, then adds to the prescription - 'Drink lots of Gatorade'. This is our public health care, ladies and gentlemen. Tylenol. Next thing, they will be prescribing chicken soup.

The only good thing about having a flu? If you are taking French classes, it helps your accent. The best way to sound French is to have a cold.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ontario Tories Debate Religious Schools

I took my car to the dealership today for some oil change, as well as some other regular maintenance stuff they had tagged on to the bill. I have a weird habit of collecting all the loose change that sits on the CD compartment (left overs from drive-ins, movie nights and grocery trips), place them in a small bag and hide it in the trunk. Yes, I don't want the anonymous guy servicing my car to steal any change from the $5.23 that is there. I know it's petty, but I feel like I am being gouged anyways, and do not literally want to pay a cent more than what is forced out of me.

Speaking of forced contributions, this slipped below my radar: Ontario Conservative Party to debate funding faith-based schools. The Tories are concerned that parents of kids who attend private schools are paying for tuition twice - first, through their taxes they are funding the public education system, and second, their kids' tuition at the private school. While this may not be a concern to rich parents of rich kids attending exclusive private schools, it is a big deal to parents sending their kids to faith-based private schools. A majority of these happen to be Muslim and Jewish kids.

Whenever I go to a mosque, I make it a point to donate a little amount (usually spare change that did not make it to my car). Usually, there are separate boxes for mosque funds, and a school. I NEVER donate to the school. I do not agree with faith-based schools. I feel all Muslims should attend public schools. You are exposed to all types of people from all backgrounds, from all faiths, cultures and creeds.

In an Islamic school that I attended in the Middle East before my parents thankfully moved me to a British school, the teachers were very close minded. There was a lot of racism. And I saw first hand examples of preaching one thing and practising something else. We were forced to pray Zuhr, and I used to hate it. After I left that school, I gave up prayers. I felt I was free. Forcing me to pray did nothing to endear that to me. Later, I started praying again of my own accord, as I understood why we have to pray. I attend parties where many drink, or do other stuff, yet I don't. I found out that all Chinese people did not eat cockroaches, all white girls are not drunk sluts, etc. Living and working amongst people from diverse backgrounds broadens one's outlook. I have friends from all walks of life. After all, in Toronto, public schools accomodate Muslims in many ways (such as prayer breaks, giving up rooms for Jummah, and so on).

Now, my view may not be your view. Which is fine, you are free to support Islamic schools by your donations, or by sending your kids there if you like. But if the Tories form the next Ontario government and push this idea through, I will now be forced to support not only Islamic schools, but Jewish schools, Sikh schools, Hindu schools, etc. Why?

Note: In Canada, Catholic schools are funded by the public "by law", which is how the Tories raised funding for other faiths on an equality basis [Wikipedia].


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Challenges of A Ski Trip

For the last 3 years I had organized the yearly BSA ski trip to Blue Mountain resort. This was the first year I had stayed out of it, merely advising Esha on how to go about it. Organizing a ski trip - for brown people - comes with its own set of challenges.

Blue Mountain requires you to submit a master form, which, of all things, requires each member of your group's name, age, weight, height, and shoe size. This is the conversation I have had with one girl the first time I was the organizer.

Girl: Ok, so it'll be me and 2 of my friends.

Me: Good, I will need your age, weight, height and shoe size.


Girl: You will need my what, what, what and what?

Me [thinking she had bad hearing]: Age, weig-


It soon dawned on me that some girls really have a problem about disclosing their weight, shoe size and height to a guy they hardly know.

The resort is 2 hours north of Toronto, and we need a certain number - 20 - for the group discount. Skiing and brown people are usually foreign to each other, so no matter how rude some people can get, we can't casually dismiss people who could go. So when the above girl called back (eventually, after doing a background check on me I presume), I took down her information (given rather reluctantly with plenty of suggestions as to what we really do with the information).

Second year, I was bit smarter. Another girl.

Girl: Ok, so it'll be me, my boyfriend, and his sister.

Me: Good, I will need everyone's age, weight, height and shoe size.


Girl [in a strict tone]: Why?

Me [unsuccessfully trying to use some big words]: It's a required information I have to solicit for the master resort rental form.

Girl: Are you sure you need this information?

[pause as I digest her bluntness]

Me: Yes, if you want I can email you the rental form.

Girl: So now you want my MSN email as well.

Me [panicking]: Well, how else should you receive more information on the trip? Unless you give me your telephone number -


This was not going well. She didn't call back.

By third year things were better, as people knew the drill by now. This year, since it was Esha who did all the information soliciting, I don't think she had any trouble.

Then ofcourse, there remains the challenge of getting Bengali people to show up at 6 am in the morning ...


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Free Time Of Our Leaders

I sometimes wonder if our desi politicians really have any work to do.

Last time when I visited Bangladesh, I was struck by the fact that common people simply seemed to have a lot of free time on their hands.

A fistfight erupts between two college kids outside New Market, a crowd gathers to watch the fight. A pickpocket is captured by someone, a mob gathers around to beat him up. An accident happens, and immediately a huge group of onlookers gather to peer at the wrangled mess of a rickshaw and a scooter. A poor, mad woman decided to climb up the electric pole, leading to thousands immediately gathering at the base to watch her get electrocuted/saved.

To the people in the crowd: don't you have any work?

I was in my uncle's car near Savar and the driver got into a narrow alley. Immediately one kid appeared from nowhere and appointed himself as traffic director, stopping rickshaws, directing pedestrians and making way for the car.

It's Friday, the imam says something to the crowd, and immediately 10,000 people gather for a protest, getting offended about something that affects them remotely at best.

Again, don't you have any work to do? Kids to pick up from school, dawats to attend to, groceries to buy, take the car for servicing? Despite one of the lowest GDPs in the world, with record unemployment and poverty, how do you have so much free time? I mean, people actually sit home and watch Test cricket for 5 days!

And if this is the common folk, what about our politicians?

Today, Bangladesh won in cricket, beating Sri Lanka by 4 wickets. And what did our politicians do?
Parliament unanimously passed a felicitation motion Wednesday congratulating Bangladesh cricket team for its first ever one-day victory against Sri Lanka in Bogra.

With all the problems facing the country (the Opposition boycotting parliament, India accusing Bangladesh of promoting illegal immigration, Farakka dam issue, CHT insurgency, bombs in Dhaka, US politicians accusing Bangladesh of terrorism, election laws reforms to be debated) this is what they do?

Congratulate the cricket team? Soon you will the PM Khaleda Zia calling them up personally and announcing cash and land prices for the team.

What about Pakistani leaders?

They are facing growing discontent in Baluchistan. Women in Pakistan are denied justice when raped. Thousands of people are still marching over cartoons (or are they). The US is letting off explosives inside Pakistan. The terrorists are using the border areas to fight Kabul.

And, as Zainub pointed out, what is Musharref upto these days?

Why, he attends cricket games (for full 8 hours), grabs the mike from an announcer and comments on the Indian wicket keeper's hairstyle.

Honestly, no wonder nothing gets done back in those countries. That the countries still function is a testament to the existence of Allah.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

February 21 on MSN

It started as a simple message forwarded to me.

Please place a rose ( f ) in front of your display name, to commemorate those killed on February 21, standing up for their mother tongue. Please forward this to all Bengalis on your list.

It seemed harmless enough, so I did as the message said.

But pretty soon, my MSN looked like this:

If you are still confused, February 21 is the Language Movement Day in Bangladesh, and marked as International Mother Language Day by UNESCO, in honour of Bengali.

In the movie Bluffmaster, one of the lead character states a profound fact - that there are certain things a man is willing to die for. For every man these things are different, but he cannot imagine a life without them. On February 21, 1952, the survival of a thousand-year-old language was important enough for a few Abdus Salams, Rafiques, Barkats and Jabbars. They gave their lives so that their mother tongue could live on.


Gym Observations

A Few Observations Made While At The Gym:

  • No matter the day of the week or time of the day I show up at the gym, the person to enter the change rooms after me HAS to be using the locker right next to mine. Always. It has become a wonder of nature that I now await without surprise.

  • There will be one creepy guy in the sauna whenever I want to use it. I normally don't care about guys in the sauna, but when they start doing yoga there it's a little too much.

  • The day I decide to drive to the gym in my work out clothes, so I don't need to waste time changing, they put the cutest receptionist on duty.

  • Just because you are a South Asian and you see me as a South Asian does NOT mean I know cricket. Alright, I do know cricket, but I do not want to talk about Mohammad Kaif's lack of runs of Ganguly's ouster while on the treadmill.

  • The person doing benchpress on the machine I am about to use has to be benchpressing what appears to be 2 million pounds. Removing all those weights is a work out in itself.

  • Most Seinfeld-esque moment in the locker room:

    Q: Hey --- why do they call it Head and Shoulders?
    A: Um, maybe because there's like hair on the shoulders, and these hairs, um, have dandruff too. So it's Head and Shoulders. You know, complete dandruff protection.

  • My happiest moment in the gym: A few days before Eid-ul-Fitr, getting my fitness test done. My nutritionist beams at me and says, 'Wow you have lost this much of weight and so much of percentage in body fat.' Thank you Ramadan.

  • My saddest moment in the gym: A few days after Eid-ul-Fitr. You spend some weight in the way of God, He returns it multiplied. What God taketh away, He giveth back.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

The McMaster BSA Show - 'Proborton'

I attended the show 'Proborton' put on by the McMaster Bangladeshi Students Association - which includes many of my friends - and was truly amazed at the quality of their performances. UofT has a very strong competition now, and the best part was that McMaster's show was free to attend, and fully sponsored. It drew a large crowd (about 200, which surprisingly was about what UofT drew last year).

There were not too many song and dance items (a personal regret) but more skits - which had really brilliant acting. The characters seemed to come alive - particularly the role of 'Rambo the gangster (bhai)', played by Rony. They introduced their band - Nikhoj - who played a couple of Bengali songs as well as the English hit 'Hotel California'. The grand finale - a stage thumping group dance by Screetch and his guys, was mind blowing. I did not realize it's possible to choreograph a break dancing routine to a slow song such as Habib's Esho Brishti (coincidentally my favourite Bengali song).

Overall, an evening well spent.

Pimp my ride.

The MCs.

The Song 'Ekta Gorur Gari-te' by Dan and Rifat.

A dance number.

A guitarist from Nikhoj.

More band action.

During the performance of Hotel California.

Rony is singing 'Adbhut Shei Cheleti' with full spirit.

Even Apple computers can crash - it's not just Windows.

The marriage skit - parents telling their son he has to marry.

The 'ghotok' in the center, telling the son (in yellow) about some girl he has never seen, while the Colonel father (left) roars his approval.

The 20-year-'old' girl who does not want to consider marriage.

Enter the Dancemaster - Screetch.

Screetch and his troupe.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sleep On It

I have a major issue with the Prayer of the Undecided.

Before getting to that, here's an article by the BBC: Sleep on it. Apparently, a team of scientists in Holland has concluded that when you have to make a tough decision with lot of factors, like buying a car, don't sweat it, sleep on it. According to them, complex decisions can be better made when the unconscious mind is left to churn through the options.

This is the Prayer of the Undecided, or as it's known in Islam - Istikhara. You have a tough question, you say two rakats (units) of prayer before going to bed, with a special dua (prayer) - and at night in your dream you are supposed to see the answer. I used it and to me I would have to say it worked. However there is The Issue.

What if you need a decision ... like NOW?! For example, a call from my 'friend' this morning:

"Hey Mezba, I am at Woodside theatre. Ya, we are getting tickets to that Aamir Khan movie for tonight. What, you saw it already? Well, think about it. BTW there's this girl coming with us I would really like you to meet. She's your type, and you two could hit it off. Mezba? You there? You listening?"

Hmmm ...

.... it took a few minutes, but I had long decided no girl is worth watching Aamir Khan twice at Woodside where the seats are a pain in the derriere, and no stadium seating means as soon as a turbaned gentleman sits in front of me, the show's over. Besides, I hated that movie - I don't care what other people say.

So I may have missed meeting my future wife at a cinema hall. I need some Istikhara-Lite.

Speaking of tough decisions, Ontario wants to make one on your behalf - Presumed Consent on Organ Donation. Currently, Canadians choose whether to donate their organs when they die - it's an Opt-in process. Few Ontario parliamentarians want to make it an Opt-out process, so unless you have it indicated in your will or some government registry, hospitals can harvest your organs in case of death.

Links here and here.

It's a tough decision. One of our family friends in New York had two failed kidneys. Given the wait times for an organ, he went to Bangladesh, and negotiated with some poor relative of his. The relative would come to the US and be settled well into a nice job, provided he donated a kidney to this patient. It was all unofficial - this is illegal. The relative came to the USA, and then decided to abort the deal. Seven years later, the guy got a matching organ. For these seven years, he had to make trips to the hospital every 2-3 days, and was severely restricted in his physical abilities. Now, he says, he feels like a new man. He doesn't care whose kidney it was, whether it was a drunkard, a loafer, he says it's his kidney now and his responsibility. So, the MPs of Ontario will have to make some tough decisions.

Maybe they should sleep on it.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hostage Mahr

"Thirty thousand dollars?" Jaber looked at Mr. Aslam, the father of the girl he loved, in aghast. "That's how much you want for Mahr?"

"Correction." Mr. Aslam adjusted his glasses and continued calmly. "It's what we want for Nafeesa."

"I cannot come up with that sort of money." All thoughts about romantic evenings Jaber was going to spend with his new wife seemed to evaporate instantly. "It's ridiculous!"

"No, no!" Mr. Aslam tried to reassure him. "You don't have to come up with the money. It's just - on paper - God forbid, in case you divorce - which", he quickly added, "I know is impossible to think now. But, one must always plan for the worst. As father of the bride it is my sad duty to do so."

"What if we never divorce?" Jaber was slightly happier now.

"Oh then," Mr. Aslam beamed. "You never have to pay that money!"

* * *

This is, I find, a particular scenario played across the South Asian Muslim community. I call this the Hostage Mahr situation.

After your parents (or relatives) have managed to find someone that is suitable for you (instead of the usual candidates that you can mentally picture on a desi Jerry Springer show), after you have talked to her and discovered that while she prays she also listens to music, after you find that both of you have a few shared interests, and while she cooks she also likes Cantonese Chow Mein, and both are excited at the prospect of a honeymoon in Europe, it's still not over. We have the Mahr to deal with.

Briefly speaking, Mahr is a gift given to the bride by the groom, mandated in Islam as a binding part of the marriage contract. The fairly recent concept of a 'pre-nup', as it's known here in the West, is old story to Muslims. Almost every Muslim marriage has a pre-nup, also known as the 'nikah-naama'. In various places in the Quran (4:4, 4:21, 4:24, 2:237), Allah talks of the Mahr as a faridah - fixed, decided, obligatory. Allah also describes the Mahr as a token of friendship, as a gift - something the husband gives out of love to his wife which becomes completely hers, even if the marriage fails.

Yet Mr. Aslam (a fictional name here) thinks if he arranges a huge deferred Mahr for Nafeesa, Jaber will never divorce her as immediately he would have to come up with that huge amount of money. If any Muslim girl is planning to hold her husband to a similar hostage Mahr, let me blow this theory apart completely.

  • Payment of Mahr is a condition of the marriage. If a husband refuses to pay the Mahr, the wife can ask him for a divorce. If they are already breaking up, why would the husband care?
  • Mahr is a gift paid due to the act of marriage. The husband can argue this money ($30K in our example) is a condition of divorce, not Mahr. So he owes no Mahr to her. Since the pre-nup describes it as Mahr, the pre-nup is legally null and void (you will need a good lawyer).
  • When the couple buys a car (which they eventually will have to), he can register the car (usually worth close to $30K) in her name ONLY. As long as he is responsible for the car payments (usually in our community the husband is), as soon as the car is paid off the hostage situation is removed (the brilliant desi male mind at work here). If he divorces her, he will lose the car, but what the heck.

    Now, my whole point of this post was to bring to light this un-Islamic practice masquerading as Islam. Islam does not specify a fixed amount for Mahr as conditions vary from place to place, era to era, and status in society of the bride and groom. Ladies should stipulate what they want for Mahr, and be practical about it. It should be small enough so that she gets it immediately from her husband (or soon after marriage), it does not place an undue burden on her husband. It should also be large enough so that, if need be, she can be on her own for atleast a couple of months. It should be paid to her, and not to her father.

    After all, if things have come to the point where a couple is considering divorce, Mr. Aslam's style of Mahr, unenforceable in Ontario, is unlikely to deter the husband, and provides zero security to the wife should her husband suddenly leave her or stop supporting her.

    Related Link:

  • Monday, February 13, 2006

    At The Maternity Ward

    The wife of one of my bhaiyya friends (friends who are older than me but still good friends) gave birth to their third kid on Friday, and come Saturday morning I dutifully paid a visit to the hospital. When I arrived, she was feeding the baby, so I waited outside the room, and my friend joined me. We sat on a bench discussing the India-Pakistan series when another man, who looked to be around 40 or so, joined us. Upon hearing the cricket talk, he turned to us and asked us the latest scores. We obliged, and then engaged in a polite conversation with him. Turns out, he is from Jamaica, and has been in Canada for 20 years or so.

    He turned his head back towards the room and nodded at my friend, and asked in that enthralling Jamaican accent, "That your woman?"

    My friend chuckled and replied, "Yah, that's my woman."

    (It's a good thing bhabi wasn't there - don't think she would have taken too kindly to her husband referring to her as 'his woman').

    "First kid?" Our West Indian acquaintance asked.

    "Oh no, third!" My friend answered proudly.

    "Third?!" A look of horror crossed the man's face. He paused, and then asked, "And ALL with the same woman?"

    There was an awkward pause.

    "Um," My friend was momentarily puzzled at his surprise before replying, "Yes. All with the same woman."

    "Oh." The man from Jamaica gave my friend a look that just seemed to say 'oh-what-a-loser'. Then he continued, "My woman is having my kid. It's her first and my second. I have another, with some other woman. She's back in Kingston. Man, at this age you should be enjoying life, man. Third kid. Back in my place, we never have two kids with the same woman." He got up and excused himself, still shaking his head.

    It took a moment before we burst out laughing. If you could take every stereotype of a Jamaican, and place them into one man, this man would be it. Which makes me wonder as how true all that stuff really is. I know some Jamaican Muslims, and if they live anything like Muslims, then everything they believe must run contrary to their culture!

    Then again, we are allowed four wives.


    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Parity for Women

    After a couple of hours of intense badminton, I was in the men's locker room along with a few friends, getting ready to hit the showers when this woman, a lady who looked around 24-ish, entered. All the guys momentarily froze as the woman, who appeared to be lost in her own thoughts, continued walking. Then she suddenly stopped, looked up, and then after a pause, murmured sheephishly, "I am in the wrong locker room, ain't I?"

    One jock sauntered over and replied, "Depends on whose point of view."

    She laughed nervously before backtracking and exiting the room. I have never seen a woman walk in a reverse direction so fast before. Afterwards we were laughing and joking about it.

    Women can do, and get away with doing, certain things. If a guy had entered the women's locker room "in error", he could be spending the night in jail.

    Few of my friends are completing teacher's training courses to be able to teach in Ontario's schools. As part of their training, many of them had to spend hours 'on the job', as substitute teachers or assistant teachers. One of the things they tell me is that many male teachers are shy of taking playground duties where young kids are involved. If a young girl falls down and hurts herself, they don't want to be in a situation where they would have to help her up (and if she is injured help in first aid) and later be accused of improper contact. Some overzealous parents have at times accused many a teacher of such an act when all he may have been doing was give the student a hug (actions that a female teacher can do to her young wards without nary a thought). One cannot blame the parents, with incidents of perverts taking up teaching to be around young kids getting huge media attention in recent times, they err on the side of caution.

    When talking about parity between genders, after achieving suffrage, fighting job discrimination, obtaining maternity leave, it seems Canadian women have always had one complaint. Toilets. Yes, it appears some washrooms (particularly men's) are more equal than others.

    Stall tactic brings potty parity for women

    Canada has always headed the progressive moment, and it appears there is a 2-for-1 rule here - which implies for every 1 stall for men, there has to be 2 stalls for women. Potty parity has arrived and it's sweeping the nation. From Toronto to Fredericton, equal access to washrooms in public buildings is being legislated, and where it's not being legislated, a new generation of builders and architects is recommending their clients build it in. All because, apparently, women take longer to go (75 seconds to 41 seconds).

    And how did women protest the so-called 'inequality of washrooms' so far? Why, they went to the men's ofcourse.

    Which brings me back to my first story. Maybe our gym should soon be looking to enlargen the women's locker rooms soon.


    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Yet Another Use For The Car

    It recently snowed in Toronto. Given that it's Canada and the middle of winter, this should not be news, but it was. I was at a friend's place, borrowing a few DVDs. Around 10 pm, as I was leaving, I noticed his car was still on his driveway.

    "Aren't you going to put your car in the garage?" I asked him, "They say a car overnight in the garage is atleast 5 degrees warmer than a car left outside on the driveway, and in the long run it's better for the engine."

    My friend stepped out and peered into the sky.

    "Usually I do it," he replied, "but tonight I won't. You see, according to the Weather Channel, it's going to snow tonight."


    "And if I leave the car out on the driveway, the snow will hit the car instead of my driveway. So, in the morning, I won't have to shovel the driveway. It will already be shovelled."

    Ah. Yet another labour saving feature of the imported car.


    Monday, February 06, 2006

    The Quartet Meme

    I have been tagged by Aisha. At first, I was amused by the tagging amongst bloggers. It would be that I would be one of the last to be tagged. It brought back memories of picking the team while in grade 6. My school was full of football (soccer) nuts, while I was a cricket guy, so I was evidently one of the last ones to be picked for the team. Every year, the PE teacher would tower over us, choose his two favourites, and they would pick their friends, then the good players, and finally us. The team for the year. It was a lesson in nepotism. The good thing about the football team was that no one wanted to be goalie. So I would choose that option, lazing around near the goalposts, while berating the defenders (the goal was always their fault). The happy ending: It was grade 6 finals (between team A and B). It went to the tie-breaking penalty kicks. Our team scored. Then it was the turn of their forward, Fadel. I remember the guy. Even in grade 6 the Egyptian was six feet tall. As soon as he kicked I instinctively ducked and put my hands to my face to protect myself. To the outside world, it appeared that I had cleverly dropped low and punched the ball away. We won, and I was never the last person to be picked again.

    So now I have been tagged. Here goes.

    Four Jobs I've Had in My Life
  • Chef (hey - just because it's the campus cafe doesn't mean any less!)
  • Editor, the UTSC college newspaper. Oh, it was a thrilling time, with the scandals of student politics and writing editorials about the faulty vending machines. Grrrr. I got to interview Jean Chretien's Chief of Staff!
  • Teaching Assistant - an excellent job. This would be my chief motivation for doing Ph.D - to teach! And I got tons of funny stories of discovering plagiarism - for another day perhaps.
  • Web Developer.

    Four Places I'’ve Lived define 'live'
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • Abu Dhabi, UAE.
  • Ottawa, Canada.
  • Toronto, Canada.

    Four TV Shows I Love To Watch only four?
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
  • The Simpsons.
  • The National, CBC.
  • Royal Canadian Air Farce, CBC.

    Four Places I Have Been On Vacation Does Saudi count as 'vacation'?
  • England.
  • Thailand.
  • USA.
  • Bahrain.

    Four Authors I Read
  • Dan Brown
  • John Grisham.
  • Issac Assimov.
  • Agatha Christie.

    Four Animals I Find Fascinating
  • Peacock (beauty and vanity).
  • Dolphins (intelligence).
  • Cichlids (my super-territorial aquarium fishes).
  • Bees (the whole colony thing).

    Now for the tags. I am supposed to tag some other bloggers. However, like the football team, most others I know have already been pickedtagged. Others don't blog frequently or don't like the tagging game. So, perhaps, Isheeta, Arnab, maybe you can pick up the slack? Change the questions around if they are too personal. And oh Rashed, yes I can see your IP so I know you are reading this, Tag! Update either one of your blogs dude.

  • Sunday, February 05, 2006

    A Few Pictures

    Ski trip to Mt St Louis and Moonstone

    With the recent warm weather, we were glad there was snow on the mountain!

    The crew @ Mt St Louis and Moonstone. Remind me not to stand next to 6'3 Mo next time!

    Dancer at the EBSA Formal

    At S's anniversary party

    Mugging for a picture

    Bowling At Kipling

    Hail to Vulcan


    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    Some Protesters Are Crazy

    I wanted to blog on some interesting events over the weekend, but the news seems so depressing. Having condemned the cartoons and their publications, it is only right that we now condemn some of the 'protests' that are taking place.

    Let's go to England first. Inside a warehouse where some fellows in Taliban gear are debating their placards.

    "I so vote for Death to the Infidels," says guy 1. "It's short, sweet and to the point."

    "Let's see, how do we prove to these people who say Islam is a violent religion?" Asks guy 2, "Why, we can threaten to cut their heads off, ofcourse. That will show we are not violent."

    "OK," the leader appears. "I just talked with the London police. They said we can go ahead with our 'Kill Every British' protest march."

    Umm, ok, just a small question, o fearless leader. What did the British say about the cartoon controversy? The BBC? Aren't you British? Isn't your placards offensive as well? And finally, why can't you join the other thousands of British Muslims who protested the racism with dignity, honour, and peace? And to the London police - how in heaven's name can you allow this protest to occur? Great kudos to the young British Muslim man who appeared on the BBC, denouncing them and saying these protestors are part of the problem too, and other such people.

    I would put these protesters and BNP leader Griffin in the same cell. Problem solved.

    Next, we move on to Pakistan/Bangladesh. The company Flags To Burn is doing terrific business with their new promotion - 'Buy One, Burn One, Get One Free'. There must be one such company. How then to explain the huge amount of Danish flags to be found suddenly in the main town square? I live in the opulent West, and if I wanted a flag to burn, first I would have to hunt through the yellow pages to find out a store that sells flags, then drive there, buy the flag (and pay value added tax on top), go to a town square and then douse the flag with petrol (which I bought and also paid value added tax on top) before asking someone for a lighter (I don't smoke). Too much trouble - also probably against a dozen fire codes. And some laws, I guess. Better blog about it and go on watching Friends reruns.

    See my point - where does the ordinary Liaqat Khan / Jabbar Quddus on the streets of Pakistan/Bangladesh get their Danish flags?

    Moving on to Syria and the Middle East, yes, I know you guys have oil, but can we pleaeeeeeese not pour such oil on embassies of foreign countries and set them alight? Morons. If there is no embassy left where will you fax your latest death threats to? International faxing is expensive BTW. Why don't you join the peaceful boycotters of the Middle East? I am pretty sure you don't drink French wine or Danish cheese which may contain rennet anyways.

    Let's not make a mount Everest out of a ski resort hill. A newspaper published the cartoons (which apologized BTW). Write a letter to that newspaper and boycott their sponsors. Ministers of some countries (such as France's Interior Minister) actively praised the publications. Fine, boycott the French (cheese eating surrender monkeys who eats frogs' legs anyways, to quote Homer). You are worried about xenophobic tendencies in Europe? Run for elections then. I heard there's huge areas with huge populations of immigrants. I am pretty sure you will get votes. They say elections have a sobering effect on hardliners. Apparently, Hamas stopped promoting suicide bombers. Every vote counts, you know.

    This is one of the main reasons I did not like the movie Rang De Basanti. There is a problem with the system, and there are proper ways to try and fix the problem. The youth in Rang De Basanti chose the course of violence and to take the law into their own hands. That only creates new problems, as we are seeing here. What part of Letter to the Editor don't you understand?

    It is worth noting here that most Muslims were offended at the cartoons, but they are showing the anger in a proper way. Telling other people about why they were offended. Not buying goods from countries they disagree with. Peaceful protests. Letters to newspapers. Blogs. Not burning stuff or issuing death threats or kidnapping people.

    I am scared.


    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Cartoon Controversy

    It's ironic that the media in Europe that heaped scorn on Prince Harry for wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party and demanded he apologize for the offence caused now prints cartoons making fun of Prophet Muhammad, in the name of defending freedom of expression. Apparently, this freedom of expression is only useful when making fun of Muslims. In a supreme piece of hypocrisy, Die Welt, a German paper that published the cartoons, wrote in its editorial, "The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical." [BBC]

    Bill Clinton, in a speech recently stated that Muslims are now the new Jews, and deplored the replacing of anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice.

    It was a surprise to see a boycott effort in the Middle East that actually worked [BBC]. Let's face it, if the Danish newspaper had the right to publish the papers, the Middle Easterners were free to boycott Danish products - whether it was right to do so is another matter - some Muslims disagree [Safiyyah's blog]. The loss of business forced these companies to complain to the government, which complained to the newspaper, which apologized. The boycott worked.

    But what now that other countries of Europe has published the cartoons?

    I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for the Arab world. Cancel the boycott. Announce that any European visiting an Arab country will get a free tourist visa, and can live with an Arab family. Start with the Danes. The Arabs are famous for their hospitality, and many locals will line up to have an European family stay with them. Dubai and other places are already hot tourist spots, this will be a perfect chance for people to people contact, for Europeans to see that Arabs and Muslims are not so different or scary after all.

    UPDATE: My respect for the BBC has continued to grow. They did show some of the cartoons, but in the context of a news story, and shaded. The cartoons were not published to provoke Muslims or to make a point. They also hosted an interview with Dr James Zogby of the Arab American Institute in US. The questions asked by the news anchor were tough but fair and balanced, and they gave equal play to all sides in the dispute. This is journalism at its best, not sensational, tabloid journalism we have become used to from other sources.

  • The Danish ambassador to Indonesia agreed to publish an apology in the local media.
  • Iraq's top Shia Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani condemned the publication, but said militant Islamists were partly to blame for distorting the image of Islam.
  • Editors of Jordanian and French newspapers who chose to republish the cartoons were dismissed.
  • Jyllands-Posten has apologised for causing offence to Muslims.

  • Vatican cardinal Achille Silvestrini condemned the cartoons, saying Western culture had to know its limits. Maybe I have to tone down my criticism of this Pope now.

    The khatib at our Jummah place said Muslims should demonstrate their love of the Prophet Muhammad by not burning flags but rather following his examples - of generosity, of tolerance, of good behaviour.

  • We Will Be Fine

    Sometimes me thinks the older folk doth protest too much.

    Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend a Bengali bash. It was a formal thrown by a few of my friends at a banquet hall, attended by the 20-26 crowd. The DJ was Bengali, the songs he played were Bengali, and the comedy skit done by R was about Bengalis. Yes, there was a belly dancer, but she was Bengali as well.

    Sure the songs, even though some of them were classical Bengali songs like 'Loke Boley' or 'Shaadher Lau' were not exactly what our parents would listen to - they were remixed (thank you Habib). After all, you need some beats to shake your, um, whatevers. Some Nazrul folk singer going 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah' is not going to do it.

    And sure, sometimes the DJs do get some songs mixed up. There is an old song where a guy talks about his love for his bride - his country. Once at a party the DJ thought the song was literally a guy pining for his girl, and it was funny (for those in the know!) to see the crowd dancing to that song!

    The main thing was, we didn't import English songs, neither Hindi (though we wanted to - they are just so maast!) nor Punjabi but we stuck to Bengali. A bunch of kids, growing up in Canada where their parents hardly had time to teach them the finer points of Bengali culture (don't put your feet up in direction of your father, do not smoke in front of elders(!), and so on), organized a party where everything was from our culture. Sure, drums may have replaced the dhol, but that's called evolving. Adapting.

    And if you think such bashes are against our culture, um, go to Dubai/Dhaka/Calcutta/Mumbai/Karachi (take your pick).

    Around new year I attended a party where the host had asked some classical singer (a gentleman in a white shawl) to sing. He brought along his sitar too. As soon as he began, all of us younger folk started to find excuses to sneak out, leading one 'uncle' - the self-proclaimed protector of Bangladesh culture - to deride 'our heritage being lost'. I am sorry, but I can't sit in one room listening to a song where the main character of the song is describing the night he spent crying after he couldn't pluck up the courage to propose to his beloved. Loser songs. At least Tagore has some pizzaz.

    Ami Shob Kotha Bolilam, Baki Roy Gelo Shudhu Bolito
    ("I have said everything, the only thing left is to say it" - I kid you not, this was the translation).

    My point is - as long as you bring us up properly - teach us the finer points of our glorious culture - we will be fine. Trust me. We will just adapt a little to our surroundings. That's natural. It's called progress.