Archive for category perspectives

(In)Tolerant Much?

Only a week back, as I settled myself on a plane en route to London, the relatively aged woman next to me tapped my shoulder and said, “Excuse me, if no one sitting on those seats, can you please move?” On first instance, I thought she wanted me to exchange seats with someone she knew, but staring at the rather forlorn looking seats at the other end of the aircraft that she pointed at, I figured there was no real reason behind her asking me to move unless she badly wanted to put her feet up and sleep tight. Give it thirty seconds and my brown face, Bangladeshi passport and religious idealism seemed to give a broader and clearer picture. Sadly though (for her), someone did end up taking those seats and with perfectly good intentions, I smiled at her and said, “I guess you’re stuck with me.” In response, her expression was that of a rabbit who was just spotted a fox and doesn’t know where to hide.

Interestingly, and this is the part where my belief in karma got reinstated for the umpteenth time, halfway through the flight, I was the one running from one end of the aircraft to the other, looking for an air hostess who would provide hot water for her flu-struck son. A profuse note of thanks immediately followed and perhaps, a tiny shred of faith into the Muslim mankind reestablished.

Perhaps.

It’s been ten years since 9/11 and it’s difficult to measure how tangibly the world has learnt on interfaith tolerance. The Muslim majority world has seen its fair share of wars, apologies, more wars and more apologies – but as we stand on the crossroads of an epitome resonating Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village, we ask ourselves – “Have we really taken any lessons home?”

Interfaith dialogue, next to terrorism and political leadership has been one of the most conversational topics across international media over the past decade. Numerous talk shows, documentaries, special news reports and so on have been released – many of which, supposedly trying to strike a fine balance between fundamentalism and “safe livelihoods”. I remember on a weekend night in Toronto a couple of months back, I caught a bunch of serious looking people packed with credentials discussing on late night CBC: “What is the moderate Muslim?”  There seemed to be all kinds of discourse and deconstructions on screen, and like any talk show, bottomed down to a point of zero compromise and intolerance of philosophies. Assuming that is a subtler, more acceptable form of intolerance, we move on.

Question is, must we move on? Should we take a second glance, form a more informed opinion or hide under the liberty of indifference because  this just isn’t my problem?

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In Search of A Remarkable Liberation

A shorter version of the article was published on The Star Magazine (The Daily Star) on May 14 2010 (though written much earlier). The full article is given below, including the uncut interview taken by my colleague on this assignment.

As somewhat of a writer, I’ve often been curious to understand how freedom of speech is interpreted across various media. Whether it is practiced with liberty or constrained within socioeconomical and psychological limitations. It is not surprising that we, Bangladeshis – being a conscience born from a history of bloody struggle towards the independence of our mother tongue – take the issue of free practice of language with acute sensitivity.

In light of a recent article by Mustafa Jabbar, the proprietor of Bijoy (popular Bangla input system), the controversy surrounding the development of English to Bangla computing and infringement towards expression through free language have surged the local blogosphere. The offset was simple – a claim by Mr. Jabbar against Avro – a freeware Bangla input software – being a pirated or hacked version of his patented Bijoy. Following the provoked responses refuting his claim, Mr. Jabbar graciously clarified that he did not have a problem with Avro itself, rather with the keyboard layout UniBijoy (i.e. one of the four layouts used in Avro) which he believes is a pirated version of his copyrighted Bijoy layout. Note, Mr. Jabbar’s claim entailed the term “same”; and thus resulted in an infuriating rush of reactions, facebook notes, blog posts and newspaper articles.

Before we move on, one needs to understand why the basis of Mr. Jabbar’s accusation stands on shaky grounds. Firstly, Bijoy follows ASCII and requires specific fonts which are mapped into Bangla letters; whereas Avro uses Unicode and does not require a physical Bangla keyboard or specifically installed fonts. While the former is limited by the standards of a few characters set by ASCII, the latter has access to a support of innumerable characters and accommodates multiple languages without restrictions. Using the Avro phonetic transliteration system, users can generate Bangla words from Roman typefaces with amazing ease. Secondly, a keyboard layout can be defined ‘hacked’ or ‘pirated’ if it is the exact replica of its competitor. In case of Avro, it shares an 8-keystroke difference with that of Bijoy’s layout. In situations where a single key difference can result in the making of an entirely new keyboard layout, the accusation of the two aforementioned layouts being the same is grossly irrelevant and ridiculous. Thirdly, Bijoy is a closed source software and requires the purchase of license for it to be used, meanwhile Avro is freeware and available to anyone and everyone without spending a dime. The source code of the former cannot be hacked to program the latter. In a nutshell, Avro is certainly not a pirated version based on the groundwork laid by Bijoy and have yet to be proven otherwise. On the contrary, it accommodates the smooth use of our mother tongue with remarkable ease and literally free of cost, eventually making its predecessors obsolete.

However, the response to the said dispute does not end with blatant technical details, which have already been more eloquently elaborated in Sachalayatan (besides other blogging platforms); rather through an analogy comprising of impeding and compelling questions. Why would Mustafa Jabbar – an undoubtedly lauded name in the development of Bangla computing – risk his reputation by making an allegation that he – like any other technically sound individual – knew to be standing on shaky grounds? As mentioned in several articles published online, this was not the first time something of the sort has happened. In the past, Mr. Jabbar has tried to intimidate other developers of Bangla computing, proclaiming his Bijoy a monopolistic medium and has even threatened Avro developers with legal and police actions. Question arises, why does he feel so insecure? Why now? Those being answered, what now? More interestingly, how and why does the whole Bangla blogosphere unanimously controvert his allegations in the absence of a single leader to jumpstart the movement and come together in a matter of days?

Truth is, in spite of our minor differences, we all love the simplicity and vibrancy of our motherland, and share a deep rooted connection with our mother tongue. In every possible situation, particularly in a space where Bangla is not the default mode of expression, Bangalis feel the urge to establish their language and converse with it. We are looking for an outlet that allows us to express ourselves in Bangla across any virtual network in a matter of seconds and without paying a price. In that vein, Avro has truly been groundbreaking by allowing thousands of users to write in Bangla in the largest mass media possible without having to learn complex keyboard codes and spending five grands. It has managed to effectively realize a common dream and have successfully hyped the use of Bangla over the internet and other media.

However, the success of Avro was further boosted when the Election Commission used the software to develop what is yet the largest digital database project in Bangladesh, i.e. the Voter ID and National ID project. In his post, Mehdi Hasan from Avro writes –

The Election Commission initially chose a software that would allow them to input large numbers of data in Bangla; but realized that the software required purchase of individual licenses for individual laptops. Since in the Voter ID and National ID project, hundreds of laptops will be used, buying individual licenses will cumulate into a massive expenditure. To save that money, the EC decided to develop their own software and gave the project to a BUET faculty. The BUET faculty developed the system and kept Avro as the medium to be used to input data. It was easy to use and available for free, so naturally, it came as a preference. In return, I only asked the EC to provide me with a certificate stating Avro was used in the Voter ID and National ID project, and allowed them to use the software without charging any money.

That being clarified, question remains why would someone, twice the age of a new era of Bangla computing bluntly make fleeting remarks. Is it greed, jealousy or insecurity? If the EC – in fact – used Bijoy for the aforementioned project, the system would have earned its proprietor 50 million taka, undoubtedly a remarkable marketing victory. If Avro did not gain its fast paced acceptability, Bijoy (unless someone else came up with something else) would still have been the sole choice for any Bangla input system. The fact that recent developments in a field that was once grasped by a monopoly has minimized that monopoly’s influence is assumedly the only logical reason behind Mustafa Jabbar’s infuriation.

But, how long does infuriation last? There is a great difference between anger out of love and anger out of hate and jealousy. The former is inexplicably powerful, and as idealistic as it may sound, it has been proven correct on more than one occasion. When the country’s most active Google generation comes together at their own will to defend a case they share solidarity with only to establish free practice of language and dispersion of Bangla across every virtual media, its resistance inevitably falls short of allies. Any man-made system – be it mass media, government or free market – thrives on human resources, the ones who effect and affect it. Unity towards achieving liberation is equally empowering and intimidating, depending on which end of the bargain we are.

Bhasha unmukto hobei.

References:

Global Voices Online (globalvoicesonline.org)

Sachalayatan (sachalayatan.com)

saveavro.wordpress.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and does not reflect on the views of the publication, its affiliations or third parties.

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Mustafa Jabbar’s Take on the Issue

Mustafa Jabbar, proprietor of Bijoy shares his take on the debate between Bijoy and Avro. The telephone interview was taken by Hussain M Elius on 2 May, 2010.

We read at various media that you’ve mentioned Avro is a pirated version of Bijoy. Could you please elaborate on that?

I have write-ups published in newspapers and my website on the issue, so you might refer to those. Last Tuesday, an article was published on The Daily Sangabd, which has the detailed information. However, for your clarification, when the keyboard layout used in Bijoy is used in any other software, it is defined as piracy.

To refute your claim, an article was recently published in The Daily Janakantha on behalf of Avro team. In that article, it was mentioned that Avro shares an 8-keystroke difference with that of UniBijoy’s layout.

Law does not understand an 8-key stroke difference.  If you refer to the Copyright Law in 2005 and go through its related divisions – which I have mentioned in my article at The Daily Sangbad, you will easily understand.

Do you plan on taking legal actions?

I don’t want to go through legal actions. I have already complained at the Copyright Office and they have already sent a notice demanding an explanation to Avro. I’ve received a copy of it myself today. There are laws in the country. You can easily write against someone in blogs, websites or newspapers, but that does not mean law cannot be enforced. If you claim that it is not pirated, then elaborate through legal references. The answer does not lie with one’s verbal claims of 8-keystroke or 10-keystroke differences. I did not make the copyright or patent myself. Copyright or patent registrar has given it to me. If you have issues regarding copyright, you can approach the Government and complain that your copyright has been taken. I have even mentioned at Janakantha that you can impose a libel suit against me if needed.

Apart from this, are there any other measures you plan on taking?

Firstly, I’ll see what actions Copyright Registrar takes on the issue. If they can resolve it, I don’t need to take any further steps. According to the country’s legal infrastructure, I can go to court under Copyright, Patent or Trademark Law. I didn’t want to approach the court about these issues since 2003; however given the provocative and defaming language used against me, it seems as though my biggest mistake was simply making Bijoy. Yet, the person who has copied my keyboard and distributed openly in a website has not apparently committed any crime. My crime is mine. It’s my copyright, it’s my patent and in spite of it, I am the one at flaw here.

It seems claims have been that in blogs that Avro is open source…

It is not open source. It’s a freeware. Open source means software’s source is publicly open. Please refer to a copy of Prothom Alo from last Friday. Avro’s Windows version does not have its source open. Many freeware in the world were distributed free of cost initially, and charged for its proceeding versions. It’s almost like creating hype that you’re distributing something for free. I have no problem with free distribution of your own software, but why will you distribute someone else’s work? Bijoy is not his product. He has Avro Easy and other keyboards – I have no complaints against them. Why will he use my work? He, himself has admitted 99% has been copied, and now he is claiming 8-keystroke differences. Basically, the characters used to map Bangla letters using A to Z is the same, and in his said differences, we all know how many times does one use chondrobindu or bishorgo – and those are not related to fingering. In spite of all this, he claims he has not copied.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Jabbar.

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Omi Azad Writes About Bijoy

অন্য একটা বিষয়ে গুগুল করতে গিয়ে অমি আজাদের এই লেখাটি পেলাম। ২০০৪ সালে ভাচুয়ালি প্রকাশিত এই প্রতিবেদন আমাদের এই বুঝিয়ে দেয় যে আমাদের সংগ্রামের শুরু ঠিক কত দিন আগের থেকে। হয়তোবা এই লেখাটির কথা সবার জানা, তবুও আরেকবার পোস্ট করলাম…

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Omi Azad’s Protest Against Mustafa Jabbar

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For the Love of God

with Kazim Ibn Sadique

Don’t add metal-esque distortions to a Sufi song! The raging controversies amongst the adrenaline pumping, hormone infatuated generation (otherwise known as ‘youth’) regarding Lalon’s (the band) recent release has already sparked occasional fist fights during discussions. On one hand, people applaud the rejuvenation of classics and a musical genius that ‘youth’ wouldn’t be naturally aware of; while the other remarks disdainfully on pushing experimentation to a level where it can no longer be related to the original composition.
That’s funny, considering Lalon is not the first band or artist who has done it. Bangla’s second album, Prottutponnomotitto – released in 2006 – did something similar on the backdrop of a country going frenzy with religious extremism. The group voiced ten Fakir Lalon classics fashioned with a combination of instruments such as tabla, ektara, bangle dhol, guitars, percussions and even a choir.  Lalon debuted in 2007 with Biprotip where they vocalized three Fakir Lalon numbers and caught up with a frantic crowd soaking in their music. Bappa Majumder brought Shah Abdul Karim numbers into the limelight and ‘Gari Chole Na’ is a favourite tune to hum along today.  When it was okay and perhaps commendable back then, why are frowns and fingers being raised now?
The problem lies in experimenting and commercializing. Bauls, being a community of their own, sing for the love of God. Whatever they write, it’s to that audience, for that supreme entity. There have been various issues with people accusing Bauls of being intoxicated. But anyone who has experienced an actual Baul ashor can testify that the need for intoxicants is not necessary; the music and environment is quite enough. When asked about it, one Baul said he doesn’t agree with the use of drugs and mentioned that the ecstasy and oneness that one feels with God/Universe cannot be compared. That is the ultimate goal of Bauls who follow Sufism, which suggests that the fate of everything is to be Fanaa, as in dissolve into the Nothingness that is Everything, i.e. God. As with the hippies of the west, the idea has been glossed over by focusing only on the negative sides.
One of the things Bauls are very possessive about is their music. The traditional method of learning the art of musicianship is very medieval in a sense. There is a rigorous apprenticeship system, which involves both spiritual and musical teachings. That does not mean that innovation is frowned upon. Bauls and other various kothok-kobi (that’s basically street poets) are famed for their witticisms. They are a dying breed one might liken to the rappers of today’s world.
The modern mixes or ‘revivals’ of traditional Baul numbers consume a change in tune and inane rap, which calls for disrespect. From our talks with a few Bauls, it was understood that most Bauls consider changing the tune an ignorant move and regard it as an affront. While some Bauls have no problems with musicians like Bappa Majumdar and bands like Bangla and Shironamhin – who keep the tune and lyrics true, but use different instruments – other musicians are met with shaking heads, snorts and annoyed comments such as, “they got the whole thing wrong.”
Also, it stems from a sense of copyright and ownership. This is where things get a bit complicated. Bauls are quite lenient about copying tunes among themselves. One can find quite a few songs sung to the same tune, using different lyrics of course. Within the Baul community, they know other Bauls understand the spirituality of it all. The lack of acknowledgement of that spirituality and of the personal prowess of the Baul involved is what’s causing the discontent. The misinterpretation of spiritual ecstasy into earthly love for the materialistic society creates a tension that removes the original score far from its source.
The picture, of course, has another dimension. Today’s mass generation will perhaps be less inclined towards listening to a core Baul song amongst all the electric metropolis vibe. Adding in frills might as well make the composition more acceptable.  The idea is to bring back a religious cultural concept amidst fast paced globalization, and commercialism becomes inevitable. In the more apparent world, Sufism with a dose of pop has become increasingly popular. Courtesy of artists like Khailash Kher, Rabbi Shergill and Junoon, the young crowd has made peace with the idea of Sufi-pop. Shah Abdul Karim and Kangalini Sufia have made prodigious contributions and earned recognition in the promotion of Baul scores, both locally and internationally.
The debate is endless, but in the end (because of column space), what is acknowledged is that experimentation has its limits. In all good intention, a perfectly well-done remix can become a disrespectful indication towards a classic. What was generally felt is the extent one goes with ‘reviving’ and ‘redoing’, where the emotion of the original is best to be left unkempt. Baul or Sufi music comes from within and removing that aspect of devotion for any audience is uncalled for. On that note, the authors of this article pay tribute to the beauty and depth of Sufi music and to the innumerable Bauls out there whose belief in music enthralls us everyday.
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to offend any particular individual. All information and opinions mentioned have been collected from a series of interviews, surveys and online research; and does not necessarily reflect upon the views of the authors.

References:

  • The Star Weekend Magazine
  • Wikipedia
  • Culturazzi.com
  • Bangladesh ShowBiz.com
  • Lifestyle (Vol 3, Issue 40)

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The Death of Pop

It’s quite the irony. I was due writing a Centrefold piece titled ‘The Return of Pop’ – an article that was meant to celebrate Michael Jackson’s rejuvenation; and here I am, staging words for the opposite. The sudden death of the greatest entertainer of our time has shook the world, and from posh hotels in Los Angeles to downtown shacks in Tokyo, his wide range of international audience now mourn the loss of their most favourite artist.
The beat of Michael Jackson crept into my generation back in the days when CDs didn’t even exist. At home, we had a few cassettes, namely the record-breaker ‘Thriller’ and the phenomenal Beat It. Its catchy tunes effortlessly inspired our naive sense of beat, and we’d often find ourselves echoing the lyrics under our breath. In 4th Grade, our class performed Jackson’s Heal the World, a number that has remained close to my heart ever since. It was, however, much later that I caught up to the man behind the songs and the steps, much of what has kept my generation and the ones before glued to their music stations or TV sets for hours.
For those of us who’re still unaware, Michael Jackson was born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana. The Jackson family, comprising 9 children and 2 adults shared a small home, barely 900 sq. feet. In spite of the unavoidable difficulties, the talents of the children were recognized at an early age. The father, Joseph Jackson, played for a local R&B band, and imposed the need to learn music on his children. Michael, in his later life, would recall physical abuse from his father, who would pummel the young lad when he failed to impress with his vocals. At the age of six, Michael joined his brothers – Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Merlon – to form what would later be known as The Jacksons. The band gained staggering popularly, particularly at the Midwest, and soon, beginning 1972, Michael released 4 solo albums under The Jacksons’ franchise. With joint collaboration with Quincy Jones, Michael released ‘Off the Wall’, the album which brought home awards and large commercial success. However, it was not until 1982 that the world truly began esteeming Michael Jackson as a solo artist through his blockbuster hit album ‘Thriller’. His unique voice, coupled with eclectic dance steps and creativity gave listeners worldwide a new definition of entertainment and MJ soon evolved into a brand of his own with the highest royalty record in the industry.
As it is with any celebrity who walks on the red carpet at more than one occasion, the frantic media began looking past Michael’s musical success, and doting on his personal life. His rare skin conditions, vitilus and lupus caused his skin to pale rapidly, and the issue soon became a tool of mockery and debate at the gossip clubs. Embarrassed, Michael began putting on excessive makeup to cover up the flaws of his skin, and by 1990, had undergone 10 surgeries on his face alone.
In tandem to his music and frail physique, Michael was widely known for his charity affairs. He supported over 39 humanitarian organizations globally, and restructured ‘Neverland Ranch’, one of the largest private theme parks across the globe dedicated to children. It was here in 2005, at Michael’s beloved Neverland that Martin Bashir from Granada Television charged Michael of molesting a 10-year old at a private interview. Michael apparently admitted sleeping with the child and described it to be a “beautiful thing”. The allegations were later dropped as it was proven that the Michael had only slept with the child with the absence of any form of sexual or offensive activities. However, the scandal, now second to the earlier allegations of child molestation from 1993 led to a tragic drop in his popularity, and the traumatized artist resumed to a quiet life with his three children.
After stepping outside the musical scene for over a decade, the unarguable ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson signed for a comeback, a series of 50 dates offsetting in July 2009 in London as the finale to his career. Unfortunately, the finale came much earlier when he suffered full cardiac arrest on June 25th at his Los Angeles home and bid farewell to millions of fans from every walk of life and every corner of the earth.
Michael Jackson’s untimely death is indeed a grand blow to the industry. Being one of the most phenomenal entertainers of all time, an all-rounder who sang, danced, wrote and produced his own numbers, Michael’s life is a saga of controversies. Brewed largely by delirious media reports, Michael may be termed as the most polemic artist of his time and a ravaged victim of paparazzi and tabloids. However, in real life, Michael was proven wrongly accused of everything, and it is this that shows how people tried to rip off benefits from him and turned him from a world-class superstar into a retreated monster.
For my generation, my peers and I recall growing up to MJ’s hits. They were ecstatic, in the sense they shared an opinion while adding a beat – a rare combination to be found nowadays and he had remained an all-time favourite to many. His outspoken numbers such as Bad, Black or White and They Don’t Really Care About Us are a reflection of his deep thoughts, and perhaps guts that should be replicated by today’s artists who seem to have sacrificed their morals over entertainment and commercial successes. MJ’s fall was not solely brought by his own flaws, but by a hungry lot of untrained media goons. Coming from an already controversial background with a colour that affected the US subtlety of racism, MJ’s incredible success and inadvertent influence worldwide, particularly on the young crowd was undoubtedly an issue of jealousy and unprecedented gossip for many. Whether in time, the world will learn to separate his music from his persona, his electrifying performances from his secluded lifestyle is a debate of its own. For now, Michael Jackson’s death is not a standalone, and signifies the death of pop since he was, at the end of the day, one of the few artists with a massive outreach who knew what his music was doing. The music scene will surely miss that magic and feel that deficiency for a very long time.

It’s quite the irony. I was due writing a Centrefold piece titled ‘The Return of Pop’ – an article that was meant to celebrate Michael Jackson’s rejuvenation; and here I am, staging words for the opposite. The sudden death of the greatest entertainer of our time has shook the world, and from posh hotels in Los Angeles to downtown shacks in Tokyo, his wide range of international audience now mourn the loss of their most favourite artist.

The beat of Michael Jackson crept into my generation back in the days when CDs didn’t even exist. At home, we had a few cassettes, namely the record-breaker ‘Thriller’ and the phenomenal Beat It. Its catchy tunes effortlessly inspired our naive sense of beat, and we’d often find ourselves echoing the lyrics under our breath. In 4th Grade, our class performed Jackson’s Heal the World, a number that has remained close to my heart ever since. It was, however, much later that I caught up to the man behind the songs and the steps, much of what has kept my generation and the ones before glued to their music stations or TV sets for hours.

For those of us who’re still unaware, Michael Jackson was born in 1958 in Gary, Indiana. The Jackson family, comprising 9 children and 2 adults shared a small home, barely 900 sq. feet. In spite of the unavoidable difficulties, the talents of the children were recognized at an early age. The father, Joseph Jackson, played for a local R&B band, and imposed the need to learn music on his children. Michael, in his later life, would recall physical abuse from his father, who would pummel the young lad when he failed to impress with his vocals. At the age of six, Michael joined his brothers – Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Merlon – to form what would later be known as The Jacksons. The band gained staggering popularly, particularly at the Midwest, and soon, beginning 1972, Michael released 4 solo albums under The Jacksons’ franchise. With joint collaboration with Quincy Jones, Michael released ‘Off the Wall’, the album which brought home awards and large commercial success. However, it was not until 1982 that the world truly began esteeming Michael Jackson as a solo artist through his blockbuster hit album ‘Thriller’. His unique voice, coupled with eclectic dance steps and creativity gave listeners worldwide a new definition of entertainment and MJ soon evolved into a brand of his own with the highest royalty record in the industry.

As it is with any celebrity who walks on the red carpet at more than one occasion, the frantic media began looking past Michael’s musical success, and doting on his personal life. His rare skin conditions, vitilus and lupus caused his skin to pale rapidly, and the issue soon became a tool of mockery and debate at the gossip clubs. Embarrassed, Michael began putting on excessive makeup to cover up the flaws of his skin, and by 1990, had undergone 10 surgeries on his face alone.

In tandem to his music and frail physique, Michael was widely known for his charity affairs. He supported over 39 humanitarian organizations globally, and restructured ‘Neverland Ranch’, one of the largest private theme parks across the globe dedicated to children. It was here in 2005, at Michael’s beloved Neverland that Martin Bashir from Granada Television charged Michael of molesting a 10-year old at a private interview. Michael apparently admitted sleeping with the child and described it to be a “beautiful thing”. The allegations were later dropped as it was proven that the Michael had only slept with the child with the absence of any form of sexual or offensive activities. However, the scandal, now second to the earlier allegations of child molestation from 1993 led to a tragic drop in his popularity, and the traumatized artist resumed to a quiet life with his three children.

After stepping outside the musical scene for over a decade, the unarguable ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson signed for a comeback, a series of 50 dates offsetting in July 2009 in London as the finale to his career. Unfortunately, the finale came much earlier when he suffered full cardiac arrest on June 25th at his Los Angeles home and bid farewell to millions of fans from every walk of life and every corner of the earth.

Michael Jackson’s untimely death is indeed a grand blow to the industry. Being one of the most phenomenal entertainers of all time, an all-rounder who sang, danced, wrote and produced his own numbers, Michael’s life is a saga of controversies. Brewed largely by delirious media reports, Michael may be termed as the most polemic artist of his time and a ravaged victim of paparazzi and tabloids. However, in real life, Michael was proven wrongly accused of everything, and it is this that shows how people tried to rip off benefits from him and turned him from a world-class superstar into a retreated monster.

For my generation, my peers and I recall growing up to MJ’s hits. They were ecstatic, in the sense they shared an opinion while adding a beat – a rare combination to be found nowadays and he had remained an all-time favourite to many. His outspoken numbers such as Bad, Black or White and They Don’t Really Care About Us are a reflection of his deep thoughts, and perhaps guts that should be replicated by today’s artists who seem to have sacrificed their morals over entertainment and commercial successes.

MJ’s fall was not solely brought by his own flaws, but by a hungry lot of untrained media goons. Coming from an already controversial background with a colour that affected the US subtlety of racism, MJ’s incredible success and inadvertent influence worldwide, particularly on the young crowd was undoubtedly an issue of jealousy and unprecedented gossip for many. Whether in time, the world will learn to separate his music from his persona, his electrifying performances from his secluded lifestyle is a debate of its own. For now, Michael Jackson’s death is not a standalone, and signifies the death of pop since he was, at the end of the day, one of the few artists with a massive outreach who knew what his music was doing. The music scene will surely miss that magic and feel that deficiency for a very long time.

References: Wikipedia, MSN News

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The Making of a Dream

There is a school of thought that teen dreams are mere fantasies. They are meant to remain unfulfilled as products of immature influences. However, when some teenagers in their unique ways saw identical dreams almost three years ago, that social belief very much pervaded their visions. This is probably why, three years later, in spite of the obstacles, against all predictions; their dream has come true.

That dream is called 1° Initiative.

The Beginning of a Beginning
The August of 2006 was a memorable one. My friend, Tushmit approached me with an idea of opening up a youth network; a concept forwarded to her by a common friend, Farhana. The plan was to allow young people to express their ideas and take up leadership roles in society. Seeing this to be a marvelous opportunity to create something, I jumped to the idea. Later, I contacted another friend, Zubair who was interested in similar things and in a few days, we became a small force of nine people.

Farhana, Zubair and I decided to act as heads and give this ‘plan’ a shape. The shape, of course, needed a name and on a sunny day while lazing inside an empty classroom in Mastermind, the team brainstormed and 1° Initiative was born. The idea behind it was simple. By each degree, we would change the way we contribute to our communities and eventually, create a small body of youngsters who wanted to act along the same line.

A few sleepless nights and Zubair had designed our logo while I had our MOU (fashionably termed ‘Constitution’) and WordPress blog. We signed, grinned and were excited to take on the world.

That was the beginning of all problems and all solutions.

We’re Not Kids!
The difficulties of being a more informed teenager than your peers are numerous. Firstly, you’re funny. You’re one of those people who don’t approve littering, finds something to do almost everywhere and has a tendency to give bombastic speeches on noble doings of not-so-noble persona. Secondly, you’re not taken seriously. You’re a hormone-imbrued teenager, unprepared for the wild reality that infatuates adulthood and your dreams are pointless.

We were of the kind, labeled funny and given little importance. Therefore, the transformation from thinking of doing something and actually executing it was itself a hurdle. Our first big break came with Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF). Volunteers from 1° Initiative were to spend certain hours weekly with autistic children at the foundation, and on a personal note, I believe it was the project that really changed what 1° Initiative was all about.

Autism was not a walk in the park. The children had demands and the volunteers needed to be patient. Having their own niches and shortcomings, autistic children were difficult to become friends with, but incredibly wonderful friends once you’ve managed to inch into their lives. For us, who were doing something of this sort as our first task, it clearly was an incomparable lesson. We learnt patience, realized exactly where we needed to start and began to value the gifts of life. Working with AWF not only taught us to be more understanding as people, but also made the group realize which of us were meant to stick with 1° Initiative.

Thus, although our force became dramatically smaller with fewer members, we shared that common belief that every miniscule difference counts. In the end, 1° Initiative (1dI) became a group of eight people, namely Zubair, Tushmit, Amreen, Mayeesha, Aaqib, Niloy, Rasha and I.

No Mum, I’m Not Doing Durgs!
With the notion of small-scale community service, 1° Initiative began to grow very tardily. Breaks were rare and our enthusiasm was often dampened with exams and life’s temptations. Nonetheless, in collaboration with Mastermind Community Service Club, we soon started teaching their supporting staff basic English and Maths. It was a three-month long project, a duration in which we faced many hassles. From being falsely accused of stealing ideas to being underestimated to the point of not allowing us to work, 1dI was in chaos with the world. Many started mocking us with pinching remarks on whether we were about to alleviate poverty or stop floods, and taunted about our futile efforts. Peers came up to us asking for certificates as a precondition to their dedication. Yet, we glued onto what we believed and it was probably because we did, we pulled through every slag.

I still remember our first meeting. A tin-shed house next to Tushmit’s ‘real’ house, deserted and dusty to the throat. We unlocked the doors, cleaned the floors, coughed our way to set up a decent space and it soon became our own little office. And no, our parents weren’t exactly fully supportive of our cause. Community service required time and dedication, and we only had bucketfuls of the latter. The uncountable times we pretended to shop in Etcetra and gathered under their stairs to have a meeting, counted our funds and realized there was nothing and begged our parents to let us do something still lingers in our memories. We were cooped up in a small room and it was no common surprise that suspicions arose. No, we weren’t doing drugs! No, I don’t have my boyfriend in there! No, we’re not making bombs! The doubts kept mounting up and every time, we had to crawl our ways out of our houses to work.

With no one to fund us and no other financial backing from parents or any other organization or insitution, 1dI needed to be largely self-funded. Why should anyone trust us enough to shower their earthly greens? We were ‘children’, after all. So, each member had to contribute a certain amount of money every month and in this way, our funds began to grow. We started introducing projects that would allow us to ‘make money’ because charity had its own fair share of expenses. Friends started supporting us and stepped up to give a helping hand to our ventures. We began receiving mails from people all over the world, appreciating our initiative. A friend even wrote an article in this very magazine and responses poured in.

Things were finally beginning to roll.

The 1dI Team

Dreams Were On Wheels
Did you know 1° Initiative has its own rickshaw? Zubair and Asif bought the paints, my driver found the maker and I did the rickshaw art. It was for a guy whose rickshaw got stolen and he seemed like a decent chap who deserved help. The 1dI rickshaw was co-sponsored by Nazim Farhan Chowdhury from Adcomm Ltd and advertised by our friends from Mastermind. It was a piece of beauty for us and today, in some dusty street of Dhaka, it trundles happily carrying our name and our email address!

Now, since three years of its birth, 1dI has expanded beyond our imagination. From the small tin-shed house and staircases at shopping malls, we now have our meeting inside our houses because our parents have finally accepted us. We’ve worked with underprivileged children in different schools and share a very special bond with each of them. We’ve arranged series of quiz and art competitions for them, set up libraries at their schools with books we collected from our contacts and spent hours telling them about the glorious past of Bangladesh. Yes, we even found sponsors! The funny part is people from abroad are more willing to send us money because they believed we aren’t corrupt and we provide proof of its usage. Setting up tubewells and giving away sweaters to children (in collaboration with Drishtipat Canada), donating warm clothes in winter to rural regions (in collaboration with Chhinnamukul), cleaning up streets in Dhanmondi, promoting zero drug abuse, anti-littering campaigns and hosting Leadership Training Workshops in Jessore; 1° Initiative has accomplished an enormous lot. We now have our own T-shirts, a vibrant website, an awesome newsletter and most importantly, a dedicated pool of youngsters who are part of the family.

1° Initiative is now a brand. This statement is proven by the number of teens who now want to join our force and the emails we receive. We’re expanding to Nepal because people from Kathmandu believe in our initiative. It has been an overwhelming experience for me to head this dream since its birth and witness it growing wings. The time, effort, arguments and dedication have all proved their virtues and to this day, 1dI rolls in full swing. There is a long list of people to thank who have placed their faith in us, and this article does not provide me with enough space to do so (scroll down for list). You all know who you are and we will always be grateful to you. Thank you for being a 1° change in this world.

Visit the Official 1° Initiative Website for more information, or mail us at 1d.initiative@gmail.com.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

1° Initiative thanks:

  • Hossain M. Elius, North South University
  • Daniel Rahman, Radio Foorti
  • Nazim Farhan Choudhury, Adcomm
  • Zaid Islam, Photographer
  • Dr. Rownak Hafiz, Autism Welfare Foundation
  • Nusrat Khandker, Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital
  • Kashfia Habib, Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital
  • Md. Mohituzzaman, London School of Economics
  • Sameen Rehman, Drishtipat Canada
  • Sumaiya Sharmeen, Drishtipat Canada
  • Ehsanur Reza Ronny, Grey Ads
  • Shahriar Shamim Emil, Rising Stars
  • Nahiyan Khan, Scholastica
  • Wafi Sattar, USA
  • Ms. Nina Huq, Mastermind School
  • Mrs. K. M. Sajjad, Sunbeams School
  • Mr. Rick Davies, American International School Dhaka
  • Sabrina F. Ahmad, Rising Stars
  • Shamma M. Raghib, North South University
  • Mr. Taimur Islam, Urban Study Group
  • Md. Abdus Salam, DOM-INNO Ltd.
  • Mr. Golam Kibria Chowdhury, G.A.P
  • Dr. Nizam, Afzalunnessa Foundation
  • Dr. Shareef Hasan, BSMMU
  • Ms. Rasheda, Aalok Shishu Shikkhaloy
  • Mr. Shamim Ahmed, Sunbeams School
  • Dr. Idris Ali, BSMMU
  • Dr. M. A. Rashid, Ibrahim Cardiac Center
  • Dr. Rebecca Milton, Asif Survivors’ Foundation
  • Nabila Idris, Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital
  • Hiroki Bhai, Ekmattra
  • Mr. Azizur Rahman, Surovi
  • Community Action
  • Mastermind Community Service Club
  • Sunbeams Community Service Club
  • Abu Sayeed Mohammad Sohail
  • Nurullah Sir, The Ark Int’l School
  • Rubayat Khan, Jagoree
  • Nashrah Rahman, Brandeis
  • Anato Chowdhury, University of Birmingham
  • Tahmid Islam, University of Liverpool

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36 Hours of Mutiny: A Story of Oppression and Repercussion

I will be uploading my article/insight on the title shortly.

Meanwhile, feel free to browse the following link for photos and videos of the uprising for border guards in Bangladesh:
Footage of BDR Mutiny

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