Sunday, December 23, 2007

Same Same But Different

First came across this phrase in a bollywood song from the film Bombay to Bangkok. The hilarity of bollywood is the songs that they come up with. So in a recent conversation about this to a friend I discovered that 'same same but different' is actually a common phrase used in places like Thailand and hence the adaptation into the song of the movie which is a cross cultural Indian-Thai production.

Further research into the phrase led me to the Urban Dictionary which told me that the phrase is:

Used a lot in Thailand, especially in attempts to sell something but can mean just about anything depending on what the user is trying to achieve.

Q "Is this a real rolex?"
A " Yes Sir, same same but different"

and; Wiki told me that it is Tinglish (or Thainglish):
The imperfect form of English produced by native Thai speakers due to language interference from the first language. Differences from native English include incorrect pronunciation, wrong word choices, misspellings, and grammatical mistakes.
Hence a phrase like 'similar but different in other ways' is translated as 'same same but different.'

Obviously I am not a traveller so this is very new to me but at least I am prepared for when (if) I go to Thailand :)

Aside from Thailand I am also told the phrase in prevalent in places like Cambodia and Malaysia and I'm pretty sure it reaches as far as Bangladesh too...well, it feels like it does given the Tinglish definition...

The film Bombay to Bangkok is released in the new year. I would recommend the film on the basis that the director Nagesh Kukonoor is a very unorthodox bollywood director and the actor Shreyas Talpade is one of the best new upcoming Indian actors (in my humble opinion). You may recognise these two combos from the movies Dor and Iqbal, both of which I highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cyber Box

If you like solving puzzles, you will enjoy this. Reminds me of the PS2 game, Practical Intelligence Quotient, of course PQ is much more aesthetically pleasing. Objective is to move the boxes to get to the exit.

Visit link or play here:




Am I blogging about games? :s

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Rice

Addictive website that donates rice as you play their word game. For every question you get right it donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programmes, five questions gets you 100 grains of rice. Currently the amount of rice donated is 7,536,669,470 grains, over seven billion, not sure how much that amounts to physically but you can keep a check of the totals here.

The rice is paid for by the advertisers who appear at the bottom of the screen. Apparently if you see an advert x-many of times it will have a profound effect on you, you may (or will) actually go out and buy their products. I don't think it works on me though but I do seem to be addicted to google -_-

Despite the advertisers, it is actually a good way to enhance your vocabulary, it has a maximum of 50 levels of which I have mastered half.

Here's the link: FreeRice


On a little side note: "The United Nations estimates that the cost to end world hunger completely, along with diseases related to hunger and poverty, is about $195 billion a year. Twenty-two countries have joined together to raise this money by each contributing 0.7% (less than 1%) of national income". Sweden has pledged the highest with 1.03% of its income and the United States, the richest country in the world, with 0.17% - second lowest next to Greece with 0.16%. Click here to see the full list. The Scandinavian countries seem to the most generous when it comes to international aid and they have already reached their goal! As well intended aid is, I have yet to see a system that actually works or would work. International aid is no good for self-development of these countries when it does not come from within? The way I see it, if you can't see the problems within yourself the outside help becomes futile, or rather it fails to reap long-term benefits.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Strictly a Fan

I never did get into Strictly Come Dancing when it was launched a few years back - but now I am a totally devoted fan (of two years). I like ballroom, although this isn't strictly ballroom but it has enough ballroom in it to keep me happy. I thought I'd share two of my favourite dances (I have many). I'm very partial to the Latin dances it seems...

Here's Mark Ramprakrash, the Cricketer and Matt DiAngelo, the Eastender.

The Argentine Tango




The Paso Doble

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

This is hilarious and completely geniusesque!! Sadly, this may mostly appeal to mathematicians but even if you don't get the mathness of it, it is still a great tune! :)

Enjoy!



Update: After having listened to it quite a few times I have to say I find it rather romantic. Yes, romantic...

Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)
by The Klein Four Group

The path of love is never smooth
But mine's continuous for you
You're the upper bound in the chains of my heart
You're my Axiom of Choice, you know it's true

But lately our relation's not so well-defined
And I just can't function without you
I'll prove my proposition and I'm sure you'll find
We're a finite simple group of order two

I'm losing my identity
I'm getting tensor every day
And without loss of generality
I will assume that you feel the same way

Since every time I see you, you just quotient out
The faithful image that I map into
But when we're one-to-one you'll see what I'm about
'Cause we're a finite simple group of order two

Our equivalence was stable,
A principal love bundle sitting deep inside
But then you drove a wedge between our two-forms
Now everything is so complexified

When we first met, we simply connected
My heart was open but too dense
Our system was already directed
To have a finite limit, in some sense

I'm living in the kernel of a rank-one map
From my domain, its image looks so blue,
'Cause all I see are zeroes, it's a cruel trap
But we're a finite simple group of order two

I'm not the smoothest operator in my class,
But we're a mirror pair, me and you,
So let's apply forgetful functors to the past
And be a finite simple group, a finite simple group,
Let's be a finite simple group of order two
(Oughter: "Why not three?")

I've proved my proposition now, as you can see,
So let's both be associative and free
And by corollary, this shows you and I to be
Purely inseparable. Q. E. D.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

shomaj tomaj

This is my vain attempt in covering the politics of Bangladesh. I don't even have time for this blog never mind another. But, now that I have set it up it may give me the incentive to do something on it. I just need to figure out how to extend the days by a few hours; Bernad's watch would come in handy...

'Shomaj' means society in Bengali, 'Tomaj' is just a word that rhymes with 'Shomaj' to give it some emphasis, something that we do a lot in the Bengali (and other Southasian) language(s). This could also mean 'Society and etc.' which is what this blog is largely about, because politics isn't just restricted to the happenings of the parliament but society at large, our every action/thought is a political act. As Aristotle says, we are all political animals by definition...

Do check it out, not much on it at the moment, but hopefully soon! (Will try and not do a: http://www.bnpbd.com/)

Link: shomaj tomaj

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Islamicist's journey comes to an end...

He's finished the deed, used all the food analogies (one could think of) and is now promoting it on the web space...

I enjoyed most parts of the blog (story/journey), although there were times when I thought "{raised eyebrow motion} hmm...?" Some things didn't sit well with me (and some were not funny), but all in all it did make me laugh. The food linkages were hilarious and very clever I thought. Here's a quote:
"The cakes of the West are symbols of their hatred. The croissant is an Islamophobic crescent, referring to the Crusades. And the Victoria sponge is named after a Queen who ruled the British Empire which helped destroy the Caliphate! Even the Rich Tea biscuit is a veiled insult, a symbol of the rich exploiting the poor tea-pickers of the subcontinent."
The final post, 'The End: Let this learn us all' was published today along with two other penultimate ones. The series is in 15 parts and it makes a good light hearted read, if anything. Although, some may say it's a bit too cynical and that we don't need such 'humour' infiltrating the Muslim platform but, why not? - if anything satire makes good for reflective thinking right? Right...

Also, I do wonder how many will actually understand the underlying tone of the "story" if they've had no exposure to HT or Ed Hussain? Will they get it? And I'm not even sure if the writer indented to come out from these angles, I am only speculating. It would be interesting to know the writer's, or rather the Islamicist's objectives? (Maybe we'll get a reply?)

And also, I do wonder what Mr. Ed (and others like him) think of it...

Read the whole series here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm having identity issues

So I changed my blog's author name.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sultans and Mosques: The Early Muslim Architecture of Bangladesh

Taken from a friend's Facebook entry on Dr. Perween Hasan's publication, made earlier this year, on Muslim Architecture in Bangladesh .

Dr. Perween Hasan, professor in the Department of Islamic History and Culture at Dhaka University, recently published her book Sultans and Mosques: The Early Muslim Architecture of Bangladesh (London: I.B.Tauris and Co Ltd). Though the book originated as her doctoral thesis and is fairly technical in nature, with architectural terms and plans not easily accessible to the layperson, it is on a subject that is inherently interesting to Bangladeshis. How can we not be interested in the mosques around us, not be curious about their origins and history, not wonder about the ideas and environment that shaped them ? What do they reveal about the arrival of Islam in the delta from north India and beyond, about its impact and spread, about our own evolution as a nation and state? Dr. Perween Hasan, by focusing her study on the independent Bengal Sultanate period, has written a study that zeroes in on the formative era of mosque-building in the eastern part of Bengal that is now Bangladesh.

Below is a conversation between The Daily Star and Dr. Hasan:

DAILY STAR: Would you please give us a brief overview of your life, i.e. where you were born, your education, your academic career.

PERWEEN HASAN: Born in Kolkata where I started school, my family moved to Dhaka in 1953. Here I started going to St. Francis Xavier's Convent School (now Green Herald), in Lakshmibazar, and took my 'O'levels from there. I studied English at Dhaka University, and started my career as an English teacher in Central Women's and Government Intermediate colleges, before joining the English department at DU in 1969.

After moving to the USA with my husband and two sons in 1973 , I was admitted into the Ph.D program at Harvard University, from where I earned an MA in Regional Studies, and subsequently a Ph.D in 1984 (Thesis: Sultanate Mosque Types in Bangladesh: Origins and Development). Later that year I joined the Department of Islamic History and Culture, Dhaka University as Assistant Professor. Being also associated with the Women and Gender Studies Department of DU, I offer a course on Women in the Visual Arts, and co-teach a Women and Religion course. Under the Fulbright program, I have been a visiting professor at American universities (Oberlin College, Ohio; University of Southern Maine, Portland). My publications are mostly on the Islamic architecture of Bengal, on aspects of artistic and cultural continuities.

DS: Could you give our readers an idea what your book is about, the subject matter, your particular approach to it, why the Sultanate period, etc.

PH: My work is a survey of mosques built during the rule of the Independent Sultans of Bengal (1338-1538). Fifty-five mosques were surveyed (as many as I could find) and each one is reproduced with photographs and floor plans.

During the period in question, the frontiers of Bengal were variable, and usually included both East and West Bengal and at times even extended to beyond that. However, I have covered only the geographical limits of the state of Bangladesh, because (a) I felt that the large number of monuments situated here seemed adequate for a single study, and (b) there were practical difficulties involved in carrying out similar extensive fieldwork in India. However, the Indian monuments are discussed whenever relevant.

The mosque was singled out as a building type because, (a) it is architecturally representative of Islamic culture by its association with collective ritual prayer; (b) of the various types of buildings that must have been part of the architectural landscape from the 14th to the 16th centuries, mosques have survived in the largest number; and (c) buildings with a common function are well-suited for historical investigation, as their architectural features can be readily identified as imported or indigenous. These Sultanate mosques form a homogeneous group of monuments in the area, and contrast sharply with those of the Mughal period that followed.

My interest in cultural continuities led me to investigate into the origins of these monuments. They were built in a very regional style that borrowed much of its vocabulary from the thatched huts of Bengal. Always made of brick and decorated with terracotta plaques or sometimes veneered with carved stone, Sultanate architecture clearly formed a continuum with both pre-Islamic Buddhist and post-Sultanate Hindu temples, which were also mostly built of brick. In addition Sultanate mosques also copied the chala (roof) of the hut. Therefore we see here a style that is rooted in local architectural traditions. The trend was started by Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah (1415-32), the converted son of Raja Ganesh who was the first Muslim king of native Bengali origin.

In the Sultanate period, the leaders of Muslim society, although foreigners themselves, were concerned with presenting Islam in an idiom that was within the experience of the common Bengali. Even today, a Muslim who may not be very well versed with the finer points of Islam is emphatic about her/his Islamic identity. Perhaps the cultural identity and psychic mould of today's Bengali Muslim is rooted in the liberal attitudes of the Independent Sultans of Bengal who permitted Bengali culture to flourish and combined it with Islamic influences brought in from the central Islamic lands.

DS: Reading your book one would get the overall impression that after Bakhtiyar Khilji dispatched Lakshmana Sena in 1204, the basic impulse of the new political authority was towards syncretism, towards accomodation, as expressed in Bengal Sultanate mosque architecture. Yet, this new political dispensation, in order to establish itself, had to uproot the orthodox Hindu ruling Senas. Richard Eaton, in his The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier 1204-1760 (a book that you like) writes that the Senas' vision of a Hindu cosmos found expression in their "monumental royal" temples. You write in your book that "the central mihrab (of the Adina Mosque) shows that, although much of the stone was taken from the earlier temples, it was used with a good understanding of how it worked, in contrast to the helter-skelter manner in which plundered material had been used in the early Muslim architecture in both Bengal and elsewhere."

Is it possible to say that, then, there was a period, until, say, 1415, when the Bengali Hindu convert to Islam, Sultan Jalal al-Din Mohammed began his reign, the battle was between the mosque and the temple, and that this history is somewhat ignored amid all the 'syncretic' history-writing of Bengal?

PH: Have I given the impression that from 1204 the Muslims were benevolently trying to accomodate the culture of the conquered, and every thing was idyllic? Initially there must have been a lot of destruction of temples and edifices of all kinds. Again, that was one of the ways to assert power in those days.

But my period of investigation is from the Independent Sultanate that starts from 1338. By this time the Muslims had settled down, a minority ruling over a majority of non-Muslims, and for this to continue for over 200 years, there must have been some spirit of accomodation. According to Eaton (and I agree with him), Sena influence was very much restricted to north and western Bengal; central and eastern Bengal remained beyond their religious and cultural influence. Perhaps this is one reason why conversion (or accommodation) to Islam was easier in central and eastern Bengal, because these areas had never been properly Hinduized. Moreover I think that really monumental stone temples of the scale described in the quote by Eaton could not have been many. Most temples were of modest size. The Buddhist monasteries in Paharpur and Mainamati are truly monumental structures, but they are exceptions and there must have been many small Buddhist temples (a few of their foundations have been excavated by the Dept. of Archaeology) being built simultaneously.

The weather in Bengal is not favorable to buildings at all, especially those built of brick and mortar. From the first 200 years of Muslim rule only three mosques remain, all in extremely ruined state (including the ones in Tribeni and Adina). We know that there were Muslim traders and settlers in south-east Bengal even before the conquest, yet there is no architectural evidence of their presence. Also, early temples were of brick or wood, rarely of stone, because there is no stone in this delta. Therefore, destruction was, up to a great extent by nature also.

Sultanate mosque architecture, on evidence of mosque-building materials alone, cannot be termed as a 'battle' between the temple and the mosque. My whole argument is that both temples and mosques were ultimately derived from the forms of the hut, and Jalaluddin sort of iced the cake by curving the cornice. Rather than syncretic, (which I feel is a very strong word), I would like to call this process 'cultural adaptation, or accomodation' which anyone with long-term plans to stay must do.

DS: What about the relative size and grandeur of the mosques in West Bengal of this period, and the far more modest stuff here on the eastern side. Is it is a question of form following function, in this case political function? The Bengal Sultanate, in Pandua Gaur and Lakhnawati, uprooted both the Senas and their temples since the latter, like mosques, had a political legitimizing function. The eastern half of Bengal, by contrast, was sparsely populated, with rudimentary communities expanding eastwards through land grants with wet rice cultivation. Here, mosques were built according to community needs, not due to state imperitives. If one therefore studies only the eastern mosques (for whatever reason) isn't it possible to advance the thesis of 'spirit of accomodation' than if one studied the whole?

PH: For most of Muslim rule, the main capital of the Muslims was Gaur or Pandua (both in West Bengal). The first building with the curved hut eave (the tomb of Jalaluddin of early 15th century, known as the Eklakhi Tomb) is also situated in Pandua; so the complete Bengal style fashioned after the hut originates in West Bengal. The eastern part of Bengal was settled after the north and west and it was only during the Independent Sultanate that most of it was brought under Muslim purview. The point is that after the Eklakhi, all mosques, tombs, as well as gateways (at least from the evidence that we have), both in East and West Bengal were made in the Bengal style.

There are some very large mosques in East Bengal too: the mosques at Mahasthan (on a Buddhist site of a much earlier date, but where a Hindu temple could have existed during the time of the conquest), Shaitgumbad, Shatgachhia, Bagha, Kusumba, Pathrail. Four of the mosques that I have included have platforms on a mezzanine level which were reserved for the king, governor, or other very high official, so these were not all small, single-domed mosques, although the majority were; several were medium sized with several domes. Although I have not done a survey, from what I have seen, I would suspect that even in W. Bengal the majority of the mosques would turn out to be small or medium-sized with single domes. I have argued that whether large or small, it is the square, single-domed unit that became the basic component of all mosques. These units were simply multiplied when a larger space was needed, perhaps for the needs of a larger community but most often to express the power of the builder. The Adina mosque expresses only the power of Sikandar Shah, who had just repulsed an attempt by Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq of Delhi to take back Bengal, so he does not hesitate to call himself khalifa and express his affiliation to Arabia and Persia, not mentioning either Bengal or India. There are several such mosques in W. Bengal.

Again, there are more monuments, some with more elaborate decoration that survive in West Bengal than in the east. This is not only because the capitals were there but because of the relatively drier climate. Also Buddhist manuscripts as well as Buddhist/Hindu sculptures recovered from E. Bengal indicate that there were some well-known sites with temples even in the east (though perhaps not as many as in the west). So there must have been a period of destruction in both east and west. To come to any kind of overall conclusion, there must be a similar survey of the monuments of W. Bengal, just as this one is for the east. Until then I don't think we have enough evidence to make a judgment.

DS: There is talk presently about how multi-storied madrassah construction is ruining the 'setting' of these Sultanate mosques, making them look ugly. Can we possibly posit two differing creeds at loggerheads here: one the westernized, educated middle class impulse that values historical conservation (and thereby perhaps a certain reification), and the other that sees a mosque as a living organic being, which traditionally has not been a single unit but a complex of masjid, madrassahs and khanqas? How do you see it?

PH: These old mosques had been left alone in their settings for all these years. The orphanages and madrassahs are very recent phenomena, and they have taken over the ancient monuments with no regard to their value as antiquities. They have bored holes through their terracotta plaqued walls so that RCC pipes can be inserted on which shamianas are hung during Friday prayers. The old mosques have always been used for prayer and no one ever objected to that. But they were not vandalized like this. Is there a shortage of mosques anywhere? There are several mosques in the same neighborhood which can accommodate many more jamaats, why does the old one have to be sacrificed? If this goes on, nothing of historic value will be left. Instead of taking over the few heritage sites that we have, we could educate our people to respect and look after them even while they are used, as they have been for so many centuries.

DS: It is quite evident that an extensive, and arduous, fieldwork undergirds your book. Is there any memorable experience from those days that you would share with us, a lasting impression that you have with you?

PH: I have plenty of memorable anecdotes from my fieldwork, but let me just say that I was amazed at the kindness and hospitality that we received in the villages when we traveled. As we measured and photographed buildings in the hot sun, chairs and 'daab's would appear and people would be ready to lend a helping hand. Walking through a homestead I remember hearing, 'ashen, boshen, ektu paan tamak kheye jan', and as we excused ourselves, reminding us 'jabar shomoy kheye jeyen'.

DS: Thank you very much for your patience and time.

PH: The pleasure was all mine. Thank you. Cheers

Monday, October 22, 2007

Online Etymology Dictionary

Great website for those who like to find out the origins of words - on how it came to be, where it came from and how the meanings of words have changed over time. I'm sure from this many would find how global languages are and how much we borrow from lands we would not have thought of.

It would be great if we had this in other languages though...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Grand Tarawih Congregation

Only a few days till Ramadan* and we begin the fast of 14-hours a day! Look forward to it. I also look forward to this initiative by Ebrahim College of a Grand Tarawih Congregation in Tower Hamlets. Set up for up to 3,000 congregates - this is the largest scale of Tarawih I have heard of...


Click for larger image

*Ramadan will fall on either 12th or 13th September this year according to the sighting of the moon. To find out more about moonsighting click here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Islamicist's Weblog

Funniest blog I have read in a while. It's like Adrian Mole meets Ed Hussain, the author of the (dire) book The Islamist. Although only a few entries I hope this would be a regular feed with a lot more to come from this blogger.

Here is an excerpt from the blog:
As a child I was always resentful I was born. Other children had been born too, and seemed to bear this with good grace, but for me, it seemed so unfair, especially with the parents I had. My father, a man, and my mother, a woman, were both from Pakistan. Ordinarily, a Pakistani man and a Pakistani woman having a baby is not a momentous event. Children are very common in that country. What was special about my parents were that they gave birth to me.

This event took place in London, city of a Thousand Extremists, but more on that later, including the Dramatic Recruitment, and my Dramatic Escape, all highlighted in my new Book. Have i mentioned my Book yet? No? Ok.

Growing up in London, it was clear that my faith, my dress sense and my predeliction for playing with girls marked me out to be different. It did not help that I wanted to do sporty things with girls like soccer (I know it is called soccer because tours to promote my Book have taken me all the way to Los Angeles). This led to a terrible confusion on my part, and I spent most of my childhood being beaten up by girls. Again, in the early eighties, this was before Girl Gangs, another revelation taken from my Book.

As I have tried to point out, things were very difficult for me as a child. Then came the notion of a religious education. You see, I really liked christmas carols, not just at christmas, all the time. No really, i mean all the time. As I was recovering from the bruises the girls inflicted on me, I sang ‘Little Donkey’ and ‘As Shepherds washed their socks by night’.

This became a real problem on two fronts. One was my parents, who thought I was going a little bit crazy. I merely assured them that this was the National Anthem. Because I said it in English, they believed me. The next problem also came from my parents. My parents were cousins before they were married, not first cousins, but more like second cousins once removed, which means basically, my father married his distant aunt. When I was growing up, sometime he would refer to her as his ‘Auntie’ rather than wife. That is something I have still not become used to.
The Islamicist's Weblog

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Results

A Level results were released today and like the 25 years before grades have risen and the UK is getting more A-E passes than ever. The girls again did better than the boys except in Languages and Further Maths.

I remember when I got my results it was on my 18th Birthday! I felt my A Levels were reasonable, whilst ICT was easy as peas, Maths seemed impossible and Politics and English were so-so, but still challenging.

Five years on I do think A Levels have gotten easier. The maths syllabus is now half of what I studied and an A-grade GCSE Maths is still not adequate to go on to A Levels Maths with, and A Level Maths, still, does not prepare you for degree level maths (unless you study further maths, which many do not as that means another maths A-Level on top).

The stakes need to be higher. University is not for everyone. Entries to university is harder than ever with so many high pass rates. Whilst students achieve the grades they are still not guaranteed a place forcing them to take gap-years. GCSEs also need to be more challenging and there needs to be a better alternative to A Levels.

Currently 14-year-olds who suffer from exams can opt to do diplomas in subjects like Business and go to college to do them and skip their GCSEs. However, at the end of their diploma it is not guaranteed they will be suitable employees as the job market does not recognise their qualifications (yet).

Next year a new grade A* will be introduced into A Levels to ease the load on universities so they can have their pick from the exceptionally bright students. Also, instead of the standard six modules required for A Levels it will be reduced to four, so students acquire a more in-depth knowledge of their subjects. A criticism was raised students do not know 'enough' of what they are taught.

In any case, it is disheartening for any A Level student to hear that A Levels are getting easier, it only undermines their efforts. Kids are not any less brighter, in fact they are brighter, but our education system is far too rigid and it needs to branch out. What do we do with a nation of 'academics'?

Back to polytechnics I say...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Guaranteed Fail

I'm currently marking GCSE* Maths papers for Edexcel thinking what is the point, this child will only fail.

Here in the UK, the GCSE Maths papers are categorised into three levels, Higher, Intermediate and Foundation. In the higher paper you can only get grades A*-C; intermediate, B-D and foundation D-G. A GCSE pass is considered C or above. The students that are entered for the foundation paper are those who the teachers feel will get no more than E or F. In most cases the student knows sitting this paper would only mean a worthless grade, if one at all. To sit the foundation paper it is to say to the student you have low potential, academically you are crap and oh yeah, you won't even get a pass grade, mwahahaha. What is the point when this child's failed GCSE Maths won't come to any use?

Well, I am told the maths GCSE tiers are now changing, next year a Maths GCSE student will either be entered for the higher or foundation paper - where the you will be able to get a C grade at most - so there is the potential to pass. But this is next year - 2008.





*GCSE final exams taken at the end of secondary school, aged 15-16. Compulsory for all in England and Wales.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

amar hariye jawa

Arnob again, song from his first album Chaina Bhabish

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Day at Westminster: Air Sylhet, Greater Sylhet Development and Welfare Council UK and bye bye Blair!

Westminster was buzzing today, the wait for Blair to arrive for his final Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons - the press took over all the green bits, the campaigners hijacked Parliament Square and there was I, walking in between the two.

Of course, I didn't go inside the Commons, couldn’t get in even if I tried, people booked months in advance for this show. I had to do with watching it on BBC News. Courteous, funny, not at all sentimental, Blair gave his final performance and a great one it was. Praised by his peers including Cameron, this was the best exit Blair could hope for. Tony hasn’t wasted any of his time, he will return to us as an envoy to the Middle East! Use his Northern Ireland tactics to solve the problems of the troubled gulf. Err, yeah...luck!

After an hour of telly I made my way to the commons to join Air Sylhet for their ‘launch’…it was actually a PR-thing. They invited Khalid Mahmood MP to sit and chat and take pictures with them. The new group, Air Sylhet, came together in Birmingham to launch a new “unique” airline that would fly from regional airports from the UK to Bangladesh and the Middle East and hence provide a cheaper fare for it’s commuters. And Khalid was their Birmingham MP…

Standing by the Thames, we waited (and waited) for Mr. Mahmood to arrive and start the thing. My colleague made a comment about this being on “Bengali” time to which the Publicist for Air Sylhet got a bit defensive. Us Asians are punctual!!

Mr. Mhamood finally did arrive to meet Baroness Uddin along with the members of Air Sylhet. As the men (and woman) gathered round to take some snapshots I spot Mr. John Prescott in the background. Along with Blair, Prescott too was leaving - now no longer the deputy Prime Minster. He looked awfully pale; drunk but in good spirits to take photographs even with Air Sylhet.

I’m not a picture person, I stayed out, took my place by the balcony to be later joined by the Chairman of the Greater Sylhet Development and Welfare Council in UK - Mohammed Monchab Ali JP - who explained to me the Council had great sentimental value because 90% of Bangladeshis in the UK were from Sylhet.

The Council aims to bridge the link between Bangladeshis here in the UK and Bangladesh and in particular forge links with the younger generations. Currently the council runs a scheme whereby young British Bangladeshi students go over to Bangaldesh on a three week trip to go and interact with school kids, talk to them and in return have a greater bond with the people of Bangladesh. The trip has to be self funded except the council pays for your stay and expenses whilst in Bangladesh. Great I thought, not progressive great, but maybe I can join the scheme to visit Desh. I asked Mr. Ali what he’ll do to persuade my mum to let me go, on my own, with the council. He said he’d explain to her, inform her, will take care of all her doubts - this trip will not mean I will end up with a spouse, but rather it will be purely educational. (Don't think ammajaan will be convinced - it will still be potentially "too" dangerous.)

The council has a historian working with them when needed, currently doing his PhD on the Bengali Diaspora at Nottingham University, Asfaque Hussain his name is. [I googled but have no idea who he might be..ideas?]

Although, I am not entirely sure of the councils objectives or aware of the work they do, I would like to see more of them.

Mr. Ali is currently backing the Air Sylhet project. He believes they have a strong business plan and a lot of aviation history amongst its members. Air Sylhet now await further backing from Baroness Uddin.

Next appointment was to join the New Local Government Network Summer Reception - where everyone kept asking me what sort of career I wanted...

(umm...)

Met Ruth Kelly, drunk. Exchanged pleasantries. Like all former ministers Ruth too has to wait and see whether her job is still there or not under their new leader, our new leader mind. Didn't really know what to say to Kelly '...so you sent your child to a private special needs school?' The place was full of journalists I was told - didn't meet a single one! Met academics though, who make a living out of research into local governments - most failed to keep me interested sadly. Felt like people took interest in me because I was the only Asian there...

It would be awesome to be a parliamentarian. It is a place that is still dominated by old middle class white men, needs a bit of ruffling - let's get Salma Yaqoob in there? Let's!

I left Westminster at 5pm with my little box of Thornton chocolates courtesy of the Summer Reception.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Conference: 250 years of the Battle of Plassey

Brick Lane Circle presents 250 years of the Battle of Plassey Conference
24th June 2007 [11am - 5pm]
London
"23rd June 2007 will be the 250th year of the Battle of Plassey. This was a decisive day in 1757 when the British achieved victory in Bengal under Robert Clive. It was also the beginning of the British Indian Empire. The events organised by Brick Lane Circle (BLC) will consist of a Poetry Reading session on Saturday 23 June and a one day Conference on Sunday 24 June at the Whitechapel Idea Store followed by an East India Company Walk on Sunday 1 July. The Conference will bring together a number of scholars, researchers and members of the community where the context, impacts and the implications of the Battle of Plassey will be explored."


Click to enlarge

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Islamic London

Time Out recently did an article on how London would benefit from becoming "Islamic."

London population is currently around seven million and growing, take on the Muslim population (1.5-2million) and round it up a little it will give you; every fifth person in London is Muslim. (How cool is that?)

Well, it's nothing to boast about. [Overt] Islamophobia is on the rise and so are Muslim activists (or radicals would be the wider perception) and it just feeds into the "clash of civilisations" ideology that the media likes perpetrating. The comments from the article alone would make you want to wish the article was not written. I am always taken back as how racist people tend to be on online blogs.

Mayor's Office
On a lighter note, do think these pictures are rather pretty!


Update: Debate on the subject with Michael Hodges (the author of the article) on MuslimCafe.tv [Video: Londinstan - Is London's Future Islamic?]

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Teenage Things

There are six things wrong with my life:

1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.

2. It is on my nose.

3. I have a there-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.

4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her sadistic teachers.

5. I am very ugly and I need to go to an ugly home.

6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

An extract from Louise Rennison's, extremely funny teenage novel, 'Confessions of Georgia Nicolson: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging'.

The book is in the process of being made into a film by Gurinder Chadha, who is currently casting for the lead role. Not sure how well it will do as film, as I don't think it can top the book, but after this article on Time Out thought it was worth a post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Life takes a toll

I have a million (okay maybe a thousand) posts that are half done and are waiting to be published from my drafts folder. Need to get back to writing, the more practise the better, plus it helps me keep in tune in what I would ideally like as a career, research in Southasian history and politics.

So here is a list of things you should be looking out for:
  • Chinese Mathematics and Pythagoras' Theorem
  • Hasina's visit to London
  • Review of Samer Akkach talk on his book Islam, Modernity and the Enlightenment: A New Perspective and how he confused me and my attempts at ijtihading
  • And much much more!
Need to get a move on and quit one of the kuti jobs that I have...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jinnah on the issue of Muslim minority

“It has always been taken for granted mistakenly that the Musalmans are a minority, and of course we have got used to it for such a long time that these settled nations sometimes are very difficult to remove. The Musalmans are not a minority. The Musalmans are a nation by any definition.”

Muhammad Ali Jinnah
27th Session of the All-India Muslim League, Lahore
22nd March 1940


I think there needs to be a re-analysis (or even an analysis) of what Jinnah thought constituted a nation. The religious men who fought for "Pakistan" wrote vicariously on what sort of Muslim nation they wanted or rather what was a Muslim nation, qawm. The qawm can be debated end on end, interpret as you like, is it the Muslim nationhood? A Muslim nation within another nation? the ummah itself? This was a serious political debate pre-Indian partition that the ulema of India were having but not Jinnah.

Jinnah was not a "religious" man but he fought to preserve the rights of the Muslim minorities within India. He was not a sectarianist as British history tells you. Prior to the Muslim League Jinnah used to work for the Congress, in charge of Muslim-Hindu unity. Series of events triggered by both the Congress and the British led Jinnah to work for the Muslim League and eventually demand for a separate state of Pakistan.

It's hard work defining Jinnah; what we have of him are his speeches and things catalogued by the Muslim League party. Jinnah did not keep a journal, he did not write or at least I have not come across any of Jinnah's work unlike Nehru's and Gandhi's which are widely available. If anyone comes across any of Jinnah's writing please let me know. He did often write in papers and journals mainly to defend his position in the Muslim League - not so much the Pakistan Movement because I don't think that movement registered with him till the very end of British rule, when he was forced to make a decision. Many factors for it - I suggest reading Ayesha Jalal's Jinnah: The Sole Spokesman.

Anyway I'll let you ponder on the above quote.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pluralism in Islam: Lessons from Malaysia

Pluralism works in Malaysia because Malaysia is a tolerant society says Professor Dato Dr Khoo Kay Kim

Dr Khoo Kay Kim, who wrote the Rukunegara - the Malaysian pledge of allegiance, painted a very rosy picture of the tolerant Malaysian society at a seminar earlier this evening.

Whilst we idealise a society should be tolerant of other faiths and groups events highlight the opposite. Malaysia has been through several major ethnic riots the biggest one being in 1969, which gave rise to the Rukenegara (1970). The government of Malaysia is by far a fair one; it is known to suppress its Chinese minority and the ethnic tension in the country still poses a huge problem for the Malaysians, this was admitted by Prime Minister Badawi just last month.

Integration

Against this backdrop Dr Kim was still hopeful that Malaysia should be seen as an exemplar of a pluralistic state, and a Muslim one at that. The talk was a contradiction in many parts, he claimed the Malaysians mixed unlike the British (and even the Indonesians); the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians integrated very well.

The Chinese in Malaysia make up a significant minority whilst the Malays constitute half the population, the Chinese make a quarter of it. However, 90% of Chinese students study in all-Chinese speaking schools, leaving them very little room to mix with their Malay "brothers."

Dr Kim supported his tolerant society with facts such as, the longest line of Buddha statues in the whole world existed in Kelantan, a Muslim party stronghold in Malaysia. He claimed only in Malaysia you could have such a situation, pluralism at its best almost, and hence tolerance exists amongst the Malaysian people...

However, Political parties in Malaysia are very communal, there is not a single major party that claims to represent the whole of Malaysia rather there are parties that represent the Muslim sect, the Malay sect, the Chinese sect or the Indian sect. With such ethnically-religiously driven political motives it's hard to see Malaysia as a role model of any type of state.

Islam and Education

Dr Kim perhaps spoke more sense when discussing Muslims and education. Often the anecdotes he presented us with insinuated it was the Malay Muslims that were the least tolerant of the Malaysian people. He emphasised greatly on the role of the Muslim with its non-Muslim neighbours. He was quite critical of the Muslim's attitude of exclusiveness and the Malay’s reluctance to enrol Chinese students onto Islamic courses and adopting Muslim mannerisms, such as greetings and dress.

Dr Kim also touched on the Islamic education of Malaysia. He claimed it was too superficial and the students did not learn the true essence of Islam or even the Malaysian national identity. The students were not learning the fundamentals, but a "fundamentalist makes a good Muslim" he roared (several times). The schooling nature was more about memorising than learning, a problem that's apparent in most Asian countries - students end up not really knowing anything but they are able to recite from memorisation very well.

Post-Colonialism

There were some things Dr Kim said that worried me. He was of the opinion that colonialism in Malaysia was a good thing because it transferred the power from the rulers to the people. He kept repeating Britain colonised Malaysia post-Second World War, but failed to explain the significance of that, however the colonisation period did last only 12 years.

Colonisation is not merely colonisation of the land, but the mind, the people, the culture and the heritage; it takes people away from their own history leaving them forcefully to adopt an ideology of an other which is not fitting to their own regional context and envisaging the colonisers as their supreme models.

Although, Dr Kim was mournful of the situation that post-independence in 1957 no one gave attention to nation building rather people were too wrapped up around wanting independence that they lost sight of how to build their nation again. (I see parallels - cf. Bangladesh 1971)

The Rukenegara was meant to do just that, build up the Malaysian nation once again and stop ethnic conflicts. It was based on the Indonesian model of Pancasila, The Five Principles, a country the ‘Malaysians’ took as their role model. However now, Dr Kim sees the Malaysians have surpassed the Indonesians and are in fact better. Again going back to integration, this is because the Indonesians are too Java-centric; the Javanese do not know the Achenese, they are two mutually exclusive components of Indonesia, whereas that is not the case in Malaysia. Although many would argue Malaysia is Malay-centric...

Conclusion

In the 70 years Dr Kim has lived perhaps he has seen the ethnic situation in Malaysia get better and hence his reasons for being so hopeful. The seminar didn’t really address how Malaysia could be a role model for Islamic nations based on its Islamic principle as I hoped, it was rather focused on the people, leaving you to think the state’s role in maintaining a pluralistic society was actually futile(?)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Following Rupa (Part 1)

A few quick updates on the Labour MP Candidate, Dr. Rupa Huq

- Currently Rupa has been nominated for the British Sociological Association’s Philip Abrams memorial prize for her book Beyond Subculture.

- Rupa has been short listed for the Labour MP candidacy.

So far, four candidates for Labour MP candidacy have been short listed leaving two more vacancies to be filled. Both Rushnara Ali and Lutfur Rahman received 51% of the nomination votes and made it to the next round and since two female contenders were left, both Rupa Huq and Shiria Khatun made it through also to meet the 50% criteria.

The next two contenders will be chosen on 24th April from the list below:

Ayub Korom Ali
Helal Abbas
John Biggs
David Edgar
Abdul Asad
Moti uzzaman
Shirajul Islam

The final six short-listers will then face a third round of votes on 26th April and the final list of Labour candidates will be revealed on 28th April.

Candidates left to right: Ayub Korom Ali, - , - , - , Dr. Rupa Huq, -, John Biggs, -, Rushnara Ali, -

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Dream It Wasn't

...sadly it happened.

The all Indian cast and language production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream titled 'An Indian Dream' failed terribly to sprinkle its magic.

With an intricate storyline of three sub-plots it makes Midsummer a fascinating watch. The play is very popular and a summer doesn't go by when this play is not on theatres across the country and the globe. However, this production by Tim Supple at the Roundhouse theatre did not live up to the expectations I had conjured up. This type of Shakespeare play I thought would have gone very well with an Indian setting with the element of magic, love and mysticism but it didn't really fit into that image very well because of the lack of technicalities that we were presented with, which were:

The actors could not act
The actors were inaudible
The languages got frustrating especially when you didn't understand what was being said - even more frustrating for those who did not know the story line.
The actors could not act
I couldn't hear them half the time
And there was a pillar in front of me obstructing my view!

See the pillar?
umm...were we allowed pictures?


All in all seven Indian languages were used, I could probably understand three of them and I knew the story very well but that didn't help me with the plot and did very little to aid my enjoyment.

Aside from the the problems listed above it probably entertained you on the basic-est level. The actors were acrobats (hence lack of acting abilities) and they did fancy twirls using ropes and hammocks. The costumes were good, pretty fairy Indiany outfits and also great use of the set I thought - it did feel like you were in a ("magical") forest. But unfortunately that was not enough.

Although, what was a great experience was the Roundhouse theatre, it was actually a round theatre! The venue is definitely worth a visit by any means.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dor डोर

Film to provoke thought, inspire men and women and challenge the societal norms of Southasians...

Dor means thread, thread that runs across society, thread that binds people, it has many metaphorical uses I'll let you find your own.

The story is of two women, one grieving for her dead husband and the other in pursuit of freeing her husband at the hands of this bereaved widow. This involves friendship and betrayal between the two women.

The film is kept simple. It makes subtle remarks on the life of a widowed woman, the veil, the baggage that women generally hold in society. It makes dialogue between both men and women so it speaks to audience in a fairer light. It gleams hope into women to think and act for themselves.

It's a light-hearted but meaningful film. I recommend it - a good change from your typical Bolly which, Indian cinema is more popularly known for.

The film stars Aysha Takia, Gul Panag and Shreyas Talpade, all of whom act very well. Talpade is also a good comedic side act.

I suggest, go see!

Links: Tongues on Fire; Dor

Friday, March 16, 2007

देखो! में हिंदी मे भात कर रही हूँ!

बोह्त कूल नही?

किसी को मालुम है कि में बंगला कैसे लिख सकती हूँ?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tony [heart] WMD

It was quite a site seeing this today. Those Greenpeacers do like climbing and bannering. Wish I could get a picture on my mobli but alas I could not. (Because I have the most dysfunctional phone ever created.) Managed to find ONE pic on the internet.


This comes after Blair's £20million trident project to develop nuclear weapons. Most of his party members have opposed the project, Blair now relies on the Tories for support...

Monday, March 12, 2007

It's The Sun That Did It!

The climate was controlled by the clouds
The clouds were controlled by cosmic rays
The cosmic rays were controlled by the sun
It all comes down to the sun!
Explains Channel 4 on why we are having this Climate Change.

The documentary; The Great Climate Change Swindle sets out to disprove the current 'popular' theory that Climate Change is due to the rise of CO2 levels created by us humans.

It makes a convincing (or rather entertaining) case that, climate change is a natural phenomena. The world's temperature has always risen and fallen and the current climate change is just carrying on this trend.

The arguments goes, CO2 heats up the earth's atmosphere and hence the melting of the Arctic which will potentially give rise to sea levels, diminishing lands and countries. (This is just one of the causes of the rising CO2 levels others include extreme weather and endangering animals).

From what I understand of CO2 is that, it traps heat and when in the atmosphere it naturally raises the temperature. This was actually explained to me by Dr. Saleem Huq, the head of the Climate Change Group of the IIED.

The documentary argues that CO2 only makes up a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, in fact it's less than 1%. It also argues that man made CO2 is significantly lower than that of natural CO2 given off by decaying leaves and animals.

The most interesting of the findings was the decrease of the earth's temperature during the economic-boom (post-war industrialisation period) given the premise (CO2 increases the earth's temperature). Between 1940 and 1970 the earth's temperature actually decreased disproving man-made CO2 caused the rising temperature.

However, going back to Dr. Saleem Huq, this probably does not hold great weight as I am told the impact of CO2 in the atmosphere is not immediate. The effects of CO2 takes a while so makes sense in relation to Climate Change that the earth should start to heat up after 1970, when the CO2 has had time to react with the atmosphere and not simultaneously as industrialisation was taking place.

The documentary makes a great watch but it is not a great scientific documentary which is a shame. Had they done proper scientific research they would not have taken one side of the Climate Change argument.

However, there are virtues in programmes like this. What the documentary does is brings in the political aspects of the Climate Change hype how given this 'threat' can be used to the advantages of political opportunists.

The Climate Change hype has had a great impact on the developing world and environmentalists. As the idea of CO2 is demonised and discouraged the developing world is made to think and develop with resources such as solar panels and renewable energy. This would take an awfully long time to bring industrial revolution to those places that need it!

The developing countries have a right to develop with fewer limits and should not be discouraged to do so. Environmentalists should be careful on how they campaign, the last thing we want is the stagnate development of nations that need to burn off CO2 for its growth. Also, the west have had their chance of industrialisation, so any CO2 in the atmosphere now, which has caused the rise of temperatures, is of their doing.

Carrying on with releasing CO2 into the atmosphere will not stop the effects explains Dr. Saleem Huq, the damage has already been done and what we can do now is prepare for its effects to take place.

Cricket World Cup 2007

Err, yeah, like I'm going to talk about cricket!

But I am told it will be starting soon (tomorrow) thought I'd get into the spirit by displaying what I know best about it: Imran Khan...

Come on Bangladesh! Woot! Woot!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Video: Thank Allah it's Jumma

This is worth a mention. Whilst it isn't hilariously funny, it's funny nonetheless. Imran (the director) will certainly go far as a filmmaker.

Here is his blog

Video:

one word: Southasia

Himal are on a mission to make South Asia, Southasia - an unifying force. I think I may even join in and start writing Southasia without the space.

This is a map to accompany the word change, Southasia with south as its north axis. The world positioned this way looks waaay better (and different) than what we are used to - with the UK and North America on top.

Let's look up to the Southerners for a change...

Click for a lager image

India Vs. Pakistan

More than just cricket...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

maybe I DO like RnB...

I kid. No.

It's a genre of music that I am not very fond of but give it a makeover and then maybe? Like this rendition of Neo's 'So sick of love songs' by Armeen Musa, listen:



It's a more slowed down version of the popular RnB song. Reminds me a bit of Nora Jones - jazzy which, Armeen does very well.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Notun Kobor, Notun Gaan, Notun Kore Rabindra Sangeet

Shahana at the launch of her début album

The long awaited début album by Shahana Bazpeyi was finally released yesterday!

Titled Notun Koreh Pabo Boleh, translated very badly means, To Have It Anew. The album is a remake of some of Rabindranath Tagore's classic songs, known as Rabindra Sangeets.

The aim of the album is to bring a more contemporary sound to Rabindra Sangeets. Currently Bazpeyi thinks Rabindara Sangeets are too astute or too "lullaby-like". The idea behind the album is to re-introduce Rabindra Sangeet to the younger audience in a way they can relate to it.

The album consists of ten songs, one of which is a duet with her husband, Arnob - both of whom studied at the Tagore college of Shantiniketan. Arnob composed most of the music on the album and he himself has plans to release a similar version of Rabindra Sangeets in the future (listen to interview here).

The album is only available in Bangladesh and even then it's only available in Dhaka. So it may be a while before I get the opportunity to have a listen (and review) - need an illegal maestro to carry out the deed. In the meantime, we just have to be content with knowing the album has finally been released. It's been a very long wait. Over a year in fact.

Update: Arnob has no plans to release a Rabindra Sangeet album - this was revealed to me by Shahana herself. A shame as I think Arnob's version would have been just as popular and liked, particularly his rendition of majeh majeh which, he sang at the South Bank couple of years ago - 'twas a brilliant night out...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

maula mere maula mere...

and repeat.

Sufi inspired gaana featured in Anwar, a Bollywood movie which I have not seen yet. But do like this song. Sang bootifully by Roop Kumar Rathod. Lyrics by Sayeed Quadri and Hasan Kamal.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Breaking News: "Professor Yunus is an agent of the CIA!"

Who would have thought ey?

Well it is alleged. I am told Mr. Yunus' current role in politics is only to serve the American interest. This stems from the American's persistence in wanting to establish a military base in one of the deshi islands which was previously denied by the Awami League.

Whilst I can believe the Americans most probably want a military base in the bay of Bengal, I'd be surprised they don't have already, they used to have one somewhere during the Pakistan era - my politics is poor, but Mr. Yunus' motive? Should I be swept in with this current conspiracy theory?

I was told this by a AL supporter who, like Hasina, made the issue of the Grameen 40% high-interest rate and that Mr. Yunnus was indeed a man 'who takes bribes, eats interests and is untrustworthy.' Well something like that. It was said in Bengali, can't do translations very well.

The Grameen Bank's high-interest is a cause for concern and interest is just a concern for most Muslims anyway, but the success of Grameen is most probably this high interest - obviously more to this banking system than interest. But leaving interest aside let's follow Mr. Yunus for a bit:

- He was advised last month by the 'religious' lot not to dabble in politics because it was too 'nasty'

- He's been praised by the Bangladeshi Asiatic Society for his current role. In fact it was reported the president of the Society Prof. Emajuddin Ahmed: "hailed Yunus as Bangladesh's hope, inspiration and joy and thanked him for brightening the country's image when it was being dragged into darkness by crime and corruption."

- Mr. Yunnus is currently on a 3-day-visit to Pakistan, he returns on 7th March. He has been invited over the years to provide advice to the Government of Pakistan for the establishment of a sound micro-finance sector in the country. It has resulted in the establishment of a nationwide bank in Pakistan as a replica of the Grameen Bank system, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and legislation for micro-finance operations in that country. (link)

So, Mr. Yunus still very popular in terms if politics and economics. Not fazed by the AL's accusations and seems to carry on with business as normal. Or, if he has retaliated I have clearly not taken any notice. But if he's too busy spreading his micro-finance magic around the world when will he have time for politics...?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Great Find: The Digital South Asia Library


Given to us by the University of Chicago, one of the best universities to carry out research on South Asia. It has stats, references, bibliographies, maps and tonnes of useful information for a budding researcher. It also has the British census records of India which is great, because it's laborious going to the British Library or SOAS locating the books (which is lengthy) and then searching for the stats tables.

Although the stats (given in an Excel spreadsheet) don't exactly add up in some places and there isn't enough info to explain the various fields and terminologies. But I'm hoping that's just me who calculated it wrong and is a bit dumb to "get it." However, there is the 'book' option which enables you to read it online, so you have the accuracy.

This got me excited a little. Kinda sad, but hey...well, Enjoy.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Exciting event that is Women's Appreciation Day


Henna, Massage, Fashion Show, Hair Cutting, Facials and all the other meaningful things you can think of.

*shriek*

Can't say I'm disappointed.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

amar nishito rathe

Shahana Bazpeyi on vocal
Arnob on guitar
A lovely duo they make!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Too annoyed to talk about Language

pfffght!



I think I might just go round conversing in Hindi to annoy people. After all I am a deshi expat who lives in London and so must be confused about my identity because it's all mish mash of Bollywood and English here so makes us cultureless by definition(!)


Actually think I might do the cliché thing and quote a bit of the Quran:

049.013
YUSUFALI: O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mathematics in Islamic Tiling

OK, so I didn't write this article (below). But it would be super cool to be a science jounalist I think. Imperial actually offers science jounalism now and I am thinking maybe...

Medieval Islamic tiling reveals mathematical savvy
19:00 22 February 2007
NewScientist.com
Jeff Hecht

Medieval Islamic designers used elaborate geometrical tiling patterns at least 500 years before Western mathematicians developed the concept.

The geometric design, called "girih", was widely used to decorate Islamic buildings but the advanced mathematical concept within the patterns was not recognised, until now. Physicist Peter Lu at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, realised the 15th-century tiles formed so-called Penrose geometric patterns, when he spotted them on a visit to Uzbekistan.

Scholars had thought the girih were created by drawing a zigzag network of lines with a straight edge and compass. But when Lu looked at them, he recognised the regular but non-repetitive patterns of Penrose tiling - a concept developed in the West only in the 1970s.

Simple periodic patterns can be generated easily by repeating a unit cell of several elements, a technique widely used in tile patterns, but the rotational symmetry possible is limited. In the 1970s, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford in the UK showed, for the first time, that "thick" and "thin" rhombus-shaped tiles could cover a plane, creating a non-repetitive pattern with five-fold rotational symmetry.

Shapes and sizes

Other researchers found that the atoms in certain materials can arrange themselves in similar non-repetitive patterns, which are called quasi-crystals. They are called this because they have a well-defined structure but the atoms are not spaced uniformly as in a normal crystal.

Lu discovered a wealth of girih designs with quasi-crystal patterns through an archive search of documented medieval Islamic architecture. He also found architectural scrolls describing how girih designs were assembled from five regularly shaped tiles, including a bowtie shape, a rhombus, a pentagon, an elongated hexagon, and a decagon.

"These are not quite perfect quasi-crystals," he told New Scientist, because the patterns show a few defects where a single tile was placed incorrectly. He suspects the defects were mistakes by workers putting together the design specified by the designer. "It's only 11 defects out of 3700 Penrose tiles, and each can be corrected by a simple rotation," he says.

The set of five girih tiles decorated, with lines that fit together to make regular patterns first appeared about 1200 AD, a time when Islamic mathematics was flowering. The designs grew increasingly complex, and by the 15th century produced near-perfect Penrose patterns found on the Darb-i Imam shrine in Isfahan, Iran.

Journal reference: Science (vol 315, p 1106)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deshi Identity & Rupa Dupa...Super?

First discovered Dr. Rupa Huq here.

From Desh, a lecturer in Sociology from Kingston with an impressive publication list - a well established individual indeed.

I got to meet Dr. Rupa Huq earlier this evening amongst a panellist discussion on the Bangladeshi Diaspora Identity. This was a broad topic, so people were shooting off at all different angles.

Rupa
impressed me a bit. She probably would have impressed me a whole lot more if I could have spoken to her one-to-one without the rude interruptions from others, who felt the need to voice their opinions over mine, etiquette people! Anyway...

I liked the way she touched on the glorified portrayal of the Bengali identity which you got from the sasa-generations. Something along the lines of; we owe our heritage to Rabrindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray - the clean, upper class, artistic types - the "good" ones that came out of Bengal. Also not forgetting, Ekushey February (ami ki buliteh pari...?)

Of course, for all those who know Tagore and Ray will know that they were actually from west Bengal, if we want to get technical, they're figures of India too. But it was somehow integral that they be kept as our heroes, because after all they were Bengali and the linkage of the language was important - ami ki buliteh pari...

It was significant that she mentioned this - just highlights the confusion amongst many Bangladeshis, the need for a national icon, force something that is not wholly representative onto ourselves. It's hard to get past Tagore and Ray because they are "internationally" recognised (Tagore and his Nobel and Ray and his Oscar) and we want that sort of recognition.

But also, 1971 came and followed Harrison's:

Bangladesh, Bangladesh
Such a great disaster
I don't understand
But it sure looks like a mess

(not forgetting Kissenger).

You wonder why people picked Tagore...
(cue: amar sonar bangla)

But things are changing. Bangladesh is surfacing more as an 'individual' as opposed to something 'borrowed.' Although it may be more attributed to things like:

Climate Change - Rising sea levels and the disappearance of Desh (the irony)
Professor Yunnus - Grameen Bank and the Nobel (the famous)
The war on want - Garment industry in Bangladesh and the likes of Tescos (the capitalism)

Not as ideal in terms of politics but as for recognition it's okay. It's part of the process. A country as young as Bangladesh needs to mature and it needs time, 35 years is not enough. Let's get up to 50 and see.

Rupa also said something that I agreed wholeheartedly with. The burden of representation. Ideally we don't want to be represented by anyone other than ourselves, but alas we get categorised and books such as Brick Lane become a study tool to understand British Bangladeshis.

So here is a formula for those who are thinking to make a certain minority their subject:
(minority + artistic expression) / mass consumerism =
vcreativity x responsibility^3
Apply it!

UK Bangladeshi diaspora - in fact and in fiction
click for larger image

However, Rupa was also neither a fan of White Teeth or East is East which was a little conservative. Whilst I couldn't read Smith I thought East is East was funny. I'm thinking maybe a marketing ploy - get on the right side of the Mosque? As she is one of the contenders for the Labour MP candidacy in Bethnal Green & Bow (currently held by George Galloway).

We still have to wait and see what Rupa is about. I welcome her to the political platform she'll be better than any other Jack (or Abdul) who gets the post. Although Rania, the Respect Councillor for Bromley-by-Bow, has her eyes set on the MP status too. Rania would be an ideal local candidate, on the other hand, any one of these women would be a step forward for Tower Hamlets.