Cyclone Bulbul’s entourage includes copious amounts of rainfall wherever it passes, as well as advance delegations that drenched the entire venue of the Dhaka Literature Festival, the sprawling grounds of Bangla Academy.
However, no amount of Bulbul’s ambassadors of gloom could dampen the Dhaka book lovers’ enthusiasm for their dose of literary fix, at an event that after 9 years can truly claim to have won its place in people’s hearts.
The morning session started with spiritual Bhajan-Kirtan songs at the lawn, and a great bunch of discussion seminars covering topics such as African experience of Jeffrey Jettleman with Dhaka Tribune’s Editor Zafar Sobhan; celebrating 2019 as the year of indigenous languages by Raja Devasish Roy With Muktasree Chakma; ‘Power of Pictures’ by Fahim Anzoom and Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy with Abrar Athar and one of the most anticipated discussion titled ‘Bangabandhu in his own words’ by renowned educationist Dr Fakrul Alam, Mahrukh Mohiuddin and Shamsuzzaman Khan with Rashid Askari.
‘India Against Itself’ was another special attraction seminar of this year’s DLF, where Shashi Tharoor, the former Foreign Affairs minister of India, talked about how the most powerful and economically strong country of Southeast Asia contradicted its own views on several aspects and themes, from time to time. C R Abrar moderated the session.
Australian-Pakistani hip-hop artist Zohab Zee Khan, who had tantalized the audiences of this year’s DLF through his energetic aesthetics, attended Malaysian journalist Sharad Kuttan's session on 'Imagine' on the third and final day of Dhaka Lit Fest 2019. Zohab spoke about his childhood and entry into hip-hop genre, “My journey was never easy.”
He also mentioned about criticisms he faced socially and religiously for his love for poetry and art performance. However, he dismissed those and encouraged the audience to pursue their dreams and said the key to success is hard work, routine life and most-important of them all- self confidence.
In a session titled 'Art of Conversation' took place at the AKSB Auditorium in afternoon, where the three-directors and co-founders of this year’s DLF Saadaf Saaz, Ahsan Akbar and K Anis Ahmed said that the essence of a show depends largely on the moderator.
"The host must be outspoken, have prior experience in the subject and most importantly the research skills," he said.
Sadaf Saaz said, “For good coordination a conductor should read relevant materials. The quality of collecting the information about the subject makes a host much more efficient.” She also suggested focusing on the specifics during the discussion to make it livelier.
Ahsan Akbar said a moderator must listen closely to the guests. He recommended speaking to the invited guest a few minutes earlier the show to ease things up.
Discussing the role of doctrine in larger life, a panel consisting of writer Michael Dwyer, Kenan Malik, sociologist Seuty Sabur and journalist Thomas Roueche spoke about generating new ideas and reimagining the older ones alongside their effect on the followers. The session was moderated by Joseph Alchin, author of the widely read book 'Men's Rivers and One Sea'.
Publisher Michael Dwyer said, “I try to book almost all humanitarian doctrines. I try to simplify the views; Sometimes in comic form, sometimes through story books. It is easily accessible to people of all ages.”
As part of 'Celebrating the Year of Indigenous Languages', a session had Chakma King Debashish Roy with researcher Muktashree Chakma where he spoke about representation of indigenous people. He said formation of a language neutral race is needed while speaking at the Bangla Academy's poet Shamsur Rahman Seminar room.
Debashish Roy said, ‘A nation's culture is integrated with its language. All small communities have to fight not only economically, but also for their culture and language.’ He urged all stakeholders to step forward in end the linguistic discriminations to all indigenous communities.
One of the most loved segments of the closing day and perhaps in this year’s Lit Fest, Bangladeshi respected dramatists and real life couple Ferdousi Majumder and Ramendu Majumder shared their secrecy of being happily married in the session ‘Moncher Juti, Jiboner Juti’ at the AKSB auditorium.
“Our families were different, religion was different, identity was different- yet we managed to get fallen in love with each other. We have always felt extremely fortunate as our families agreed on the marriage; however the hardships presented in the society were not so easy to pass through. It was never easy, but not impossible either” – the couple expressed the situations they faced during the ages of love-letters.
They narrated their entire journey of togetherness on the event, recited few dialogues from one of their stage collaborations, discussed their timeline and situations and their daughter Tropa Majumdar, another prominent theatre activists in Bangladesh, said that the best secret of her parents’ togetherness had always been one particular term- ‘mutual respect’, towards each other.
As the progressive developing nation, Bangladesh needs its future generation get prepared to pursue challenges by being properly educated. Five of the amazing, young Bangladeshis who had been dedicatedly working in this particular sector- Maimuna Ahmad who introduced the globally acclaimed educational organization Teach For Bangladesh in the country; Anir Chowdhury who is the Policy Advisor of the a2i Program of the Government of Bangladesh; BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh; Sumana Biswas who is working as the head teacher at Nalonda High School (A Culturally Integrated Education Program of Chhayanaut) and JAAGO Foundation’s founder and executive director Korvi Rakshand- discussed about the problems and possible solutions to cleanse up the problems in the country's educational sector.
As it was announced that notable Indian-Bengali writer Shankar, who was the closing guest at this year’s DLF, was unable to fulfil his commitment to be present at the concluding ceremony due to his illness- the closing saw a tremendous poetic performance of Tishani Doshi, an award-winning Indian poet, novelist and dancer.
Dhaka Tribune’s Editor Zafar Sobhan, City Bank’s Managing Director Mashrur Arefin, Bangla Academy’s Director General Habibullah Siraji, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, University of London Rachel Dwyer and DLF’s co-founder and director Saadaf Saaz spoke at the closing ceremony and expressed their heartfelt thanks to the attendees at this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest- with the hope to return this literary extravaganza on an even bigger margin next year, which is going to be themed and dedicated on the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Dhaka, Nov 9 (UNB) – November rain could not wash away the joy of celebrating global literature on the second day of the Dhaka Lit Fest.
On Friday, a weekly holiday in Bangladesh, the crowd appeared to be undeterred by the rain, making the festival feel more crowded.
The extravaganza of the day started with spiritual Christian Choir at the lawn, and two tremendous performances for children took place at the first slot in the Cosmic Tent and Nazrul Stage.
At Bangla Academy’s AKSB auditorium, William Dalrymple discussed the occupation of Bengal by East India Company which took place. "Founding of East India Company was seemingly the birth of capitalism, which, since its beginning locked steps with colonialism," he said at the session titled ‘The Anarchy’.
He said East India Company “is the origin everything we fear about big corporations now".
Complementing his take on the colonial British Empire, another session of Dalrymple focused on the art structure during the occupation of India at the cosmic tent shortly afterwards, titled ‘Forgotten Masters’.
He showcased artworks of lesser-known Indian painters, mostly peasants.
The sessions continued with a discussion titled ‘Gunpowder’ by prominent educationist Kaiser Haq, on Arunav Sinha’s ‘There's Gunpowder in the Air’- a storytelling translation of Nakshal movement activist Manoranjan Byapari’s much-acclaimed book ‘Batashe Baruder Gondho’.
This year’s DLF has a performer named Zohab Zee Khan - the Australian Poetry Slam Champion poet and hip-hop artist who can pump up the crowd within seconds with his word-magic. Other prominent poets, including Kaiser Haq, Kamal Chowdhury and Tishani Doshi, also recited their poems.
As part of one of the most hyped sessions in Dhaka Lit Fest, a discussion took place on Friday commemorating the works of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his role as a phenomenal leader of the postcolonial era.
Indian writer and former state minister Shashi Tharoor, prominent Bangladeshi journalist and Advisory Editor of Dhaka Courier Afsan Chowdhury and poet Kamal Chowdhury expressed their thoughts.
The session was moderated by ULAB’s Pro-VC Shamsad Mortuza. Being the prolific speaker that he is known for, Tharoor reflected on the vitality of Bangabandhu's leadership after partition.
“The original postcolonial liberators had the advantage of fighting for freedom from a foreign power... [but] in the case of Sheikh Mujib, he had already witnessed that moment of liberation. The foreigners were gone ... he became the first leader in the postcolonial system to interrogate what identity it meant and to do so through enormous struggle," he said.
He further mentioned that during the term as Prime Minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman articulated the four pillars of the state very well to guide the nation.
“He had a tremendous ability to move people with his oratory, his language. He had a vision,” said Shashi Tharoor.
Afsan Chowdhury noted that since partition, Bangabandhu sought for a state free from all kind of oppression and added that Bangabandhu “was never loyal to Pakistan”. He mentioned that Bangabandhu realised the power of peasantry of Bengal region very well and won them over with his leadership.
"Sheikh Mujib was not interested in any other region, he just wanted a Bengal region of what he saw a peasantry region," he said. "In 1947, Pakistan comes into being. In 1948, the first strike against Pakistsn was called. If Sheikh Mujib was pro-Pakistan, then he'd have never called the strike," he added.
Poet Kamal Chowdhury highlighted the contributions of Bangabandhu in rebuilding the country after liberation saying "Bangabandhu's whole life is an epic tale". He also credited the great leader for the founding of the first state-driven by nationalism.
"First nationalist state in South Asia was established by Bangabandhu," Kamal said. He also discussed government plans to celebrate Bangabandhu’s birth centenary next year.
As Dhaka Lit Fest is known for being an open hub to portray the best of culture in Bangladesh by Bangladeshi artists, three mesmerising performances at the Nazrul Stage literally stole the hearts of the admiring crowd in the rainy Friday. The morning was tantalised by country’s first-ever all-female indigenous rock band F Minor, The afternoon was majestic because of the heavenly presentation by the unique Bengali team Ghashphoring Choir along with singer Rezaul Karim Leemon, and the evening was full of positivity with the songs of love and ‘Humanity’, by Shayan.
All these musical acts are led by female vocalists. Shining through the sphere of performing arts, one particular Bangladeshi artist genuinely proved herself. ‘Preema Donna – An Infinite Journey’, the book of prominent Bangladeshi visual artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema who represented Bangladesh at La Biennale di Venezia this year, was unveiled at the Dhaka Lit Fest on Friday.
Published and produced by Cosmos Books, the book is divided into five chapters, depicts Preema’s artistic journey of two decades. “This publication is my inspiration to be more committed towards my intense journey of creativity,” said Preema.
The celebration of the lives of successful women was also vibrantly present and continued at the AKSB auditorium from 4pm till the ending of Day two at 8pm. The first session started with this year’s special guest Monica Ali, who described her whole journey ‘Beyond Brick Lane’ along with moderator Sadaf Saaz, the director of DLF.
Monica shared her story of being a Bangladesh-born writer in the UK and her detailed, broader vision for the next generation of women around the world, who the Pulitzer-nominee writer believes would not get themselves confined under any aristocracy or circumstances.
The day ended with the much-acclaimed screening of the docu-film made on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s life.
Director Piplu Khan sat down after the screening to elaborate the narrative vision of the film along with its music director Debajyoti Mishra, a composer and musician from Kolkata, and Radwan Mujib Siddiq, trustee of Centre for Research and Information, a prominent research and advocacy institute in Bangladesh and the docudrama’s producer association.
The speakers specified their experiences about working on this docudrama and the journey. Session moderator Anjum Katyal was from Kolkata.
Hasina was portrayed in the docudrama as the common man’s leader whose life had no possible way to regain the beauty of living, once her whole family got brutally murdered. She bounced back and took the mantle of power but she is not above human. Sheikh Hasina is a wonderful human being and loving lady, and this film was a tribute to her courage and simplicity, the speakers said.
Bangladesh’s first-ever electric prepaid metre-manufacturing plant has failed to start its commercial operation as it is already running nearly four months behind the schedule.
State-owned West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd (WZPDCL), a subsidiary of Bangladesh Power Development Board, and Hexing Electrical Company Ltd, a Chinese firm, have jointly set up the plant under 51:49 ownership basis. The authorised capital of the new company is about Tk 50 crore while the paid-up capital is Tk 28.6 crore.
On September 2, 2018, the company got the government approval after a joint venture contract was signed between the two companies to produce prepaid metres in Bangladesh.
A five-member board of directors was formed in this regard. There are two more employees beside the board of directors under WZPDCL.
To launch the plant and facilitate its activities, the Mridha Complex near zero-point of Khulna was taken on rent in October last year at a monthly rent of Tk 1.60 lakh.
The company was scheduled to begin the manufacturing and assembling metres in June last, a plan which is left in the lurch.
Asked when the production will begin, WZPDCL secretary Abdul Motalib, who is also the director (finance) of the joint venture company, said it will happen soon and could not give any exact date.
Approached with the same question, WZPDCL managing director Eng. Mohamamd Shafik Uddin said it will be opened either in the first or second week of the December next.
Mentioning that production in a single shift will begin at the initial stage, Shafik Uddin said a target has been set to manufacture 2some ,000 metres a day from the plant.
Although the price of the metre has not been fixed yet, they expect it to be less than the market one. But power consumers are not happy with the quality of prepaid meters which are already there in Khulna.
Despite the criticism, locals said, WZPDCL is expediting the activities of the company jointly owned with Hexing Electrical Company Ltd of China. Although it will be the only metre-manufacturing factory of Bangladesh, questions have been raised about its quality, they said.
The mass demand on verifying the quality by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Khulna University of Engineering & Technology (KUET) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has not been implemented, they further alleged.
According to sources at WZPDCL, all its consumers will be brought under prepaid metres with the establishment of the new metre company.
Advocate Md Babul Howladar, member secretary of Khulna Nagarik Samaj, said it has already been proved that WZPDCL has wasted public money. “Not only that, the WZPDCL authorities held a press conference and admitted their mistake while asking for six more months to launch the plant.
Ruhin Hossain Prince, one of the organisers of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports said WZPDCL could not ensure its transparency even after so many movements and programmes.
The crisis over WZPDCL’s prepaid metre has been conveyed to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission and Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), and CAB has already moved the court over the issue, Ruhin said.
Hundreds of farmers in the district are delighted over bumper yield of vegetables on the char lands of the Gomti River and their good prices.
During a visit to the char area in Sadar, Burichang, Brahmanpara, Debidwar, Muradnagar, Titas, Homna and Daudkandi upazilas of the district, the UNB correspondent vast tracts of land covered with green winter vegetables including radish, cauliflower, cabbage, gourd, tomato, bean, chili, pumpkin and red spinach.
Farmers were seen selling the vegetables grown on the char lands in the markets of district and upazila headquarters.
According to district Agricultural Extension Department, more than 5000 marginal farmers cultivate different types of vegetables on about 2,000 hectares of char lands.
Farmers were found nurturing their vegetables with much enthusiasm as the market prices of vegetables is good this year.
Mosharraf Hossain of Jaluapara village in Gomti river embankment area, said he has already sold out radish worth Tk 150,000 which was cultivated on only one acre of char land.
He has earned profit of Tk 50,000 and then cultivated cabbage on the same land.
Mizan Mia of the same village said he is happy with radish and cauliflower yield on his field. After harvesting these two vegetables, he will cultivate bitter gourd, snake-gourd and ribbed gourd on the same land, he added.
Mantu Mia of Majhigachha village said vegetables grow well with less cost in the char area for availability of irrigation facility from the Gomti River.
Some local farmers make seedbeds on the char land for growing seedlings for their own fields.
“I spend the profit money earned from growing seedlings in the paddy cultivation,” said Imon Mia of Rontabati village.
Suranjit Chandra, deputy director of DAE district office, said fertile char land is very suitable for vegetables cultivation and irrigation can be managed here from the river.
Farmers grow crops three times a year on the char land, he said adding that DAE has been providing all necessary suggestions to the farmers to produce toxic-free vegetables.
The shortage of capital, coupled with the rising prices of various materials, have put the vegetable seedling producers of the district in a big trouble.
According to farmers, excessive rain from the very beginning of the current season disrupted production on one hand and delayed their sale on the other, leaving no option for them but to throw away the previously-planted seedlings that had grown old.
They said they had to prepare the seedbeds anew and plant seeds again, causing huge financial losses to them.
The farmers said most of them have to take land on lease for producing seedlings as they do not have land of their own. Preparing the field, ploughing, buying insecticides, bamboo, seeds, fertiliser, and polythene, among others, cost the quite a bit.
Unable to arrange the capital, most farmers take loan on high interest and the amount of loan goes up when the sale of seedlings is disrupted.
Seedlings are produced in Dhulipara, Newra, and various villages of Chowar union of Sadar Upazila, Bharella, Moynamoti and Mokam of Burichang upazila.
Many farmers said they had to pay twice the amount for seeds this year compared to 2018. At the same time, the prices of other materials, including pesticides, also jumped.
They said they are going ahead with seedling production braving all the odds and obstacles.
They mainly grow seedlings of tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, chili, brinjal, bitter gourd, onion, snake gourd, pumpkin, ridge gourd, and luffa gourd.
The nurseries are situated on both sides of Moynamoti to Kongshonagar road of Cumilla-Sylhet Highway and Korpai to Moynamoti area of Burichang upazila in Dhaka-Chattogram Highway.
Thanks to an excellent road communication system, farmers from adjacent districts, including Sylhet, Noakhali, and Chattogram, buy seedlings from these nurseries.
Cumilla Department of Agricultural Extension’s Training Officer Md Shahidul Haque said the seedlings are sold at the end of Bangla month of Badhra and beginning of Ashwin. But the producers incurred losses as they could not prepare the seedbed because of untimely rain.
“They had to spend more money on producing seedlings,” he said adding, “The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) is considering providing easy loan to the seedling producers.”