Iconic singer and actress Cher is in Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant,” who will soon leave a Pakistani zoo for better conditions after years of lobbying by animal rights groups and activists.
Because of security concerns, Cher’s schedule was not made public. However, she met Friday with Prime Minister Imran Khan and was expected to visit Kaavan later in the trip, according to the prime minister’s office. Khan’s office released a video of the singer sitting with the prime minister outside on the expansive grounds of Khan’s residence.
Kaavan, the elephant has languished in the zoo for 35 years, and lost his partner in 2012. He was diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished, and also suffers behavioral issues due to his isolation.
Kaavan is set to leave for a sanctuary in Cambodia on Sunday, said Martin Bauer of Four Paws International, a global animal welfare group that’s led the charge to save him since 2016.
Cher took up Kaavan’s cause and has been a loud voice advocating for his resettlement. Four Paws, which often carries out animal rescue missions, has provided the medical treatment needed before Kaavan can travel and will accompany him to the sanctuary.
Even after he’s in Cambodia, he’ll require years of physical and even psychological assistance, Bauer said.
Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life.
A medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet.
The elephant has also developed stereotypical behavior, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.
For the past three months, a Four Paws team including veterinarian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has been readying Kaavan to leave.
Khalil first met Kaavan in 2016, and returned to the zoo in August, where he was heartbroken at the animal’s condition. Khalil has spent the last three months trying to get him ready for his trip to Cambodia.
Kaavan was put on a diet of fruit and vegetables, and as a result has lost half a ton (450 kilograms), he said. Previously, Kaavan was eating 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of pure sugar cane every day, with an occasional fruit and vegetable.
The veterinarian said this was the first time in 30 years that he developed an strong emotional bond with a rescue animal. Now, the “world’s loneliest elephant” comes lumbering over when he hears Khalil’s voice.
“I was always moving, so never allowed myself to develop an emotional attachment,” but with Kaavan he couldn’t resist, Khalil said. He said he has pampered and protected him for the past three months, cajoling him into losing weight as well as being less fidgety and more relaxed so he can make the trip to Cambodia.
Khalil said there are many elephants at the sanctuary, but in particular three female elephants are awaiting Kaavan’s arrival.
Khalil joked that Kaavan might just find a girlfriend there — who knows?
Bauer lauded the powerful impact celebrity voices can have for animal rights.
“Celebrities lending their voices to good causes are always welcomed, as they help starting public discourse and raising pressure on responsible authorities,” he said.
“Around the globe there are animal lovers, famous and not famous, and the support of every single one of them is crucial,” he added.
Sheraspace, a prop-tech interior design firm, seeks to promote interjecting intricacies of Bangladeshi culture and heritage into modern interior design styles while providing high-quality interior design services for the residents of Dhaka.
The firm came into being to reformulate the service of interior designing upon realising the gravity of humanising one’s dwelling.
Since its inception, the firm’s aim has been to make availing high-quality interior design services for the city dwellers a hassle-free essential rather than an unattainable luxury.
Faced with countless obstacles while getting her own family home designed, Sarjeena Maodud joined hands with Nizam Farid Ahmed to unravel the concept of a prop-tech interior design firm.
Sheraspace, a pool for all things interior, is not limited to just designing and delivering projects. From weekly digital design inspiration in the form of tips and advice on Facebook to quizzes, mood boards and live interactive Q&A sessions with their followers, Sheraspace works on a wide variety of content.
They feature weekly blogs on their site, in both English and Bangla, to raise awareness about home and interiors amongst the audience.
“The goal isn’t just promoting the service, but advocating interior designing as a lifestyle in itself,” said Sarjeena Maodud, co-founder and CEO of Sheraspace.
In the face of adversity
Sarjeena Maodud and Nizam Farid Ahmed, co-founder and COO, agreed that having to shift to remote work for a period of over five months during this coronavirus pandemic made on-site operations unimaginable.
But nothing can make determined minds bow to anything. Thus, they launched the ‘Online Interior Design Consultation’ service - the first of its kind in Bangladesh - where individuals interested in home improvement are able to receive expert interior guidance and plans from the comfort of their home, without getting involved in a long-term project.
Behind the scenes
A peek behind the curtains at Sheraspace will broaden the frame for someone who is foreign to the way a young team of 30 unite their efforts. Ranging from the sales team to marketing, tech, operations and creative and design - every member in each department is assigned tasks catered to their unique set of skills.
As adaptation to technology and automation is pivotal to keep afloat in today’s fast-paced world, Sheraspace has embraced tech as dispensable for an interior design firm.
Its team of astute software engineers work to modify the technological inner workings in an attempt to create a technology-driven service.
According to the co-founders, the company is working to introduce Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences for its clients. Every sales executive is coached in the broad field of interior designing to make her/him best equipped for capturing a client’s unique requirements and accordingly pairing them up with a designer best matched to the consumer’s taste and specifications.
While aiming to revolutionise an industry, the key may be in honing behind and beyond the curtain.
How important is redefining interior design in Dhaka?
Sheraspace believes that in redefining the local interior design scene, the key lies in promoting transparency, quality and reliability.
Attaining a service that is meant to enhance the standard of living is something that a consumer should not need to be apprehensive of. It follows then, reformulating the service of interior designing is imperative and Sheraspace aims to do just that.
Though China's Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly states that "elderly people are citizens over 60 years old," the elderly are getting "younger" in the eyes of many due to a higher national life expectancy, reports Xinhua.
In 1957, a 40-year-old man could have been considered an elderly person in China, because official data shows the average life expectancy of the Chinese population at that time was just 57 years. In 2019, that number was 77.3 years.
Over the past 30 years, China's average life expectancy has increased by about three years every decade.
"With continuously improving medical and social security services in the country, the elderly have been getting healthier," said Xing Yuan, a professor of sociology with Shanxi University. "This will affect people's evaluations of the elderly."
But exactly how old is a senior citizen? There are many differing opinions on this matter. However, interviewed experts, ordinary people and the elderly themselves did not believe 60 to be an old age.
Feng Junqi, a 77-year-old retiree in the city of Changzhi, north China's Shanxi Province, said the ten years between 60 and 70 is a "golden decade."
"Sixty years old is not old. We have time and money, and most people are healthy during the decade. We can actually do whatever we like at that time," Feng said.
For more than 10 years, Feng has been traveling the world and has visited more than 60 countries. Today, he is spending more time on calligraphy than traveling abroad. "Now you can call me an old person," he said.
If you take a look at the streets in China, you can see that the elderly are no longer as "old" as they were 20 years ago. They not only look and dress younger but also live more colorful lives in their later years.
From square dancers and elderly club-goers to football lovers and silver-haired internet celebrities, there is a widespread sense of unwillingness to accept the process of aging.
China's elderly consumption market will hit 3.79 trillion yuan (567 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020, according to a report released by the China National Committee on Ageing.
"This is not only because the number of people reaching the legal elderly age continues to increase, but also due to consumer demand generated by the desire to stay young," said Jiang Shan, a senior tour guide in Shanxi Province, adding that major travel agencies are now competing in the elderly tourism market.
Many retirees believe that they can still have significant social value.
Over the past nine years, more than a hundred retirees have been planting trees in the deep mountains of Kelan County, Shanxi Province, greening more than 33 hectares of barren hills.
"We are regarded as senior citizens by law, but we don't feel that old," said Zhang Wenhan, a 74-year-old retired official.
The public's evaluation of age is also affecting policymaking. A few years ago, China began to consider delaying the retirement age, with the general public expressing widespread support for the potential move.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Public Security announced the removal of the upper age limit for car driving license applications.
The number of social security cardholders in China has topped 1.31 billion, covering 93.9 percent of the country's population. The country is now implementing its "Healthy China 2030" strategy, with an action plan covering a period running through 2030.
All efforts will help extend the average life expectancy of the Chinese population and allay the worries of the elderly.
In the future, people who are considered elderly today will be seen as younger in the eyes of the public as age evaluation develops, said Xing Yuan with Shanxi University.
Weddings globally have taken a massive hit since Covid-19 turned the world upside down; forbidding gatherings in fear of the disease’s transmission. Thankfully, Dhaka and other cities are gradually lightening up the preventive measures gradually despite the epidemic persisting this late into the year. Regardless, safety is still paramount; so here is how you can get married in Bangladesh during Covid-19.
The Engagement Ceremony
Despite facing a constraint in attendees for this festive occasion, throwing an engagement party before the big day is still very possible. In Bangladesh, it is common to commemorate an engagement: a celebration that the bridegroom organises to ask the bride’s hand in marriage in the eyes of close family. The celebration happens in the home of the bride and always involves a lavish feast and a formal exchange of rings to seal the deal before the actual marriage.
As of late, these events have commonly taken place in banquet halls, but seeing as the epidemic is far from over - organising the engagement ceremony within the confines of the bride’s home isn’t a bad thing as it sets an intimate environment for both sides of the family and does not hamper the chances of a celebratory feast. Ideally, the fewer the attendees, the safer; which leads us to recommend at least five members from each side of the family at the maximum.
Sangeet, Mehendi and Gaye Holud
Those who choose to organise a Sangeet, Mehendi and Gaye Holud Ceremonies can still add flair to the festivity with music, dance and decor, but it’ll have to be either carefully organised with vendors or done DIY style. With strong encouragement to keep guests to the minimum due to the epidemic, it is critical that any visitors outside of the family (DJs, caterers, etc..) will have to be staggered and carefully monitored while they carry out their tasks in your home.
If you choose to take the helm of planning these events; organising a potluck system, creating a playlist for your sound system at home and vacating your living room space for dancing will not only make the affair a lot more personal, but it will be easy on your wallet too. In this difficult time, it would be straightforward to merge all three into one event, but if the bride wants to have her own Mehendi ceremony with their closest friends separately, that could definitely be a wonderful alternative if the aforementioned has been carried out safely.
Akht or Nikkah
This sacred ceremony won’t suffer too much from the current global situation, as Akht is a very personal union in the eyes of God and society that requires the minimum of two witnesses to help commemorate the unification of the couple through the signing of the registry. More may attend, and Akht can be mixed in with the next two ceremonies, but safe distancing and a small group of guests are still mandatory precautions to take.
The Wedding Ceremony & Reception
The big day in any culture has always demanded a large gathering of loved ones from the bridegroom and the bride’s lives to commemorate the once-in-a-lifetime festivity (hopefully). However, Covid-19 has forced couples everywhere to downsize the official celebration. Booking a luxurious venue could definitely apply to other festivities on this list, but none is higher on the priority list than the actual wedding.
Once again, it is vital to keep guests to a minimum despite no official hard cap being enforced. With countries opening up to have more than 30 people allowed in a single area, slight leniency can be accepted. Ideally wedding vendors, organisers and guests have their temperature taken and seated at least a few meters apart for safe distancing. Ultimately, it will be up to the bride and groom to figure out how many people can fit into the venue while following the recommended safety procedures. Being Covid-safe does unfortunately require a little more effort and compromise, but if basic safety measures are followed, everyone at your wedding can still let loose enough for us to put the global situation aside for a just a while.
Being cooped up at home due to the pandemic paid handsomely for a Minnesota horticulture teacher who used the extra time to constantly water and feed a massive pumpkin that won this year’s Half Moon Bay pumpkin contest.
Travis Gienger, of Anoka, Minnesota, spent a lot of his free time in the pumpkin patch in his backyard, watering his plants up to 10 times a day and feeding and fertilizing them at least twice each day.
Gienger, 40, then drove his gargantuan gourd for 35 hours to see his hard work pay off at the 47th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, where his winner came in at 2,350 pounds (1,066 kilograms).
“It was nerve-wracking because with every bump on the road I kept thinking, ‘is it going to make it?’” And then finally it got weighed, it was the last one, and oh, my gosh, it’s been incredible!” Gienger said.
Gienger, a landscape and horticulture teacher at Anoka Technical College, has been growing pumpkins since he was a teenager, inspired by his father who also grew them. It was his first time competing at the Half Moon Bay weigh-off but he’s not sure he’ll be back next year.
“I might need a year off from the work and the nerves and everything,” he said, laughing.
The first-time pumpkin champ won $16,450, or $7 per pound, for the lumpy, orange pumpkin that will be showcased during a parade through Half Moon Bay later Monday.
Gienger’s pumpkin was the second-heaviest ever weighed at the 40-year-old California event, but it was still far from a U.S. record. That was set in 2018 when a grower in New Hampshire produced a pumpkin weighing more than 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms).
The record for the heaviest pumpkin in the world was set in 2016 at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in Ludwigsburg, Germany. A Belgium grower’s winning whopper came in at just over 2,600 pounds (1,179 kilograms).