Kashmir, a paradise lost?

Midnight is remarkably intertwined with the fate of India. It was the wee hours of midnight when India overthrew its colonisers of 200 years and won its freedom almost 72 years ago. It was the past midnight on 5th of August, 2019 when India unforgivingly discarded everything its founding fathers believed in and decided to tear down Jammu-Kashmir. 72 years later, complete darkness has now engulfed the paradise on earth.

Kashmir’s struggle

Before 1947, Kashmir was a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir. The lush green mountains with the backdrop of the Himalayan range and forever blessed with clear blue skies had rightfully earned its name of Paradise on Earth. But Kashmir was troubled. It has always been.

During partition, thanks to Kashmir’s then-ruling King Hari Singh, Kashmir had joined India instead of Pakistan under few special conditions, all of which were met. According to these conditions, Kashmir remained the only specialised state in India, complete with its own flag, constitution and prime minister. Kashmir had the freedom to make its own laws and decisions, except for foreign affairs, military moves and communications which remained under the central’s control.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Thanks to this certain degree of autonomy, Kashmir could make rules regarding property ownership and fundamental rights, even bar Indian residents of other states to buy properties in Kashmir, a law which protected the locals from being outnumbered by their own countrymen from different states.  

Many aspects of this autonomous facility of Kashmir became a futile gesture under the Indian state in the years to follow.

Prime Minister became Rajyapal. Its constitution became merely a booklet in the corner shelf.

But Article 370 still protected the residents of Kashmir. It protected the ownership rights and the constitutional autonomy of the only Muslim majority state in India, at least formally in papers.

Revoking Article 370 was in the 2019 election manifesto of BJP. But few had thought it would actually get implemented. Few had assumed that BJP would have the audacity to tear down the only string that still kept the troubled Kashmir bound together with India and risk riots, communal turbulence and to speak of the worst, outright war with Pakistan.

The fall of Kashmir

But it happened. The sign was clear from the first few days of August. Thousands of additional troops were deployed. An emergency was declared. Tourism, schools, pilgrimages were called off. And when everyone was assuming that only section 35A of the constitution, which allowed special rights to Kashmir, would be scrapped, Modi’s Government revoked almost the entire Article 370, stripping Kashmir completely of its autonomy.

Kashmir will also be divided into two federally governed regions. One will combine Muslim majority Kashmir and Hindu majority Jammu. The other will be the Buddhist majority and Tibet influenced Ladakh.

Kashmir lost its flag, its constitution. Kashmir’s leaders were put under house arrest. Its people are now susceptible to general Indian laws and rules. Any Indian national can now buy property in Kashmir and Kashmiris no longer hold the right to decide their own fate.

BJP’s complex relationship with Hindu right-wing

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Hindu nationalist and right-wing groups are welcoming it while protests are breaking out in Kashmir. Amit Shah says the move amends “mistakes in the past” and that will pave the path for development in Kashmir. But in reality, it’s a catastrophic decision. Especially considering the fact that Kashmir has had a troublesome history with Indian ruling since the last 30 years. Separatists sentiment had been growing steadily with movements and unrest breaking out every now and then.

Many fear that the new move will allow Hindu right-wing majority to take over native Kashmiri land and turn the locals into a minority group. Some go even further assuming an ethnic cleansing on the plate, given BJP’s extremist sentiments in the past.

Midnight’s children no more

Kashmiris had long been dreaming of and fighting for an “Azaad Kashmir”. With this new move in place, that dream is long gone. With populism quickly rising in world politics, India has sealed its fate for the foreseeable future. First with the landslide victory of BJP in the 2019 elections and now with the stripping of Kashmir’s autonomous status. India has put the final nail in the coffin and is on its way to becoming the monster it defeated 72 years ago.

From slums of Dhaka to the USA: The incredible story of Siam

We all love underdogs. Rags to riches stories are quite popular amongst people. A story defying all odds has become a reality in our country because of the amazing resilience of a boy. A boy from the slums of Rayerbazar has managed a scholarship in one of the most prestigious IB programs of USA!

If anyone ever told MD Bilal Hossain, a caretaker in Rayerbazar, that his son would one day attend a prestigious program in the US, he would probably let out a big sigh or laugh it off. He had struggled quite a lot in maintaining the expenses of his family from his low-paid job. His struggles doubled when he lost his job right after admitting his only son, Siam Hossain, in a school of Jaago foundation in 2008.

Flash forward eleven years, Siam has successfully rekindled the hopes of his family for a better through his nothing less than stellar academic performance.

He has managed to earn a two-year scholarship at the renowned United World College (UWC) in New Mexico, USA.

Starting from the academic session 2019-20, the scholarship is worth $80,000.

Siam’s academic journey through years

This wonderful academic achievement didn’t come in a single day. Siam had always shown good performances in his academics.  He had achieved GPA-5 in the Primary Education Completion (PEC) examination in 2012. He had also registered an A grade from the science department at last year’s Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations.

The UWC programme

UWC (or United World Colleges) is a global educational movement with the mission to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”. UWC consists of 18 schools and colleges on four continents, several short educational programmes, and national committees in 159 countries and territories worldwide.

Siam has received a scholarship in their college of New Mexico. Most of these18 schools and colleges exclusively offer two-year residential programmes, for young people aged 16–19 years, during which they complete the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.

“There was a time when I didn’t take my studies that seriously. However, hopes for better and higher schooling arose in my mind after being admitted to the Jaago Foundation School”

Siam said during a press conference at Jaago. 

Siam thanked his sponsors because there was a time he thought of quitting his studies because of financial hardship. He had also mentioned how his ambitions rose after his stellar result in the PECE examination. 

The dreams of Siam

Siam expressed his ambition to become either a doctor or a communication specialist. Upon completing his two-year course at the UWC, he would like to pursue higher education at a foreign university before returning home to serve the people.

Rethinking feminine hygiene with jute based sanitary pads

Compared to other females in their early mid-twenties, I have a fairly manageable period cycle. I was a tad early and started to bleed from the green age of 12. So far I have roughly used up 3000 pieces of disposable sanitary pads. All of which are made out of materials that include plastics, chemicals and not 100% biodegradable and environmentally friendly components. This is the solitary contribution of one sole person to the never-ending global pollution.

Now, as a person who’s concerned about the planet (because, duh! We only live here!), this calculation alarms me. A big chunk of the world’s population bleeding on any menstruation product every 6- 8 hours is creating this huge pile of junk that we don’t know how to permanently get rid of.

Menstruation Cups have been introduced as a solution to all this, but let’s face it- its basically the luxury like our government thinks menstruation products are. And it’s not accessible to the female population of a country where only 11% of the menstruating population uses safe hygienic products.

Jute to the rescue

After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi included it in one of his public speeches, jute based sanitary pads has become the talk of the town in our neighbouring country. People from all sides of India, as well as from this side of the border, are congratulating the IJIRA (Indian Jute Industries Research Association) on this breakthrough.

Rethinking feminine hygiene: Jute based sanitary pads

It’s a breakthrough because, with this, the cost per pad is down to 1-2 Rs, whereas the cost of the regular pads is 8-12 Rs/piece.

It will also dissolve in the soil after dumping, which removes a huge concern for the environmentalists along the way. Not to mention the boost it will give to the dying jute industry of a country that used to have jute as one of its primary crops.

But is this the first time?

Here comes the interesting part. It’s not. 

In Kenya, JaniPad was introduced to keep girls from dropping out of school. It was made of Water Hyacinth which was chosen because of its high water absorbency rate. But the project got shut off due to lack of funding and proper management.

Bangladesh had its efforts too

Afterwards, JaniPad sparked the idea to use Water Hyacinth, along with Cotton, as raw material for pads into a student of BRAC University, Naziba Nayla Wafa.

It dissolved within two weeks of discarding and water hyacinth keeps the absorbency up to the much-needed scale. She had a team of 10 female workers who made these and distributed them among 2000 women in Mohammadpur Geneva Camp.

She used it herself, along with 2 other team members to test it. Naziba wanted to work on it more, but could not due to a number of reasons.

A late limelight

The IJIRA project, Saathi, started more than a year ago. But it only came to light as Modi mentioned it himself. Saathi is even getting fund from the Central Government because the then Minister of Textile, Smriti Irani pursued it herself to save the Jute Industry and promote female hygiene at the same time. So the chance of failure for this project is slimming down. And if it gets to zero, then this will prove a little involvement from the authorities is enough to ensure a safer and better tomorrow for all.

The planet we live in and the womb we come out of- both of them deserve the utmost care. But somehow these are the two things we treat in the most careless manner. We are polluting the Earth knowingly and unknowingly on a daily basis. We are not providing proper accessible hygiene and medical care for the female reproductive system. This is a step that shows it is possible to do both without even taking a dig at the economy. All it needs is the willingness to do so.

I wish the best of luck to Sathi and fingers crossed we learn something from this.

See-saws through a border between two countries bridge humanity and hope

Seesaws bring us back to childhood. The innocent giggles and bliss of enjoyment in the highs and lows of the swing made life seem quite effortless. To rekindle lost hope between two nations, bright pastel pink seesaws were installed between the US-Mexico border. Children from both the borders have gathered around to enjoy the playfulness and are on board to make new friends.

Republicans keep saying how the US-Mexico border is a lawless place. This simple project clearly shows how it’s not as horrific as they make it out to be.

The Mastermind behind it all

Californian architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello with the support of Colectivo Chopeke in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico were the mastermind behind it all.

According to Rael’s Instagram post, the project was a recognition of action that happens on one side which puts a direct impact on the other. They brought the conceptual drawings of the Teeter totter Wall from 2009 into reality.

This symbolizes the power of balance regardless of how delicate situations may become. The children and adults brought that symbolic concept into reality.

The “Anti-Trump” seesaws are gestures that no “wall” can break the hope of faith.

Read more: How living in Kolkata as a Bangladeshi made me more culturally aware

Their website further talks about how Mexicans struggle to find work in the US, but often long to live comfortably in their own country. US industry and agriculture is dependent upon immigrant labour pools.

However, the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and Immigration and Naturalization Services have made it increasingly difficult to attract foreign labour.

Read more: The story of Non-Bangalis in Bangladesh and the book that rescues them

The Teeter Totter Wall demonstrates the delicate balances between the two nations. Faith and goodness in humanity peaks on our social media feed once again.

“Almeerah” brings in first fashion rental service in Bangladesh

Defining fashion would be a difficult task. Some call it passion, some call it change and some believe trends are the mastermind behind it all. Fashion designers of Bangladesh have proved their talent and passion through leaps and bounds, representing their work to the world. Amidst new trends and innovating business ideas, the one to keep an eye out to is Almeerah.

Almeraah is bringing fashion to you the easiest way possible. It is the first rental service platform of Bangladesh associating with fashion. A digital wardrobe stacked with exclusive dry washed sarees that you can rent at a very affordable price within Dhaka.

An idea with a purpose

The story of Almeerah starts when the founder had to struggle with finding the right kind of blazer before a thesis defence. Unable to find any blazer appropriate for his height, he decides to borrow it from a friend who lived far away from him. Understanding the difficulty of fashion for people on different occasions, he realized that there could be a way through which fashion can be more accessible, affordable and fun for everyone. With a team and a plan, Almeerah is now set to help you rent exclusive sarees for occasions where you won’t have to buy a new one only to wear it once in a blue moon!

A minimalist approach to fashion

With the service that Almeerah provides for their customers, you will not only spend less money but your closet will no longer have clothes you barely wear. Almeerah has a sustainable approach to a choice you would not mind adding to your list. With their launch of this brand new online business, they will soon bring other products in-store soon.

Till then, choose katan, silk or traditional kanjipuram, because Almeerah has it all for you!

Foods that help increase platelet count

Platelets are the smallest of our blood cells, seen only under a microscope, circulate within our blood and bind together at the site of a damaged blood vessel. On receiving the signal from damaged sites, the platelets rush to the site, bind together and clamp the damaged vessel, thereby controlling the damage. You can call them, “On-site repairing engineers”. So, maintaining a normal count of these tiny blood cells is very important.

A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood.

However, for certain conditions and diseases, such as dengue, something in the blood prevents the formation of platelets. This can be understood from a low platelet count from a routine blood test called a complete blood count (CBC). Once this happens, consulting a doctor and getting further tested is the first step. Once the patient is diagnosed with what is causing the low platelet count, there are certain foods that aid recovery:

Papayas

Papaya can be consumed in both solid and juice form and it helpe elevate platelet counts.

Lemon & Orange Juice

Eat other Vitamin C rich foods to promote antibodies. It is vital to boost immunity. Make a smoothie with a combination of these fruits, add in honey, turmeric, ginger which are advisable for regular consumption.

Amla

This fruit is good to add to the diet. It is another source of vitamins and readily available in summer seasons.

Pomegranate juice

This fruit is also packed with essential nutrients and counters the fatigue that comes with a low platelet count.

Leafy vegetables

Vegetables like spinach are rich in vitamins, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help in boosting the immune system and a better immune system helps recover faster. However, the vegetables should not be consumed in an oily or spicy manner. Preferred method of preparations is to boil it sufficiently, absolutely avoiding any raw vegetables.

This is a recommended diet to aid recovery, it is not meant as an alternative to medicine and formal healthcare. Do not self diagnose.

Low platelet count is a common symptom of a strain of dengue.

To read how to prevent dengue in the first place: https://m.hifipublic.com/en/2019/07/26/preventing-dengue-steps-that-you-must-take/

Preventing dengue: Steps that you must take

The dengue situation in the country has reached an epidemic level at this point. Hospitals are getting filled up fast by the affected and many are dying due to lack or delay of treatment.

The situation is only made worse by the unique type of dengue that is being observed this year. The symptoms are not being visible early on, leaving many unsuspicious of their dengue fever.

Here are 6 steps that you can take to make sure you stay safe from the epidemic disease:

  1. If you have water clogging around the room or your house, clear them at least every three days
  2. Do not let water accumulate anywhere, including flower pots, containers, used up cans and other similar objects
  3. Use a mosquito net while sleeping, whether it is night or day. Aedes mosquitos are known for flying around during daytime as much as the night
  4. If possible, consider wearing light coloured full-sleeved tops and pants at all times
  5. Use mosquito repellants on the hands, legs and uncovered area of the face whenever possible
  6. Shut the windows, doors and nets during dawn and dusk

Dengue is deadly, but it is preventable and treatable. If you are caught off guard with a fever, get yourself checked as early as possible. Don’t wait for the symptoms to show up. Stay safe and spread awareness.

Flood in Bangladesh worsens. Here’s how you can help

Due to torrential rain and rush upstreams, flood has affected more than three million people all over 21 districts in Bangladesh. While some districts are improving through the steady progress, districts such as Jamalpur, Sylhet, Gaibandha, Sunamganj, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar are the most affected area so far.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

There is a scanty level of drinking water supplies, places to takes shelter in and diseases such as dengue and fever are spreading in these areas. In order to help. During these times of needs, the survivors and victims need as much as possible assistance necessary.

Source: Google

Charity organisations such as Islamic Relief USA, pennyappeal, CONCERN worldwide, Team বন্যা, Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh and many others are accepting donations and helping the people in these regions. If you want to help and train for the post-flood actions, do contact these organisations accordingly.

More than 100 people died over the week, due to a low source of healthy food and water, snakebites, drowning and other waterborne diseases.

Top Business Competitions in Bangladesh and everything you need to know

If you are a university student in Bangladesh, Business Competitions are not new terms to you. There’s a chance you know about most of them, there’s a higher chance you might have participated in a few of them. Why you should take part in one, is a discussion for another time. But for now, here’s everything you need to know about the most prestigious competitions in Bangladesh and how you need to prepare for them.

1.Battle of Minds by BAT

Battle of Minds, organised by British American Tobacco is one of the most prestigious and most rewarding business competitions in the country. Every year BAT holds Battle of Minds where university students who are in their final years get to participate for the highest glory. You face off the bests of the bests in the field and upon winning, you get a head start towards a rewarding career path.

Rounds: 4 (Online Exam-Focus Group Discussion-Business Pitch-Case Solving)

Team Members: 4

Awards: A Crest and a headstart in the recruitment process.

2. Bizmaestros by Unilever

Similar to BOM, Bizmaestros is arranged every year by another one of the corporate giants, Unilever. It has challenges and rewards similar to BOM and the competitions themselves are often competitors to each other. However, winning Bizmaestros also lands you a trip abroad to Unilever Future Leaders League, where you compete against international teams.

Rounds: 3 (Online Submission-Practical Marketing-Practical Marketing)

Team Members: 3

Awards: Certification along with a trip to Unilever Future Leaders League.

3. Telenor Youth Summit

The last one in the trio of Corporate giant competitions is the Telenor Youth Summit. Unlike previous ones, TYS accepts individual submissions. And as you can guess, the challenge is tougher, obviously. Subsequently, the reward is also higher. A trip to Norway sounds magical, doesn’t it?

Rounds: 3 (Idea Submission-Screening Round-Final Presentation)

Team Members: Individual submission

Awards: Trip to Norway.

4. Brandwitz by IBACC

Brandwitz is one of the most prominent students run business competitions in the country on University level. Organised by IBACC (IBA Communications Club), every year, Brandwitz sees the best minds of the country battling each other for a prize money of BDT 2,50,000. But the money is a minor factor here. You’ll be benefited most from the experience, the certification and the networking that you make.

Rounds: 4 (Case Solving-Product Branding-Practical Marketing-Idea Branding)

Team Members: 4

Awards: BDT 2,50,000.

5. CreAdive by BUP BCC

Creadive is another of the students run business competitions in the country organised by BUP BCC. The competition offers a unique approach to its rounds where it engages participants in direct ATL and BTL campaigns, requiring them to actually take part in fieldwork. The experience is certainly one of a kind.

Rounds: 4 (Case Solving, ATL Campaign, BTL Campaign, Product Branding)

Team Members: 4

Awards: BDT 3,00,000.

When Mandela came to Bangladesh

Nelson Mandela is a household name in our country. You might think it’s because of our natural inclination towards rebels and revolutionaries, but I beg to differ.

Birth of a Madiba

Mandela, or Madiba as his people call him, was not just a rebel, he was also a visionary. Born during the dark times of apartheid in 1918, on 18th July, he envisioned his world free of racism, poverty and discrimination- which he worked for till he couldn’t anymore.

Mandela in Bangladesh

Mandela visited Bangladesh in March 1997, on the 25th years anniversary of Bangladeshi independence.

Now, you might chalk it off as another diplomatic visit of some Prime Minister to a war-ridden country. Or you can try to understand why Madiba was closer to our cause than most.

Read more: The story of how Bengalis owe Pohela Boishakh to Mughal emperor Akbar

Nelson Mandela smiles during a meeting in Johannesburg in this file photo dated 2 June 2009. Picture: Nelson Mandela Foundation/SAPA

Nelson Mandela has been championed all around the world for his peaceful approach to remove apartheid from South African system. But when those were met with violence, he didn’t hesitate to return fire, so to speak.

He favoured peace till peace wasn’t an option anymore.

Mandela’s reflection in us

Much alike to the beginning of our journey to independence. We kept trying to resolve the national issues peacefully. Until West Pakistani government pushed us to the limit and we finally pushed back.

As Nelson Mandela has been such a powerful figure in history, it’s often of great value to go the length in understanding his contributions and not trust his portrait created by the same source that helped imprison him for 27 years.

For a country like ours was 20 years back during his visit, sympathetic words like “I have come to Bangladesh to pay homage to a nation that has fought for its sovereignty. Celebrating this blood-soaked independence, I am here to say today that escaping the clutches of oppression and the autocratic rule is never easy”, were of paramount importance.

It’s been 20 years since, and it’s only fair to say we need to revisit what he said instead of just tidbits of his life.

Happy 101st Birthday Madiba, we remember you.

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pursuing to learn Bengali