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Getaway of the week #5: the Republic of Uttara

Cover illustration by Fahim Anzoom Rumman (botagainsthumanity). Find his page here.

This week’s getaway is a special place located about 13 km away from the city of Dhaka, the Republic of Uttara. Uttara is a nice little place to leave the city for a day, away from the hectic weekdays. Ideally, this little, somewhat primitive small city-state should not take more than 30 minutes to visit but thanks to the adventurous route that leads to this place, it almost takes an entire day to visit Uttara and come back to the city, safe and sound.

So, if you’re tired of all the cliched places people visit these days like Sreemangal and Cox’s Bazaar (or you want to turn your image of a lazy duck who sits at home all day playing PUBG into that of a spontaneous traveller), buckle up. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Getting to Uttara is the tough part. Finding a bus that goes to that town is tougher. You have to wait in Shahbagh square for at least 20 minutes and literally beg the conductor mamas before someone takes pity on you and lets you on their bus. You might have to keep standing all the way so wear light and comfortable clothes and keep your baggage low. We recommend you don’t carry expensive gadgets, especially a camera. Two reasons. Number 1, Republic of Uttara has little to none views that would require the attention of a lens. And if you want to take a photo of the daily life of Uttara people let us tell you that this is the place where urban planning goes to die. Uttara is rich in experience, not in suitable photography subjects. Number 2, you will get mugged in Uttara and lose your gadgets. Even if you get spared in Uttara, you will most definitely get pickpocketed on the bus. So, take ample precaution in protecting your belongings.

Illustration/image by Inksmith. Find more of his fantastic artwork here.

The bus journey to Uttara can take we-don’t-know-how-many-hours long. If you are blessed, it might, just might take 2 hours, if you’re lucky. Take a few dry snacks with you and a bottle of cold water to save you from dehydration (unless you’re fasting, in which case…you will die.). Try not to get annoyed by people falling over your shoulders. Bangladeshi people have little to no concept of personal space and they are generally curious in nature. But they’re all good-hearted people, we’re sure. At least that’s what the brochure says.

After getting down in Uttara, roam around the broken and tattered roads  for a while. Watch what life is like in a small town away from civilisation. Eat cheap street food and gamble with diarrhoea if you dare. Take a rickshaw and head to a famous tourist spot called Dia Bari. This is the pride of Uttara. Anyone who’s from that region will proudly boast about Dia Bari and recommend you this place when going to Uttara. In reality, it is nothing much. Just an open field with a small water-body nearby. But hey, even that is hard to find in Dhaka so the tourist spot tag is justified for this green field.

Get back to town after you’re done exploring Dia Bari. Go window shopping in the street market that illegally occupies all the footpaths you were supposed to walk on. Have the roadside milk and water drink that they call tea. Roam around the town again to explore the bits and pieces of the old way of life the natives of this land once lived.

By the time you’re done with everything, it’ll almost be dusk. Prepare your mind and your body for another long journey back to the civilisation and get on a bus, if you can.

The Republic of Uttara is a small, underrated place to be visited. But the experience is one of a kind. There is no immigration system yet so you don’t need to get your visa done. But we hear it’s in the works. We cannot promise you that you’ll fall in love with Uttara, but we can promise you one other thing. When you get back from Uttara to Dhaka, you’ll realise how much you loved Dhaka. Uttara is your place to go if you want to rekindle your love for Godforsaken Dhaka.

Top 5 awkward moments faced by Mark Zuckerberg in his Congress testimonial

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, faced some hard times in front of the US Congress as his two day long testimonial wrapped up on Wednesday. While the senators pressed Zuckerberg over Facebook’s policies in the wake of massive data privacy breaches, Cambridge Analytica scandal, general regulatory policies and so on, they also somewhat riddled the tech mogul with scrambled and awkward questions where they struggled with the seemingly complicated technology they were asking questions of.

Here are some of the oddest moments from Mark’s long testimony that would have been painful if they were not funny.

  1. When Facebook became a monopoly

Senator Lindsey Graham is a good debater, no doubt, and clearly knows how to throw her opponents off guard. When she casually asked Mark if Facebook had any big competitors in the market, Zuckerberg responded that it had plenty. The senator then asked him to name a few or at least a primary one and found Mark stumbling on that one. That lead the Senator to ask him if Facebook was a monopoly to which Mark Zuckerberg replied “It certainly doesn’t feel like one to me” as he drew a few laughs from the crowd.

Rest assured, Facebook isn’t a monopoly, Mark says. Or is it? Let’s just say this article won’t get shared on Google Plus.

  1. Chick-Fil-A

Ted Cruz wanted to use his time to question Mark on why Facebook has a bias against conservatives. He asked him about why Facebook had shut down the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day page and recently did the same with Trump supporters Diamond and Silk page, the latter with around 1.2 million followers.

He also went on to ask if Mark knew about the political orientation of his employees that might result in a bias against some political views, to which Mark replied that Facebook doesn’t hire people on the basis of their political orientation.

Many on twitter slammed Ted Cruz for focusing on a chicken joint’s page shutting down instead of asking him about other important topics. Well, maybe he did feel a little off about his favorite chicken place’s page shutting down. Who wouldn’t?

Umm…have you tried Googling that?
  1. Mark Zuckerberg explains the internet

Perhaps the most awkward moments for Mark were the ones where the senators struggled to speak the language of the internet. Senator Hatch asked Mark how he sustains a business model where the users don’t need to pay for the service. Mark replied “Senator, we run ads” and chuckled. More chuckles followed as Senator Schatz asked if the algorithms could speak to each other and spill out private conversations about Black Panther, conversations on WhatsApp, nonetheless. And Mark found himself out of words when Senator Deb Fischer asked, and we quote, “How many data categories does Facebook store on the categories that you collect?”

What are “data categories”, we wonder.

  1. Your User Agreement Sucks”

Senator John Kennedy didn’t hold back anything. He blatantly said that Facebook’s user agreement was written in order to save “Facebook’s rear end” and not to inform people of their rights. He basically challenged Mark to rewrite the agreement in English so that the average American understands it.

Your user agreement sucks” he said. Mark didn’t make a strong reply however and had an awkward smile instead.

Although he said he was putting it as gently as he could, I’d say he was pretty rude. *Awkward*

  1. The conspiracy theory

Gary Peters claimed he had heard rising fears that Facebook is mining audio from the users’ mobile devices for the purpose of ad targeting. Mark Zuckerberg turned down this claim by saying that this was a conspiracy theory by teenagers and Facebook does not collect personal audio from users; mobile devices without their consent for the purpose of ad-targeting.

Although the concern was not particularly dumb enough to ridicule at right away, are the senators starting to believe in conspiracy theories? At least it’s a part of public record now and conspiracy theorists can go back into their tin-foiled hideouts for now.

For more on conspiracy theories, keep an eye out on the entertainment section of HiFi for “5 conspiracy theories that shook the world”, coming soon.