Finding feminism in the pages of literature

For as long as I can remember, I have been an intense reader. Throughout middle school and high school, my best friend and I bonded over “book-hunting” in the school library, and over the years we fought minotaurs with Percy Jackson, went on undercover spy missions at Cherub, fawned over Artemis Fowl’s criminal mastermind, hated Katniss Everdeen with a passion, and, of course, devoured page after page of Bella’s description of Edward Cullen’s perfect 45 degree angled nose (don’t pretend you didn’t have a Twilight phase).

In early 2017, I was reading a particularly popular novel by a particularly popular (male) author and I was reading through a paragraph (which was completely irrelevant to the rest of the plot of the book) in which the male protagonist lustfully described the only female character in the book, who just happened to be incredibly sexually appealing in all her intelligence and physique (but very careful as to not be too intelligent or too attractive so as to threaten our protagonist, of course).

As I suffered through the unnecessary account of how well she pulled off a white tank top and jean shorts, it dawned upon me that in my almost 20 years of life, I had not read nearly enough novels by female authors. It was at this point that I, utterly disgusted by the one-dimensionality of every female character I could recall in almost every novel I had read (however much I loved them), decided that 2017 would be the year that I would consciously choose to read more books by women.

Now before you go on calling me a feminazi and whatnot, I am not claiming that every book ever written by a man is inherently sexist or that men, by some default, cannot create complex female characters. I am only saying that there is an entire realm of emotions and experiences about being a woman that male writers have never experienced and therefore their writing does not reflect it.

Consciously reading books by female authors exposed me to a whole new representation of my identity as a woman. There are tiny bits and pieces of the life that only women know sprinkled into the details of each story that I had never before found in literature.

It was in Esther’s frustration with everyone around her waiting for her to turn her mind around about not wanting marriage and kids, in Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’. It was in Scout from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’s constant battle with her neighbours’ expectations of her to wear more dresses and stay in more as she grew older. It was in Francie’s observation of how women around her shamed other women for their sexuality in ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ – the cold hard reality of how women themselves pose obstacles to other women in a patriarchal society. In Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’, it was the simple remark on how a lot of men talk to women – ‘mansplaining’ – which is sadly still relevant to a lot of our experiences today – “…they listen just long enough to issue instructions. They don’t even look at women when women are speaking.”

The unceasing struggle that I as a woman face against the patriarchal and conventional roles set for me has been experienced not only by women that I personally know but also by women before me – in 1930s Brooklyn, in 1800s England, in pre-Civil War Georgia – this discovery was both painful and wonderful to experience. As if the tiny secrets of survival that I have had to bear my entire life, that I never thought had space in literature, were being spilled out to women from all over the world and all timelines – getting together in solidarity and whispering, confessing, consoling, ‘Me too’. Yes – remember that hashtag? You’ll find traces of it in Austen and Bronte and Woolf and Eliot – forget not that some of these authors had to adopt male pseudonyms to have their work taken seriously, and some, such as George Eliot, are still known by their male pseudonym.

Long before they had the right to vote, these female characters defied sexist social standards in every way, most of all by thinking for themselves and being complex, intelligent, independent characters. In a world where women are still struggling to be heard and validated as full persons – through #metoo and #talkaboutit – I think that being a complex and independent person is the epitome of empowerment, and it is incredibly inspiring to see such empowered women splattered across the world throughout history, as if in some undisclosed unanimity.

If you are female, reading more books by women will connect you to the unmentioned little struggles of women who lived lives so vastly different from you. If you are not female, reading them (which I hope you do with the utmost respect to their experiences as women) will give you some very interesting and crucial understanding of the lives of all the women around you. For the #metoo era, to gain a full understanding and therefore validation of women’s experiences, the effort to consciously read more books by women is one that will move us forward. We must trace back to how the same patriarchal system has been poisoning our lives to as long as women have broken silence through the defiant act of writing.

Breaking Bad at Dhaka Lit Fest 2018: a conversation we should have had a long time ago

“If we choose to tell stories about women there will be gallants of storytelling,” says the very well- known Bollywood actress, writer and activist Manisha Koirala, at Dhaka Lit Fest 2018. Invited as a panellist to talk about her book “Healed”, she shares a stage with Nandita Das, another talented actor, director and social activist under the panel “Breaking Bad”, moderated by Sadaf Saaz, the director of DLF. These three inspiring women join in a conversation to talk about women’s role in the film industry, stereotypes in society, gender roles, beauty standards, LGBTQ issues and much more.

The session begins with both women talking about how they started their respective careers in their industry and defied convention with their work. Manisha speaks of how she always wanted to go beyond stereotypes and considered herself lucky because “good filmmakers with good subjects” somehow managed to come to her and was fortunate enough “to recognize those opportunities.”  She goes on to talk about the joy that acting gave her and the satisfaction it brought with it.

In a conversation about how they started, Sadaf Saaz asks Nandita Das about her film Fire and how it was  ”one of the only mainstream Bollywood movies to feature homosexuality.” She says it became a “landmark censor decision” at the time, not having a single scene cut from the movie. While that was a remarkable feat, it was eventually criticized for supporting homosexuality in a deeply conservative society. People were encouraged to not watch the film, and later it was banned because it apparently went against commonly perceived sub-continental culture. Nandita believes that was important in making a nation realise an important lesson about the restriction on freedom of expression. “The film was significant for me because the kind of conversation it triggered” and had a “small role to play” when India passed the bill on legalizing homosexuality.

The session progresses to the role of women in the filmmaking industry. Both panellists agreed on how, even now, we have not been able to move away from the “boxed stereotypical roles” for women in movies. Women are hardly ever given strong characters or leading roles.  They believe that directors need to challenge themselves in making more diverse female characters. Manisha comments “Women are the most interesting characters…I get attracted to stories where women are portrayed slightly differently.” The conversation slightly shifts after Nandita mentions the struggles of being a woman director in a male-dominated industry. She asserts how she would always have to face questions about being a woman director, answering questions on what it’s like. “When we are working we are not constantly thinking that we are women.” She says she felt that being a woman was a “primary identity” before anything else. However, she thinks that just as there is a “male gaze” in movies, there is also a “female gaze”, and the identity of a woman cannot be ignored. It is crucial to acknowledge that identity to inspire more female directors to come forward.

The talk diverts to the “male gaze” and Manisha explains why she included this subject in her book. Women are always trying to cope with beauty standards that society places on them. The objectification of women in movies are still present and women are “constantly being judged by the standards of others.”  The lack of female directors makes it harder for a woman’s perspective to come through properly.

Later, asked about her campaign “Dark and Beautiful”, Nandita says “Being a dark person and living in South Asia, you are constantly made aware of it.” No matter where one goes they are constantly undermined because of their skin colour and people will not stop pointing it out. Fair skin is still synonymous with being beautiful and “matrimonial ads haven’t quite changed yet”. The campaign was significant in taking a stand against society’s obsession with fair skin and using women’s looks.

An open letter to the older generation

Dear Parents,

I am not the model girl that your generation hoped for. I am an average- whether it comes to looks, merit, efforts or ambition- I do not stand out in any way. Your colleagues don’t say stuff like “Mr. X has such an extraordinary daughter. I am already envious of her in-laws.” They are more likely to say that “I worry about Mr. X’s daughter. What is gonna happen to that girl?”

You know, in the midst of all this, you tend to forget that instead of an ideal doll born and bred for the sole purpose of marriage, you raised an independent, confident, headstrong girl who does not care much for the social conventions. When in sixth grade every one my age used to watch “Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi” you introduced me to Jim Corbett, Joules Vern, Rabindranath Tagore, Sharatchandra Chattyapaddhaya. I remember the thrill of reading Devdas when I was 13. You were nurturing the rebel in me, and you knew it, and you loved me for it. What went wrong? Why did you, the ones who were always trying to get me to participate in different things, the ones who were always behind me, guiding me, encouraging me, turn into people not so supportive anymore?

Oh, right.

The society happened

And it breaks my heart to say that I am not alone.

You see, you don’t really understand my generation. To you, we are these bohemian, clueless generation who have no idea how to settle down, how to build a life, how to be “content”. And you are partly right. We are clueless. Our generation is impatient. We have big dreams, and we don’t always understand reality, and sometimes we can be aggressive and hot-headed and we make mistakes. I get it, you just want to protect us from the hardship that you went through, and it frustrates you when you see us running after some dream that might or might not come true. And your parental instincts kick in, and you try to hold us back. I get it all, I promise you. I do.

But doesn’t your “reality” and mine differ slightly from each other?

You see, we have a different understanding of life compared to you. You have to admit that your access to information was much more limited compared to ours, so you felt a strong urge to belong right where you were. We don’t feel that obligation anymore. The world is such a huge, overwhelming, mesmerizing place. Wouldn’t it be a waste to stay in one place and rot away?
We do understand your enthusiasm for a safe, settled life. And most of us will settle, in our own times. Would it hurt too much to give us a little time before that, so when we make the jump from under your wings, we can be sure that we will fly instead of crashing down to the ground?

And the society. Oh, the society.

We understand why it hurts you when people you barely know point a finger towards your children and mark them as failures. It hurts us as much as it hurts you. However, life, to us, is far bigger than what others are saying. It can be very overwhelming if you take what every single soul out there is saying into account. After all, we are no celebrity. Why does it have to matter what the others are saying?

I know, it is a lot to take in

My generation is so drastically different from yours that it scares you. And change IS scary, I’ll give you that, and you will not completely understand us, and you will not completely understand why we do what we do, just like we will never understand your side of the story. But that’s alright. Leave us be. We will, in our own way, try our hardest to pay you back for that trust. All we’re asking for is a little empathy and a little support. And I swear we will fly.

I hope I wasn’t disrespectful to you in any way. If I was, please forgive me, and my entire generation.

Love

A single lost soul who is trying to find her way back to you.

Steps to convincing your parents to get you a pet

Convincing Bangladeshi parents on anything is harder than conquering the Mount Everest. If you want to climb the Everest, you know that you just have to train hard and start your journey. When it comes to your own parents, however, you will need thirty business days, elaborate PowerPoint presentations, an abundant amount of tissues, the mental preparation to climb the stairway to heaven through continuous prayers and day-long fasts, and there is a chance that they still might say no. If your parents are anything like mine, they will dismiss you the second you start saying, “so… I was thinking I’d like a pet” and they will say, “Stop thinking. You have low CGPA; you won’t get any job, so start being a halal girl so we can marry you off.”

Yes, I know. It’s very frustrating when you are an adult and your parents refuse to treat you like one. But you can’t really blame them, because you ARE their baby. You will always be their baby. Even when you’re old and wrinkled and you cannot walk without a walking stick anymore. Your mother will still say, “What posture is this? Straighten your backbone. Stop being a disgrace to our family and the Cow we just sacrificed”.

So is there no way to get that puppy you’ve been longing for ever since you discovered how much of an angel a dog is? Or that kitten that stares into your soul with her dead, watery eyes and still manages to make you feel loved and understood?

Manipulating human beings, especially mothers, is a very easy thing to do. So buckle up.

I am about to tell you how to get the permission to get a pet and make them love it more than they love you. The latter part is a tad easier cause literally everything else and everyone else is more appealing to your own children, from the parents perspective.
So here’s how you can get a pet without pissing your parents off.

1. Be a responsible adult first

Millennials have this tendency to stay up all night, sleep until 12 and get out of the house the second they open their eyes. Remember, the second you’re adopting a dog or a cat, you are taking the responsibility of a life. A life that cannot do ANYTHING on its own. And they will never learn how to clean after themselves, to not eat anything poisonous, they will never know the difference between work times and play times. So unless you yourself get into a proper adult routine, getting a pet is probably not the brightest idea you have had in your sorry life.

Show your parents that you can take care of yourself first, otherwise, they are going to end up taking care of you AND your cat. And since they can’t throw YOU out, they are going to throw your pet out. Do you want that on your conscience?

2. Ready to make sacrifices

So your mother doesn’t want a dog. Get a cat instead. Or a bunny. Maybe even birds. Or if the worst comes to the worst, get a plant. They are alive too, they want some love and affection and someone to take care of them too. But whatever you get, make sure that you take full responsibility for its actions, just like your parents apologized to your neighbours when you pooped on their bed. Your life Is going to be full of these apology sessions, but eventually, you will get terms with it.

3. Find out the reason for your parents to not keep a pet

Suppose you absolutely want a dog,. Nothing else will do. What do you do then? Find out the reason why they don’t want you to have a dog. Is it hygiene? Is it the religion? Because of preexisting allergies? Is it fear? Or is it just the sheer possibility of having a large animal roaming around your house? Get to the bottom of the problem, and solve it. At some point, your parents will give in because they will have nothing logical left to say against it.

4. Do your research

I cannot stress this enough, but information is power. The more you know about what you want, the more ways you can find out to get it. Plus, reading up on a particular animal gets you an idea of how its natural habitat is like, and you will be able to take better care of your pet. It will also give you a clear idea of what your responsibilities will be as a pet parent.

You might discover that you are not ready for that responsibility after all. Because having a pet is like having a kid- you can’t change your mind after the crying starts. Once you adopt one, you are bound to them for as long as they live. And there is nothing more heartbreaking than getting a pet, realizing that it’s not really your cup of tea, and abandoning them. There is a special place in hell for people who do that.

5. Make a PowerPoint presentation

Load it with information regarding the benefits of having a pet. For example, they are great companions; they help with depression, anxiety, stress, and multiple other mental health issues. Students who have pets actually perform better on tests compared to students who don’t. List down all the promises that you are willing to make in exchange for this one small kindness on their part, AND STICK TO THEM. Don’t forget to list down the challenges as well, and make clear points about how you plan on tackling those issues. Make yourself heard, be a good kid, and give your parents time to contemplate. They will eventually come around because they love you and they want the best for you. There’s no way that they will ignore all of the efforts that you are putting into this.

I might as well warn you, life is unfair. Sometimes, despite all your efforts and longings, you cannot get what you want. But you might as well try, because that way, at least you will know that you did everything in your power, and there is nothing else that you could have done. And that is a lot better than not trying at all.

I pray for your success.

Cheers.

5 strategies to surviving desi weddings when you’re single

Desi weddings are weird–the celebration of a happy marriage is also one of the biggest gatherings of mostly unknown people dishing out unnecessary criticism. It is a chance to pull out the once worn outfit or a competition to show off your (real or unreal) wealth. Nonetheless, from Holuds to Mehendi nights to Haldis to Biyes, we are there and need to be trying surviving desi weddings, because, well, free food.

Let’s admit the truth, being young and single is no easy task. The societal pressure to find someone and settle down is so immense that at times, even the most accomplished, talented, ambitious people cave into the pressure. And things are ten times harder when you are a girl, as from the moment you turn 20 (sometimes 18), the endless stream of aunties with 30-year-old sons start flooding into your home. Why are they trying to scout you, a 20-something year old who sometimes forgets to take a shower?  Surviving desi weddings become difficult for the young adults because the concept of “live, and let live” is completely foreign to many elders.

Is that the end of the road, then? Will you have to spend your life getting overpriced and subpar Kacchi from sultan’s dine? Or should you sacrifice all your hopes and dreams and just get married for the sake of Kacchi?

Lucky for you, here are a few strategies you can follow to make the best of the situation.

“Every time you see an auntie approaching you, square your shoulders, plaster a fake (or genuine) smile on your face, and nod to whatever they say until they find a new target. “

Condition yourself properly.

annoying aunty, desi

In martial arts, the process of conditioning your bones involves hitting them repeatedly until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Use that principle on yourself. Every time you see an auntie approaching you, square your shoulders, plaster a fake (or genuine) smile on your face, and nod to whatever they say until they find a new target. Doing this once week will train your mind to tune out everything that you don’t want to listen to, and you will be able to enjoy your food without letting the disruptions bother you.

Travel in packs.

squad, skwaad, squad goals

No matter how old you are, it will always be awkward to interrupt a group of people in conversation, making it another solid way to try surviving desi weddings. So whatever you do, do not stay alone at the event. Keep a trusted ally close, and start a conversation whenever someone starts walking towards you. In the worst case scenario, if you absolutely can’t find anyone to hang out with, then find a group of strangers in your age group and lurk near them, and pretend that you are a part of that group. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Try to blend into the background.

beige, dance

Colors are great. But if you’re going to be surviving desi weddings where you will face unpleasant questions every five seconds, it’s probably wiser to dress in matte beige, off-white and pale colors instead of bright red and yellow. Save those colors for a wedding where none of the murubbi know you. Just be bold and do you.

Take selfies.

selfie, sonal kapoor, desi weddings

Of course you should keep a document of how good you look in your white saree and pearl earrings. But selfies can serve a greater purpose. Use the camera to keep an eye out so no one can ambush you from behind. Also, pretend that the lighting sucks and move about. It is hard to hit a moving target, not to mention the fact that no one actually wants to talk to a plastic Barbie who just won’t stop taking photos.

Check the guys out.

hunk, cute guy, zoey deschanel

It is a universal truth that guys look a billion times better in their formals. So replace all your bitter memories of aunties with images of that hot hunk. Yes, they are very, very rare, but keeping your eyes and ears open won’t hurt much. And what better things do you have to do until the food is served?

These are just a few basic guidelines to surviving desi weddings. You can always come up with your own tricks. And if you do have better ideas, please let me know. I am running out of ways to escape.

Cheers.

Put down the brick, hold them accountable – for Rajib and Dia

It’s easy to be disappointed by being a Bangladeshi. With the constant chaos of all that constitutes life itself, the constant bombardment of terrible news upon bad news is bound to leave us broken, divided and in despair. We seek truth and justice, and often, find none of it. our cries are for  able leaders who are meant to guide us, meant to deliver according their responsibilities and provide the kind of sympathy and empathy that heals—we face people in positions of power who could not care less. And so we take matters into our own hands, breaking things, lashing out with the kind of violence that diminishes years of individual tolerance within seconds.

I don’t blame the students of Saheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College for picking up what they could and lashing out when they heard that their fellow students were crushed underneath a pair of recklessly driven buses on Sunday afternoon. I would have done so myself—let the hatred and anger flow, pummel away at inanimate objects that were not and could not have been, the reason for my boiling blood. Shattered glass and tortured window-frames might sate the initial bout of anger. But what comes next must be clear–serene logic in the face of injustice and self-serving politics. What comes next must define how well we can think and articulate ourselves, against the leering smiles of gung-ho Shipping Ministers and powerful, unjust lobbyists.

2,471 people were killed in road accidents all over Bangladesh in just 6 months, between January and June of 2018. 643 were women and children, 773 were pedestrians who were run over and 548 motorcyclists. Theseare cold, hard numbers for our government to look at and address. In 2017, road accidents killed 4,284 people, 470 of them women and 453 children. The National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) published those figures, citing an up-trend in the number of road accidents and deaths between 2016 and 2017.Road accidents increased by 15.82%, 474  more lives lost in 2017 compared to 2016 when  the number of deaths rose by 872 ( an increase of 25.56%). Some of the cited reasons were reckless driving, carrying passengers and goods in locally-made mechanised vehicles, overloading and overtaking, violating laws, driving without breaks, risky turning points and dilapidated roads, non-enforcement of law to stop plying of unfit vehicles and employment of unskilled drivers.

Why have these issues gone  unaddressed? Because we live in a society where the sons of the Members of Parliament can drive over people on the street in their Audis and walk away with absolutely no repercussion. Preserving existing power structures and serving the hand that feeds you matters more than statistics

Mere hours after the deaths of the Ramiz Uddin College students, the Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, said we should follow the example of our  neighboring nation of India and not be so bothered by road accident casualty statistics. The Minister, who is the Vice President of Jatiyo Sramik League and president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, promised swift justice for the perpetrators of Sunday’s incident to a room full of journalists. If the justice he speaks of is similar to the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation’s countrywide strike last year following the lifetime imprisonment verdict against the reckless driver responsible for the deaths of prominent filmmakers Tarique Masud and Mishuk Munier, it is not the kind of justice we want or deserve.

What we do deserve is a thorough explanation of why our Transport Minister sits by idly while the Shipping Minister uses his lobbying power to protect the potential killers within the ranks of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, many of whom allegedly gain their license to operate buses and trucks in exchange for a fistful of cash. We deserve to know why the Prime Minister, who undoubtedly outranks Shahjahan in both party and government, is not willing to sack him and continues to let him play his most frequented role of Workers Federation president first, sworn-in-by-oath Minister second. We deserve to know why, despite the marked increase in cases and fines levied against private vehicles on the road, our traffic sergeants are willing to turn a blind eye to buses that are falling apart and traffic laws with them. We deserve to know why 18 year old humanities student Rajib Uddin and 17 year old science student Dia Khanam Mim had to die on Sunday, at the hands of bus drivers competing with each other over fares. We deserve to know the names and faces of the bus owners, and ask them why they think hiring unskilled and unlicensed drivers is no big deal.

Till we get these answers, we must not lose focus. Simply demanding justice is not enough—we must find our voice and asking the right questions to those who govern us and hold them accountable.

Otherwise the “justice” served will disappoint us, over and over again.

Why feminism is not what you think

Many people, those who claim they understand feminism but actually don’t regardless of them believing otherwise, may argue that if feminism is all about equality, then why don’t we all just call ourselves egalitarians?  Today, for you and for us, I write on the age-old question: What exactly is feminism?

On one fine day, when I had seen a young man finish off his disposal cup of coffee and later throw it on the road despite a garbage bin just laying two inches away from him- I walk upto him, pick up the cup and throw it in the dustbin right in front of him, having made the most intense eye contact in the meantime. I recount this story to my friends once, and they slow-clap in appreciation, letting me know that I am “Such a feminist!” While this is not the first time in my life that I have had to hear myself being called so, but one of the few times when it had been for such an unbelievably irrelevant reason. Most people, in fact and unfortunately, do not, even though widely heard of, understand what feminism is but they, however, miraculously understand who “feminazis” are.

Feminism, in the most common definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities: it is known as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Many pseudo-pundits, if not now, at one point in your life will happen to argue that since most women are physically “weaker” than men, equality between sexes cannot be achieved.  Can we have a little fact-check here? Feminism at its heart and centre is about equality of men and women, not “sameness.”

Parboti Roy, an academic of Gender Studies, says, “If you notice most of the “isms,” that is humanism, equalism or egalitarianism, they talk about human rights in general. Why feminism stands out is because it actively advocates for women’s rights while making sure the rights of men are retained.”

To make it clearer, here’s me drawing a parallel. You’re the only member in your family who’s not had dinner for the night, and you protest, saying, “I want food! I want food!” Your family members join in and sing along, “We all want food! We all want food!” But no, they all don’t want neither do they need food, only you do, only you. Your family members, in this case, are egalitarians, and you, my friend, with pride and honour, should call yourself a feminist.

People who are typically adamant to dissent from the idea of feminism usually associate it with women trying to achieve superiority through the movement. While Bangladesh was ranked first for gender equality in South Asia by WEF, we all know what little truth the fact holds.

It is an easier fight for women in the western countries since theirs are actually a democratic nation, where partaking in movements would not get you arrested and voicing your opinion not killed. This is why because feminism is relatively still a new concept in Bangladesh, people understand what they want to from hearsay. Feminism, according to every definition in every dictionary, rather wants women (and gender non-conforming people) to have equal stature as men, not superior. Many think that feminists hate men, find reasons to pick on men and love “putting up statuses,” or in my case, pick up disposal coffee cups and throw them into the dustbins.

Ms Parboti shares her thoughts on how people perceive feminists as women who’re tomboys or smokers. “They think women become feminists just to seem smart.”

This is why these days, despite believing in equal rights, many hesitate in addressing as well as at times take umbrage in being addressed as feminists, fearing the kind of judgement or criticism they would have to receive.

While it is true that feminism as a movement has lost its momentum because many people in the West have sullied the message of feminism to fulfill their own agenda, and that’s wrong, nobody’s saying that’s right, one has to understand that radical feminism is not the true spirit of feminism, just the way terrorists are not true face of Muslims, rapists not the true identity of all men.

But in the meantime while the West has been divided in an unfortunate debate of whether feminism is irrelevant in today’s world anymore, one cannot deny how relevant it is in our country. When we see the kinds of Rubaba Dowla, we comment on how she must have used “other means” to reach such a height; when we see the kinds of Wasfia Nazreen, we comment on how she must have had a lot of luck on her side; when we see the kinds of Joya Ahsan, we comment on how she left her husband for a world of glitz and glamour. We feel threatened on social media, patronized at office, harassed at police stations, anxious in public rides, where else do we go? More importantly, how longer do we go this way?

Feminism, in the most common definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities: it is known as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

Because plenty people are born imbeciles, I may understand why many of them ask why we still think Bangladesh doesn’t give women their rights, especially when “the country has been always run by women.” It  critical to realize here that just because your mothers and my sisters and our friends may have equal pays at work, are rarely mistreated or never harassed doesn’t mean majority women get to live that, for the lack of a better word, luxuriously.

This is why so many men and women don’t seem to get the whole point of feminism because most of the times these people’s unambiguous views on these issues (feminism) are rooted deeply within their own individual and direct experiences, rather than on any data, research or science surrounding the issues.

Once in a while, they will, however, come across Justin Trudeau, who says “Everyone should be a feminist,” and the same people who once didn’t understand feminism or hated feminists, would suddenly mature into pro-feminists, not understanding feminism anyway.

Because feminism as a mission and an idea seems too idealistic of a state to reach, it makes sense when you think of the world as a platform of give-and-take where women cannot, by law of manmade nature, attain equality, since there always has to be one who always gives while the other takes (in majority cases).

This is why when people ask me, I tell them that if God had a universal language- it would unequivocally and apolitically be called feminism.  God, if there is any, should be a feminist.

Beat exam stress with these top tips

Tests and exams, including O levels and A levels can be the most challenging part of school life for you. Extra tuition classes after school and the late night studying without adequate sleep can make you weak. As a result you can fall sick ultimately ending up with unsatisfactory grades.

The Maya team has brought few tips for you to ease the stress.

Watch out for stress

Look out for signs of exam stress. Students who experience stress may get irritated. They might not sleep well, lose interest in food, worry a lot and appear depressed or negative. Headaches and stomach pains can also be stress-related. You may be feeling a weight of expectation from your family, school, university or workplace to succeed. You may be afraid that you are not good enough, or haven’t worked hard enough. Having someone to talk to about your work can help. Support from parent, tutour or study buddy can help teenagers air their worries and keep things in perspective. Everybody’s stress ‘threshold’ is different. A situation that is too much for one person to tolerate may be stimulating to another. Controlled at the right level, however, stress can work as an advantage, because it can help you to produce the peak performance. If you feel you aren’t being able to cope, talk to teachers at your school. Make sure your are relaxed before the exam.

Ensure you are eating well

A balanced diet is vital for your health, and can help you feel well during exam periods. High-fat, high-sugar and high-caffeine foods and drinks (such as cola, sweets, chocolate, burgers and chips) make you hyperactive, irritable and moody. Here is a list of foods which should be included in your diet:

Fruits – Eating fruit at breakfast, when your body is craving fuel, allows you to regain the energy quickly to focus on your exams for the day.

Whole grains – Cereal and oatmeal are typically thought of as breakfast foods, but eating them at any time during the day can help boost your concentration and attention span.

Fish and Fresh Vegetables – Fish and certain fresh vegetables are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been known to help in brain function, especially memory and performance.

Water – Water help keeps your organs and muscles running efficiently, and one of the signs of dehydration is a dip in your mental ability. Choose pure water over an energy drink because the caffeine and other stimulants in energy drinks can overwork the nervous system and actually cause you to lose focus.

Get sleep

Good sleep will improve thinking and concentration. Most teenagers need between eight and ten hours’ sleep a night. Allow half an hour or so for kids to wind down between studying, watching TV or using a computer and going to bed to help them get a good night’s sleep. Cramming all night before an exam is usually a bad idea. If you are tired, worrying can get blown out of proportion. If you are have been finding it difficult to get to sleep, try cutting down on stimulants (tea, coffee and alcohol, for instance) and make sure you have time to unwind before bed. Sleep will benefit you far more than hours of panicky last-minute study.

Make studying easier

You can ask for help from your parents or study partner to revise. Try to draw up a revision schedule or ask the school for one.Think about getting together in a study group with fellow students. It can help with revision and give you an opportunity for talking about your worries, letting off steam and reducing tension. Sometimes, people are reluctant to open up for fear of what others might think of them, but everybody is in the same situation.

It’s okay to be nervous

Remember feeling nervous is normal. Nervousness is a natural reaction to exams.

The key is to put these nerves to positive use. Remember what you do know and the time you have put into study can help you feel confident. However, learning how to relax is crucial. Straightforward, effective, self-help techniques are going to be very helpful in the run-up to the exams, and even when you are sitting in the exam room.

Here is a Relaxation Technique which can help you feel better during stress:

Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply

Locate any areas of tension and try to relax those muscles; imagine the tension disappearing

Relax each part of the body, from your feet to the top of your head

As you focus on each part of your body, think of warmth, heaviness and relaxation

Get some exercise

Everyone needs time off, and it’s a bad idea to abandon your social life and sporting activities, but for a period near the examinations, you may need to cut down. This may involve making hard choices. Always leave yourself with a minimum of 3 hours free time per day. However, exercise can help boost energy levels, clear the mind and relieve stress. Walking, cycling, swimming, football and dancing are all effective.

Don’t add to the pressure

Before you go in for a test or exam, be positive and confident. Remember that failing isn’t the end of the world, and that if things don’t go well you may be able to take the exam again.

After each exam, try talking to your parents, friends or teachers. Then move on and focus on the next test, rather than dwelling on things that can’t be changed.

Give yourself a treat

When the exams are over, celebrate with a treat. These can be a reward for your hard work. Ice cream parlors such as Cream and Fudge Factory, Club Gelato and Movenpick are great places for small treats. At the end of a month or more of hard work and studying enjoy the treat to your fullest.

5 (more) Instagram handles you should definitely follow

Instagram has shot up quite high from a mere platform for sharing pictures to one that is now everyone’s top pick for photo blogs. The best part is that this is available for everyone to create and share with, so there are countless amazing blogs right at your fingertips in every category that you can think of. To jazz up your Instagram experience, here are 5 (more) blogs that are very deserving of your follow, from both Bangladesh and abroad.

@lavendarxprss

Category: Art
This is a Bangladeshi artist who plays with colours and patterns with much admirable dexterity, and they melt together to make the ordinary things extraordinary. Her current works are mostly photo-painting mashups – blending real life, as captured on camera, with her own fantasy twirls of a paintbrush. The splash of realism that the photographs bring balances the daydream vibes of her paintings quite wonderfully.

@_behindthescenesbilly

Category: Lifestyle
If you follow blogs like @_wanderingworldie where the account is full of perfect, picturesque smiles in front of equally perfect, picturesque backgrounds, you might want to follow her British boyfriend as well for his adventures about taking those pictures. Filled with adorable selfies with hilarious captions of what goes on behind those meticulous photos on the ‘gram, his account is a lovely way to humanize those flawless pictures and the people in them. It also serves as a gentle reminder to appreciate just how much effort Instagrammers (and their partners) put into these blogs.

@thebookfamilyrogerson

Category: Photography
A blog dedicated to document a precious family’s literary adventures? This is every book-lover’s family goals wrapped up and presented in an Instagram account! Hailing from the UK, Al, Martha and Mel don’t just love books – they see their family and world through their shared love for books, and they do a wonderful job of sharing that world with Instagram. If you’re as obsessed with books as these three, be sure to follow their blog too, for book reviews and lots more.

@doha.the.explorer

Category: Travel
If you spent your childhood following Dora the Explorer on her adventures but now you feel that she doesn’t really soothe your wanderlust anymore, you’re in luck, because Doha is here to take over. This Bangladeshi 20-something-year-old has travelled an impressive number of 45 countries so far, and she likes to capture all the wonders that she sees so she can take you along with her! To be the Boots to her Dora, be sure to follow her travel blog on Instagram and subscribe to her YouTube channel wander with doha.

@noorieboorie

Category: Food blog
If all the begunis and peyajus are starting to bore you this Ramadan, spice up your iftar with this Bangladeshi-Sri Lankan food blogger! From beautiful little flower shortbread cookies to Sylheti-style salmon “tenga” curry to the classic daal, bhaat, bhorta – your money bag will want to thank her when you save up to stay home making these delicious meals instead of having all that overpriced Iftar platters at restaurants.

Budget 2018-19, price hikes and drops to watch out for

The Finance minister announced the Budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year on the 7th of June. The proposed budget, benefiting mainly the high-end consumers and businessmen, makes bold statements in regards to the proposed level of economic growth, tax slaps on several budding industries, exemptions of corporate taxes for the banking industry and many more. But rigorous economic analyses aside, here’s a rough outline of everything you need to know about what to expect from this year’s budget.

Price hikes

Furniture

The new budget has slapped a tax of 6 to 7 percent on the production level and 4 to 5 percent on the distribution level for general furniture for households and offices. Expect a price hike. Comfort has its price.

Cigarettes, Bidis and Energy Drinks

In a move to discourage smoking and earn a heftier revenue from the sale of cigarettes and bidis, this year’s budget has proposed an increase of 5 percent supplementary duty of cigarette and bidi papers. The current supplementary duty is 20 percent. The supplementary duty on energy drinks is also set to rise to 35 percent from the existing 25 percent. Prices of tobacco and energy drinks will increase due to the hiked taxes. Next time you’re thinking of going chimney on the street, think again.

Coffee and Green Tea

Newly added 20 percent import tax on the import of coffee and green tea from foreign countries will see a rise in prices of coffee and coffee-based products along with green tea. Students cramming for exams and people looking to have a healthier alternative to regular tea are in for a shock.

Polythene and Plastic Bags

An added 5 percent tax on all plastic and polythene bags will lead to a higher price on these products. Perhaps for the better considering the environmental hazard caused by polythene and plastic. Higher prices on these might lead to the increased use of re-usable environment friendly packets and bags.

Chocolates and sweets

In a rather shocking move, taxes on imported chocolates, candies and honey has been increased by 25 percent, marking a 45 percent import tax on these products. Prices on these imported goods will rise. Bad news for people with sweet teeth.

Perfumes, Body sprays and Aftershaves

Supplementary tax on perfumes, body sprays and aftershaves have increased to 15 percent from 10 percent. The bill on your next appointment at the salon may have gone higher. Too bad if you want to stay odour free.

Clothes

1 percent tax hike on distribution level of clothes will increase the price of clothes. The budget on your next Eid shopping just got higher.

Apartments

Taxes on expenditures on small apartments will increase along with the maintenance cost of the apartments.

Ride Sharing

A 5 percent tax hike on the service charge on the money collected by ride sharing apps like Uber or Pathao might see an increase on the daily fares.

Mobile phones

Surcharges will increase on imports of mobile phones and prices will increase as a result. The move is meant to encourage the growth of the local phone assembly industry, but it’ll leave consumers sorely option-less.

Online Shopping

Bad news for online shop owners on social media, online portals and consumers. 5 percent VAT will be imposed on all online shopping. It will surely see a rise in the online transaction prices for online shopping.

Used Cars

Tax hikes on used cars will see a rising price when buying reconditioned cars.

Surcharges on Cars and Apartments

According to the new budget outline, if you own two cars or at least own a property of eight thousand square feet in a city corporation area, you are entitled to 10 percent surcharge on the tax you provide.

More price hikes

Along with the ones mentioned, an increase of taxes and surcharges in different rates will see a price hike in the following products/industries:

Fruit juice, Tomato Ketchup, Cosmetics, Hydraulic break fluid, proximity card and tags, bicycle brakes, refined lead etc.

Price drops

Medicines and medical equipment

A tax reduction in the import of raw materials and medical equipment will result in a price drop in this sector.

Computer Parts

Tax reduction in the import of computer parts and software will see a price drop in the industry. Good news for the local IT firms…and crypto-miners.

Ballpoint pens

Existing 15 percent VAT on ballpoint ink is proposed to be removed. This will see a drop in the prices of ballpoint pens.

Local IPS and Electronics Goods

Exemption of taxes at different rates on the import of raw materials will see a drop in prices of locally produced battery charger, IPS, UPS, Lamp holder etc.

Hybrid Cars

Tax reduction on the import of hybrid cars will lead to a price drop when buying hybrid cars in the 1600-1800cc range.

Special tax exemption on School Buses

If schools want to introduce school bus services, Government will impose special tax exemptions on the import of buses. This way, introducing school bus services will be a lot cheaper and government thinks it will help with the traffic situation in Dhaka.

More price drops

Along with the ones mentioned, a reduction of taxes in different rates will see a price drop in the following products/industries:

Refrigerator, air conditioner, fish and pet foods, EDM fluid, raw materials for the publishing industry, non-alloy steel etc.