<%-- Page Title--%> This Much I Know <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 125 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

October 3, 2003

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Finding the Silver Lining

Saqi Rahman

Some clouds are so dark and dreary, it's a task finding the silver lining. Take for example: sexual harassment. My optimistic friend Shireen tries. She says if you are over fifty and getting sexual harassment at work you should consider that as one of the perks of your job and not complain. Nice try, Shireen. But no. The Jury is back on that one and they are a unanimous 'guilty on all counts'.

Not all clouds in one's life are as hopelessly dark as that. Most clouds have some kind of a silver edge, sometimes so fine it is difficult to view it with the naked eye. Also a dark cloud in one person's life could very well be a piece of rain-bearing blessing in another's.

Take another example: weddings. Not so bad if you are part of the immediate family or the groom's or bride's close friend. The time passes in a variety of activities. You are on stage dancing to meri churiya-a-a-a or off stage posing for the video camera. You are throwing rose petals at the bridal party. You are sitting at the reserved tables. You are being served lamb leg roast in addition to the chicken tandoori. Life is good.

But, if you are the lowly creature called a guest, there is little by way of a silver lining. Unless you count the one on your sari, orange with silver border, which is the colour code of the evening and which you had better be wearing as they have put it on the card. So there you are, showing solidarity to the host and hostess by putting on whatever colour scheme they've asked you to wear, staring glassy-eyed at the meri churiya-a-a-a dancers on stage, wondering how many times you'll have to be listening to this same song, this December. And that's only the holud.

The interesting bits -- the nikah ceremony with its drama and tears, the arguments on the amount of den mohar, the jewellery box contents, the quazi's exhortations to the newly-marrieds, Quran recitations, the signing of the register with trembling fingers -- now take place at home. So the only things left for the guest to do are: arrive (gift in hand), eat, view the couple, leave. If you are lucky, the host might ask you if you have eaten when you are leaving. You don't get asked anything when the host is busy with the 'elite of the society' ( ministers and MPs) he has invited.

And if the PM herself is there, the host doesn't care if you have eaten or have collapsed and died.

Where's the silver lining in that? No, all is not lost, there are still some pluses. Your ancient kataan saris get an airing. The men look romantic (from a distance) in their Devdas outfits. You can spend time interestingly, observing some of the young women and lads who had got married with the same pomp and ceremony only a year before but got divorced before the biryani got cold. Take your pick.

Another hard-pressed-to-find silver lining situation is a seminar. Before the Internet got invented, the major silver lining for the speakers was amazing the audience with the depth of their erudition, wisdom and knowledge. Those good old days are over. Most speakers now unload the same litany of facts and figures from the Internet. At a British Council seminar on The Importance of English Language, the British High Commissioner informed us that English is becoming the world's language of the 21st Century and is the second most widely spoken language of the world. He said it is the official language of the European Central Bank and the working language of the Asean trade group ASEAN and/or words to that effect, and then, the then President of Bangladesh informed the audience that English is becoming the world's language of the 21st Century and is the second most widely spoken language of the world, it is the official language etc. Then the Director of British Council told the audience that English is becoming the world's language of the 21st Century and is the second most widely spoken language of the world, it is the official' etc. By the time I stood up to speak and tell the audience that English is becoming the world's language of the 21st Century and is the second most widely... etc. the seminar had become a comedy show and the audience had started mouthing the words with me as I spoke. Some of them had tried to sneak out earlier but faced with the firing squad of the President's bodyguards outside had come back in quickly.

Soon afterwards, the President lost his job. I do not hold this seminar responsible for that, but you still wonder a little. Some big-shot among the audience at the seminar must have really got bored.

And where's the silver lining for the audience at a seminar? If it's high summer and the venue is air-conditioned, a comfortable nap. If there are tea and samosas at the end, another plus. But wake up on time. Because there's rarely enough. And the speakers always dash to the table first.

One cloud that defies the discovery of the thinnest of silver linings is going through the ordeal of seeing a doctor. The patients? waiting area outside the doctor's chamber is almost never less than drearily dull; the reading matter on the tables are old copies of the Daily Star Friday Magazine (wait a minute, maybe this is the silver lining?), your name may be the first on the list of patients but there will be a crowd pushing in before you with little slips of introduction in their hands and your wait will be interminable. This long wait usually causes all symptoms to disappear and when the doctor asks, suspiciously, what is wrong, you don't know what to say.

And finally, where's the silver lining of the dark cloud of writing a column for the Daily Star Magazine every fortnight? The writing part is not really the dark cloud. That is the silver lining. Being allowed to pontificate or moan unbridled about whatever strikes your fancy certainly beats going to the therapist. The cloud here is the resulting aftermath; such as more unwanted notoriety, manifested for instance by phone calls saying, it's you isn't it, no need to pretend it isn't, how did you cook up that name, you made a mistake in the quotation by the way, if it isn't you what is your photograph doing there etc.

Actually, I don't really know the purpose of the photograph. Some of my friends have suggested that when the police come in, the photograph will come in handy for identification purposes. With friends like these, who needs enemies is a question I often ask myself sadly.



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