<%-- Page Title--%> Chintito <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 148 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 2, 2004

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the water has ears


From 10,000 leagues under the sea the world does seem different. In case you think I have selfishly turned myself into fish because nowadays a fish in the market is more pricey than a human being, let me assure you that my loyalty towards the humankind is beyond question. Moreover, I love fish.

To the contrary, I am on a submarine holiday. This is a tourist submarine open to all who want to experience the water world. The sub has been put into operation by a country (Name withheld for security reasons. In fact, you can withhold anything for security reasons, which in other words mean 'I will not tell you and you can do nothing about it').

The unnamed country had bought the submarine with a fortune (one-third of its budget) a decade back but got tired of waiting for an underwater war. They were so busy fighting on land and on air (they meant television) that water was a very poor third option. They however expect to raise the money from the tourism industry in about 65 years; more positively said, in less than 70 years.

As I look out the left side porthole, (all of us were not lucky to have a periscope) we could see schools of fish lined up waving small colourful herbs held on coral sticks. In enthusiasm I rush to the starboard side and lo! There they are! More school fish. We make big eyes. But our guide insists that the schools of fish are in fact having a good time because there was no hot sun down there and that every time they opened their mouth they got something to eat. That is the telesmati of underwater living. Humans however are warned not to rush there because you need fins and gills and broad lips. No! Only broad lips will not do.

Amidst all this excitement, there was this announcement from the guide: "Ladies and gentlemen, if you will now look to your left you will see a submarine cable under construction." You mean THE submarine cable? Wow! We could imagine information whizzing past us @ 62,500 written pages per second.

The guide explains. I believe he copied it from some encyclopaedia: "The fastest way to transmit information between continents is through undersea fibre-optic cables. Some of these cables can transmit the equivalent of 62,500 written pages per second.

"I told you, but you always believe the official guide", one gentleman was overheard telling his wife.

The guide went on with the wife's eyes unblinking, "About a little more than one and a half inch in diameter, they consist of optical fibres (usually of glass) that are reinforced and protected by steel wires and a waterproofing coating. Because they rest on the ocean floor, cables must be installed and repaired by special ships."

We could also see some guy huddled close to the cable. Was he a terrorist? Was he going to blow it up? But our guide assured us that he was a water-proof sign painter and was writing Bangladesh's name on the cable signboard since we have just signed a pact after a long time with more than a dozen other countries. On closer look we saw 'Bangladesh' was looking real bright on the board as the names of all the other 13 member-countries had faded over time. Makes you feel proud but somewhat stupid.

On closer look, not so! Those who delayed signing the IT pact are in fact desho-premee. All they tried to do was stop the rest of the world knowing the bad things about Bangladesh a thousand times faster. Now the adage 'bad news travels faster' would be given a new meaning.

We kept on cruising. Hello hello hello... What was this? On both sides were hundreds of posters. They were all four-colour prints and laminated. They had to be, we were underwater, remember! The posters had pictures of different people, some with broad smiles fit for toothpaste ads, others the 'before' image of a hojmi. They all wanted to become Mps.

This is yet another of our unique characteristics. For every seat in some schools you have five hundred candidates, for every government job you have thousands of applicants, for every government plot.... Now for one parliament seat from Dhaka there are over a dozen candidates and one broken head. One had no idea that there were so many suitable boys. I am sure before the deadline ends some girls will also make to the walls.

On the sub was one ageing politician in pyjama and <>punjabee, himself now reduced to national functions and days, but perennially a candidate for the annual EkusheyPadak. He looked right and left, up and down, before whispering to me: "They are all disqualified". In response to my raised eyebrows and drooping lips, he added: "Election Commission does not allow coloured posters", and then wiping his forehead added: 'What the dozog are they doing wearing complete suit and tie, and in this weather too? Whose votes do they want? Whom are they trying to impress? Have their voters -- the source of power -- ever touched a suit piece or a tie..."

"Why do you whisper, sir?" I queried.

"Sshhh! Even the water has ears...", saying which he guffawed and mingled into the crowd.

It was a pleasant trip except for some disturbing sign boards stuck in the seabed. Every few hundred yards they read: This jomi's malik is...

Where on earth will the truly landless go?



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