Elbowed out by an open mind; sequel to ‘mind block’

Our wedding feasts are not the usual places to showcase our best behaviour. Reaching out to fetch a bowl of rezala over the next guy, tossing a shami kebab to a needy friend beyond the reach of your spoon, and trying to cover spilt borhani with only one layer of tissue paper are all part of the gaiety. I will not mention here wiping hands on the dangling part of the table cloth for want of evidence.

Despite the predatory instincts in our best clothing, when it comes to asking for an additional portion of the main dish—kachchi, biriyani, polau…whatever—we are rather conservative in our approach lest the others think we are also greedy. Therefore, intrinsically, we adopt the "good neighbour" policy.

"Hello Bhai, ay-jay, can you not see his plate is empty?" the gentleman calls out to the passing waiter with his mouth full of the main dish and sides. He was giving the excuse of another person sharing his table. The dish arrives, the other person hardly has a chance to glance at it before the charitable shouting man digs deep into it and scoops a whole load for himself. Then he smiles briefly at his table-mate, and no more.

As students, we also adopted a policy of involving others, supposedly all our classmates. Whenever a few of us, okay only three of us, decided to approach our project teacher with a firm determination to shift the submission date, we always spoke for everybody without their knowledge.

"Sir, everyone was saying, it will be difficult to submit the project next Thursday." To Sir's prodding "Why?", one of us says "We could not, Sir, work towards completing, Sir..." Looking behind us, the puzzled Sir asks, "How many of you?" By then we are only two students standing, the third had already fled the scene. The case in favour of "everyone" was lost, until perhaps the next time.

Price rise of essentials is a universal phenomenon. Supply chain, production, hoarding, mark-ups and profit margin, transportation and distribution systems are variously cited as the cause. Often there is a scientific or socio-economic influence beyond the control of the players.

At Dhaka's Karwan Bazaar, a favourite haunt of TV channels, if only for proximity, vendors are interviewed after every price hike. Beaming under the video camera lights, the chosen vendor blurts out a script that he and his friends have been using for years. The blame for the rise is unanimously thrust onto others; here usually the unseen suppliers, but sometimes the apparent weather condition and the corrupt transport network. Their hands are clean. Although, profiting is not a crime, they seem to suffer from a guilty conscience. Some other happy sellers and a few concerned customers can be seen in the background. The session has no effect, whatsoever.

Cable operators have been students. They have been to vegetable markets, and to countless weddings. They are totally trained in the art of seeking favours via others. Obviously, they will try to persuade the government to allow business to run as usual but, in line with the few scenarios narrated above, cable operators are giving "our suffering" as the reason to give them the right to relay foreign channels.

True, our bodobhyash to guzzle bideshi material, music and movies of any standard is decades old. The fan-following for live international football and cricket is titanic to say the least. The imported culture has also generated millions of addicts of Indian serials and pretend-wrestling, where no one ever really bleeds. Cartoons in Hindi are seriously damaging to our children, who are just picking up the ka and kha of Bangla.

Considering the above decadences, even if partly so, and recurring monetary loss to the national exchequer, the government moved boldly to prohibit broadcasting of advertisements (foreign and local) through any foreign channels. While at 50, we should start being an example, it may pacify some of the cynics among the about 15 million cable TV viewers in Bangladesh, that the "no-clean-feed, no broadcasting" policy is in line with similar legislation in other countries including neighbouring India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and even faraway Britain.

Cable operators pretended to fall from Burj Khalifa, and yet the clean-feed issue was on the table since the Cable Television Network Management Act of 2006, 15 years. With a view to implementing the law, Information and Broadcasting Minister, Dr Hasan Mahmud "started talking about it two years ago" with all concerned. Little wonder he can no longer tolerate excuses that foreign channels were not sending clean feeds.

Obviously, the blockade has been a rude shock to many viewers, but many homes have not enjoyed such peaceful tranquillity in a long time. Couples have resumed talking. Children are discovering toys under their beds that they never knew existed. Despite all that, "the viewers are suffering" is a plea for allowing the illegal feed.

As with all issues in this country, we have a diametrically opposite viewpoint. Not for that specific reason alone, but the government's measure that bars foreign TV channels from airing feed with ads has been lauded by the (Bangladesh) Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO).

Way back (May 17, 2018), in my column under, "Elbowed out by mind block" (Chintito, The Daily Star), I wrote: "Due to the manmade cultural chaos, I am having to meet some Indian idols on a regular basis (you too) as well as cope with their dance moves and wide smiles on Bangladeshi TV channels. Why someone should be so happy to use a certain washing powder, whitening cream, hair colourer, or face wash is beyond my quiet time in the bathroom."

I would like to renew my appeal, that is, local channels should not allow local ads that feature foreign artistes. I am certain that local TV and film artistes, film and music makers, will support my standpoint. Tired as I am of seeing Akshay Kumar advising us on cleaner commodes, and Salman Khan peddling soft drinks, the move would open some opportunities for our performers.


Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed is professor of Architecture, a practising architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.


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