Eighteen Plus

Saudi Arabia last year granted citizenship to robot Sophia. Photo: Patricia de Melo/AFP

As the world celebrated New Year's Eve with fireworks, we celebrated with curfews. Regardless, the celebration was akin to how I, and every human being on the planet, celebrate turning 18, whether it be for the freedom to go to university, far from the shackles of home, or for the mere joy of getting one's first driver's license.

Forget the 2,000 years, focus on the rightmost two digits. The world has turned 18, woo hoo! Therefore, not a surprise that 17 has been anything but boring.

Just like preparing for the SATs at 17, we enrich our vocabulary with words like "fake" (news) and "alternative facts". But also with the twilight of 17, we drop "Brangelina" from the lexicon. Blessing in disguise—when Angelina Jolie visits Cox's Bazar, Aung San Suu Kyi will not need to protest to Brad Pitt. Aung San Suu Kyi, remember? The lady who has boosted hotel and air travel revenues in Cox's Bazar, thanks to hordes of expats from NGOs visiting the place. Besides, she has helped expand the knowledge of geography among those from developed nations.

Our knowledge of geography is enriched further as we not only learn about new countries, but also realise their importance in geopolitics—the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Togo and the Republic of Palau as they are among the nine countries at the UN which, along with the US and Israel, vote in favour of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Hey, Bangladesh is no less important. We have vehemently protested North Korea's missile tests, in line with Donald Trump's barrage of retaliatory tweets as he makes his way to the Middle East. Not sure what he does there, but all of a sudden, Qatar is downgraded to being much less Arab than Arabs, while Saudi Arabia, after 35 long years, resumes showing movies at movie theatres, thus creating a record of the longest interval in a movie. Perhaps to ensure the theatres are full, women in Saudi Arabia get driver's licenses, thus finally ushering in Saudi Arabia into the twentieth century. Who knows, maybe KSA was also waiting for the world to reach the legal driving age of 18…

But one woman is granted perhaps more rights there than any other—maybe because she is a robot. Sophia, who makes her way to Dhaka, narrowly misses an overhaul at Dholaikhal. She is reluctant to try out any local food since hearing two of her fellow robots have been shackled into being waitresses at a local restaurant. Now, that's not two jobs lost from the employment market, but rather eight more created that are needed to maintain these two robots.

Saudi Arabia creates the world's most posh prison—the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh with royals "incarcerated" there on corruption charges. Well, Prince Miteb is out after a USD 1 billion "deal" with the government, thus creating a record in the history of kidnapping—the highest ransom…

Meanwhile, technology has seen its rise like never before. Bangladesh ranks as the second highest user of Facebook, thanks to hundreds of thousands of Dhaka College "girls" and Viqarunnisa College "boys". Customer service sees a new development as United Airlines of the US introduces its new motto: "United we stand, overbooked we beat." 

Speaking of numbers, the UN publishes its report on expats, listing India as the top country with 170 million of Indian origin living outside of India. Hey, all of them can form another country, ranking 68th in the world in terms of population, calling itself the Republic of NRI—Non-Returning Indians. Second in the list is Mexico, whose position is in jeopardy, all depending on a "huuuuuggeeee" wall. Syria is in the list too, with its expats equalling its total population, thanks to Assad. I have a feeling, Sylhet is in there too…

RIP, the biology teacher of many, Hugh Hefner. We have also lost Shashi Kapoor and as BBC's News at Ten breaks the news featuring clips of Amitabh Bachchan, the former's career, like in his living days, remains overshadowed by that of the latter. RIP net neutrality—Trump the Tweeter had to end democracy in cyberspace, perhaps by learning a thing or two from his buddy Putin, credited for puttin' democracy to rest. Speaking of the man, Putin gets the last laugh as Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com is declared the richest man worth USD 100 billion.

Terror attacks are foiled, the latest as the CIA helps foil a terror attack in St Petersburg—that is Trump's return favour to Putin.

Virat Kohli and Anuskha Sharma tie the knot, thanks to their first meeting during a shampoo commercial. So, technically, the matchmaker is dandruff. With busier times ahead, cricket gets slimmer with T-10 paving the way for T-T—the winning team is determined by whoever wins the coin 'T'oss. But all not before the gale of Chris Gayle during the BPL with his highlights longer than his innings. Another T-T remains a draw—Teesta for Transit…

Bangladesh continues to produce medicine with 10 percent as counterfeit while the remaining 90 percent work hard to tackle illnesses created by the 10 percent.

People magazine names Julia Roberts as the Most Beautiful Woman on Earth. The Earth for People magazine consists of USA, UK, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Togo and the Republic of Palau

Meanwhile, Time magazine's Person(s) of the Year are The Silence Breakers. I'm sure a distant second are the "Silence Creators"—Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Senator Al Franken—and these are just in the US… For sure, the former are the effect, the latter are the cause.

There are the Paradise Papers with 10 Bangladeshis in there who have no concerns—after all, nobody "subscribes" to these (news) "papers".

Prince Harry has found his match in Meghan Markle, an African-American. Finally, after hundreds of years of British rule in Africa and America, the British royalty will know what it is like being ruled by Africa and America, combined.

And the other Harry, of the Potter kind, turns 20. The biggest winners, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, JK Rowling as the creator of Harry Potter and Dhaka's Neelkhet for the pirated photocopies of Harry Potter.

Bangladesh is a couple of notches up in the World Hunger Index—makes sense, we are less "hungry", thanks to the price of food.

The fight for Catalonian independence is of the utmost concern to us common Bangladeshis because Barcelona has threatened to withdraw from the La Liga.

I can go and on. But what remains as the most important fact is that the world has turned eighteen. The world is now a full-grown adult. Let it now take its own rein and make its own decisions, at least some. Let us hope for at least one miracle.

Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and ABC Radio's Good Morning Bangladesh, the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club.

Email: [email protected]

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