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The mugger's society

The Muggers’ of Dhaka
Apparently, getting mugged, nabbed, knifed, smacked, blinded and completely emptied out is a brand new ‘sensation’ here in Dhaka. In the olden days, it was just grabbing the chain and running but now it’s a lot more than just that. In a city where the spilling of blood and other such incidents are almost daily events, getting mugged is probably a requirement. The victims usually range from the lower middle to the upper middle class who normally move around in rickshaws and CNGs; the transportations best suited for the event.

A ripe time ranges from the late hours, around 10 pm to late night as long as sleep does not invade their (the predators) eyes, and of course if they don’t run out of chemicals to blind their victims’ eyes. Empty roads are obviously preffered butnot so empty that there are no victims. They sem to prefer narrow strets with tall urban settings on both sides. Some of you might have noticed that usually after 10 pm, many of the CNG and Taxi drivers refuse to go to many places.

This includes mainly Mirpur 1, 10 and 11½, also Ruup Nagar and Pallabi, these places being some of the prime mugging spots with their dark and chipa golis. Other spots include the Shekar Tek in Mohammadpur (where the thugs wear bandana and T-shirts with Madonna’s face on it), Agargaon, Kolabagan, Khilgaon (the dust-bins are a good hide out spot… no kidding!) Shyamoli, Azimpur and Uttar Badda. Other places also include certain areas of Dhanmondi and the garment-linked roads of Mohakhali. Moving a bit further from Dhaka, Jatra Bari and Sayedabadh are the most active areas. So beware! The muggers’ are everywhere!

The Muggers’ Ploys
The various tactics used by the muggers are… well, in one word… very well planned out, organized and carried out amazingly fast. The following states a few such tactics in brief:

1. The Passer By: Grabbing a hapless pedestrian in an easy task. The muggers usually commence their operation by first blocking all possible escape routes of the victim, usually two from the front and two from the back. Often they will pretend to be regular people asking for your assistance. They will appear to ask for directions. This is a common ply so don’t help anyone.

2. The rickshaw: Rickshaws, it seems, are their favorite targets as they are easy to coral. Usually three to four men take part in these operations: they stop the vehicle often riding a motorbike. With knives sticking to your back, one of the muggers leg near your groin (trust me they do that… after all, it is the most painful), and another knife near your throat, it is kind of like a no run situation.

3. The CNGs and taxis: This is usually implemented when the CNG driver takes a part in the action. The CNG driver takes the passenger through the pre-planned route (usually through golis saying it’s a faster route) where the muggers wait and warm up their artillery. The driver and slows down until two men from two sides enter the CNG and voila! Operation successful. The taxi case is also kind of similar. Beware when taxi drivers start mentioning engine problems and other excuses to slow done. It could be a genuine problem but it never hurts ot be warned.

The Muggers’ Artillery
Their artillery is typically the simple knives to “Bangali Mair” (sometimes with spikes attached to their knuckles), but in a few cases they do have guns. But, believe me they do beat you a lot even without any provocation. One other thing they have is a sort of chemical that they rub into their victim’s eyes which can be a serious issue. This is to make sure that the victim does not see their faces properly. In the meanwhile, if you scream out in pain, in a few cases (as I heard), they stuff your mouth with cloth so that you can’t scream. Moving around in Dhaka nowadays, especially in the ‘mugger’s spots’ requires skill and sharp senses; and yet it is no surprise to find yourself caught up in their ploy. Remember, staying alive is the top priority.

By Adnan M. S. Fakir

Book review

In film class, we came across this term 'plasticity'. It refers to the ability of text to be translated to film, without the aid of dialogues. Looking to local films for an example didn't help; all the characters did was to shout inane dialogues. I was still pondering on this when I started reading Cottonwood. Now if there's a book meant to be turned to a movie, it's this one.

The story is inspired by the true story of the Benders, a family of serial killers. Around these real-life crooks, author Scott Philips weaves a fictional tale about a fictional town with fictional characters.

Bill Ogden owns the only saloon in the sleepy town of Cottonwood. For him, it's an escape from his adulterous wife, who continues to punish him for not sticking to his lot as a farm owner by sleeping with the hired farm hands. Ogden himself is a bit of a skirt chaser, and the couple has this weird open relationship where each sleeps with someone else, and the other is perfectly aware, and even occasionally sympathetic of it. Life goes on at its own languid pace in Cottonwood…until wealthy entrepreneur Marc Leval comes to town with his lovely and lonely wife, Maggie, and big dreams for the little town. Leval believes that Cottonwood has the potential to become a thriving metropolis, and for some reason, believes that Ogden, who happens to be well-educated, is the man to help him realise his dreams. Ogden, for his part, is instantly smitten with Maggie Leval, and it soon becomes apparent that the attraction is not one-sided.

As Cottonwood wakes up and begins to stretch her arms in all directions, people start to go missing. On a journey from this town to the next, Ogden has an encounter with the Bender family, and manages to escape certain death only on account of the fact that the daughter, Katie Bender has a soft corner for him. Ogden is convinced that there is something fishy about the family, but has no concrete proof to show. So he goes back to doing what he can do: pursue Maggie.

All of a sudden, a wealthy investor goes missing, and Ogden convinces everyone to go looking for the man at the Bender farm. A search party, which includes Ogden, Leval, and a few others, sets off, and sure enough, when they reach the Bender place, although the inhabitants have fled, they find not only the body of the missing investor, but more than a dozen others buried in the backyard. As the search party spreads out to search for the perpetrators, and Ogden finds himself alone with Leval, who lets on that he is aware of the saloon-keeper's relationship with his wife, and starts shooting at him. Ogden shoots Leval, and runs away, stopping by at Cottonwood only to pick Maggie up.

Several years pass, and the Bender family have become an infamous legend all over the state, with several Bender 'spottings' in several places. Ogden and Maggie have their differences and split. Then one fine day, Ogden hears about the Bender trial in Cottonwood, and the return of Maggie Leval there. Unable to resist his curiosity, he returns to the place, and discovers many changes, and also realises that he has been a dupe in a larger, more sinister conspiracy.

The book, as I've mentioned before, reads like a movie, but has a slow, deliberate pace, quite unlike Dan Browns blockbuster-Hollywood-masala-movie style. Scott has a knack for making sordid details appear funny, and his characters, though unusual, are very human and believable. This is what my good friend Maliha Bassam would call 'lad lit', and women and rosy romances don't figure much in it, but if a romance buff like myself could enjoy this book, I'm sure anyone would find it a pleasant change from your average bank-heist crime fiction. Cottonwood is available at ETC for Tk 512.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Mysterious Misir Ali

“Lose your eyes and learn to see”. These are the very words which encouraged Humayun Ahmed, the most popular and best seller fiction writer of Bangladesh to conceive the character of Misir Ali. Those of us who are regular readers of Bengali fiction are well aware of the enigmatic nature of Misir Ali. The one person whose business it is to see the inner world that is enclosed behind the blood and flesh of the human body. He can literally close his eyes and see what's inside our minds and on the way solve incredible mysteries.

I read the first Misir Ali book ages ago. I had heard of him many times when I used to dig for books in the Ekushey Book stall. However, at that time, I used to buy children's books (being a little child myself), besides, the term psychological thriller was too hard for me to grasp and avoided books by Humayun ahmed. Later I found a whole collection of Misir Ali books (Misir Ali Omnibus) in one of my cousins house. I was bored and thought of giving it a try. The very first titles of the series Devi and Nishithini was so mesmerizing that I literally skipped the whole program by sitting in a corner and finishing the entire novel in one go. I had no idea that mainstream Bengali fiction and Mr. Humayun Ahmed can be so mesmerizing.

At that time, the X files fever was high on me, and after going through, I was convinced that if Chris Carter had got his hand on this masterpiece he would have modeled his Fox Mulder on this guy. Such depth of character, yet, Misir Ali is a simple person, who believes that there is a rational explanation behind everything. He would never believe in the supernatural, and neither would he try to explain them. He believes that there is human way of doing things and that miracles just don't happen but we make them happen. There are some peculiarities in the way he lives. He lives in a simple house with a servant, unmarried. Whenever he would receive a letter, he would make sure to read it at least thrice so find out more about the author.

By profession, he is a lecturer of psychology, but he has earned fame by solving some psychological cases. But strangely, he is reluctant to take up any cases. In fact, even though he is reluctant, he will still take some hidden interest and the mystery will be unfolded. As the mystery is solved, the readers will often get a plausible explanation of cases. Because logic is always in the centerfold of all his theories.

Many of Ahmed's fans often compare him with Himu, a mercurial and unsteady character created by him. If Misir Ali is logic, then Himu is anti logic. We will dig into the realms of Himu on some other day, but interestingly, Misir Ali and Himu come to confront each other in the book “Himur Ditiyo Prohor”. If you have a these and anti thesis together, what you get is synthesis. Similarly bringing these two opposites have created perhaps the best novel in the series. It would not be right for me to spill out the plot and everything, but I must suggest the readers to go and get a copy of that book.

Most of the RS readers prefer reading Dan Brown or Archer and other American novelists. But if they do not get their hands dirty with a few Misir Ali books, the entire realm of Bengali literature will remain hidden to them. It is possible to create great mystery and psychological thrillers in Bengali and the Misir Ali books are a great example of that.

By Tanvir Hafiz


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