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The road to Rising Stars

It was 22 January 2004. After having a tough day at school, I returned home and started to read Rising Stars in order to liven up my spirits. On completion of reading the well-written article about bullying, by Ayesha Sanchita Mahmud, I turned to the second page of the teen magazine. I immediately noticed that there was a message from the Rising Stars desk in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. The message was as follows:

"Tired of the same old boring articles in the RS? Think you could do better? Ever secretly wished you were a Rising Star? Well, now you have an opportunity. The Rising Stars is looking for talented, and dedicated writers to bring back the bite into your favourite teen magazine. If you feel that you've got what it takes (read: dedication, creativity, and good grammar), please come to The Daily Star for a walk-in interview with the RS team on Sunday, January 25, between 3pm-5pm. Please bring with you a CV and a sample of your writing."

After reading the message I thought to myself for a few seconds and wondered whether I should apply or not. I assessed the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a Rising Star and came to the conclusion that it was definitely worth it. And so, the process of preparing a CV and a sample of writing began.

Initially I thought that preparing a CV would be a simple task. However, the moment I started to prepare it I realised the complexity of the job. This was because I had never attempted to make one before. I had simply no clue as to the correct format of a CV. In my plight I decided to seek help from a friend who had at least some experience in this field. After having a good laugh, he provided sound advice that enabled me to produce my first ever CV. Trust me, I heaved a huge sigh of relief after I got it printed!

The next hurdle that I had to cross was to prepare a sample of writing. Normally, my teachers describe me as a flowing writer. However, on this occasion I just could not think about anything to write about. Finally, after brainstorming for several minutes I decided to write an essay on: Parents and their attitude towards their children. Even after deciding on my topic, I took ages to complete the essay. I honestly believe that I redefined the meaning of the term 'snail's pace' on that day! In retrospect, I guess the fact that I would be submitting the essay to get a job made me nervous.

The day of judgement, 25 January, finally came. I arrived at The Daily Star office precisely at 3pm. On arrival I was told to go and sit in the seminar room with all the other job applicants. On entering the seminar room I received a huge shock because it was absolutely jam-packed with candidates aspiring to join Rising Stars. At that point I wondered whether I had come to give an interview to get a place at Harvard University after all, not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would encounter such fierce competition! Anyway, after waiting for 45 minutes I was called for my interview. The interview was taken by: Editor of Rising Stars and a Staff Writer. During the course of the interview they both enquired about a diverse range of issues. For instance, I was asked about: my educational background, whether I read the Rising Stars regularly and if so what appealed to me about the magazine etc. The final question that they asked me was why I thought I should be given the opportunity to work for Rising Stars. I found it difficult to answer this question, as I had to boast about my own abilities. After answering all their questions I was told that I would be informed about the outcome of the interview within a week.

More than a week passed by, but I did not receive any news from The Daily Star. I was just beginning to accept that I failed to get the job. It was at this moment that on the morning of 5 February I received a phone call from Sabrina F. Ahmad. She informed me that I had been selected for employment and that she would like me to attend a general meeting on 10 February. I was absolutely ecstatic to hear the news and I immediately shared my success with both friends and family.

So, there you have it. This is how I became a member of the Rising Stars team. I am thoroughly enjoying working at this place. The fun, laughter and camaraderie that I am experiencing here is truly unique. Hopefully, I will manage to live up to their expectations!

By Sayeed Mahmud Nizam

Common ground - a holy exhibition (!)

Don't get me wrong. It's not that one has to clear off all sins committed in his/her lifetime before entering this exhibition. However one shouldn't have that many sins at the first place! Anyway, moving on with the article. As clumsy, dumb and unprepared as I can be, it came to no surprise to my mum as she accompanied me into the hall to find her daughter looking pale and plumb surrounded by Chinese Art.

I was in the wrong room for I was sure from The Daily Star newspaper that "COMMON GROUND" was suppose to be a collection of photographs of British Muslims! Faking a calm smile I walked forward examining every colourful art piece that obviously had a story behind it. So what if this is not what I came for? It was still an exhibition and we all know exhibition of any sort has plenty of room for both silent observation and out loud criticism.

All portraits were of stone and colour powder on typical paper so the presentations looked quite simple and very alike. Each artwork had a name next to it allowing the viewers to comprehend exactly what they were looking at. For instance most had names such as "waiting", "prayers", "dreams" or just "love" itself. I found that all images contained the touch of nature. There was either a flower or some sort of insect or just the common use of the colour blue, to which I assumed it represented the sky and having a clock in the foreground, it could only reflect the relationship between time and life. If not the life of any living creature on earth then simply the life of nature itself, and its' beauty that surrounds us throughout our lives. There was defiantly the symbol of religion since some of the portraits showed the Pain of Jesus Christ and others had Angels surround him.

One that said "Quiet time" next to it actually had a Bible on a table and a view of nature in the background. God's presence was there in all paintings in one way or the other but my favourite was one that said, "limited time" next to it. There was this breath taking blue colour, which I earlier mentioned, could mean sky and time and at a distance there was a little door half opened obviously not showing what's behind it. It made sense that whoever thought of this was willing to escape the pressure of something but time seemed to be limited as the door was too far away and almost closing itself.

It reminded me of how Bengalis are easily pushed into corruption (being the most corrupted country in the world, one needn't bother to argue on that!) and it feels like the doors of freedom and purity are closing in on us or simply moving further away since not much is being done about banning corruption. Nevertheless if all my sixth sense view on Art hasn't made any sense to you then don't worry. After all, it's art baby and there's no right and wrong in it!

On my way out however I noticed a man I had seen in the British Council. "Hmm…should I ask him where this "common ground" exhibition is held?" I asked myself as mum still tried to figure out why her precious daughter always looked so confused with all the extra vitamins she consumes everyday.

Well it turned out to be the man I knew from the British Council and he told me that the exhibition was on my left on the doorway (as you may have guessed, I went to my right!) Anyway, having finally put on my "know-exactly-what I am looking- at" attitude I stepped in to find almost life size photos of probably the most exited Muslims ever!

I once again decided to observe one particular photo rather then take glimpses at them all at a distance and I managed to find a favourite. It was a photo taken by Suki Dhandi who has basically tried to paint the idea of lives and emotions of Muslim girls. These girls were either playing or eating or simply having a good time like everyone else except that they were in veils. Their expressions gave no hint of sadness or any lack of freedom, which most people around the world assume a factor for any Muslim girl. Suki Dhandi, herself writes "Muslim girls perceive the hijab as a symbol of identity and empowerment rather than a sign of oppression and subjugation."

Getting back to my favourite one, however, which would draw attention to anyone especially the non-Muslims was hung under the title "alone at home". It would draw anyone's attention because it was first of all a girl without a veil and secondly the title had a much more influence on how people would judge it. One would easily criticise the loneliness and depression on the girl's face without even looking at her but to me she looked like the most innocent person I have ever seen simple because there was no make up, no special pose (like there was one of a girl with a hand on her hip) and her hair wasn't' even done neatly. She just sat there on a wooden chair hugging her knees and looking completely comfortable, as anyone would be at home.

The word "alone" might create a disturbance among some but by viewing all the other photos of girls gossiping or shopping about (what girls do best anywhere!), one shouldn't really bother to comment on any "loneliness" felt by any Muslim. Looking across to other photos I enjoyed mostly the ones by Clement Croper and Tom smith since I have a vast interest in black and white pictures, which I feel, can capture the real feelings felt by the person being photographed. It wasn't all about people but also had ones of religious buildings built in Britain (photo taken by Rehen Jamil) and finally how and why the people changed into a Muslims. Some mentioned the names of people who had influenced them into becoming a Muslim while others wrote about the joys it had brought them. It defiantly comforts those who feel they're being bullied by the new generation of disrespecting true culture.

After spending almost half an hour connecting myself with everlasting images, I turned around again as I got to the doorway to take another look at what I was here for. I remember that I had entered through this door to investigate on some kind of religious portrayal based on love, freedom and life in the shoes of faithful people. Funnily enough I was welcomed into this exact atmosphere when entering the Chinese art exhibition. Both exhibitions represented faith, love and respect in different ways. So I finally hopped down the stairs and left the building reflecting on the title "COMMON GROUND" in my own unique way!

By Shayera Moula

Child marriage - a curse

One of the bitter traditions that still contaminate the Bangladeshi society is child marriage. It is acutely painful to
See so many young girls yielding under family pressure and being sacrificed at the marriage altar. I have been thoroughly disturbed by the accounts of child marriages I've heard of and even attended recently. It is an outrage that child marriage persists relatively unhindered in this fast moving 21st century.

Isn't this just locking a girl up indoors for the rest of her life? And so, when she wants to know the world beyond her backyard, or at least, receive minimum education? But this is what certain over-caring parents do not seem to understand. They are too easily tempted when people come in with exciting proposals such as 'Patro bideshe thake (New York, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, .....whatever) or 'Patro babar bishal business dekhashona kore', etc. etc. These 'golden' opportunities are not usually missed by parents who think they are ensuring bright futures for their daughters. It also seems to occur to some parents that parting with their wards early would bring the wanted financial solvency to the family. So what happens is that a completely brainwashed underage girl happily sits for marriage, proud of her heroics to ease her parents' troubles. But then when she begins to face the real music, he spends rest of her life regretting. Why wouldn't anyone call these parents selfish when they are more than wiiling to sacrifice their children's happiness for their own comfort?

But you have to feel for a certain group of parents. There are gangsters all over the country who make it a habit to target young females. The victim is the whole family. These families have very few solutions to go by with. But they always end up choosing the easiest way out compelling the girl into marriage.

Whoever might be responsible for these acts of infamy or for whatever reason, the consequences are nothing less than brutal. Before the victimised girl even takes over a few responsibilities of herself, she has to cope with those of a whole lot of hostile in-laws. Not only that, happy and understanding couple is almost never made because these marriages offer huge age differences. The unfriendly aftermaths of these marriages do not end here. When these young girls understand the bitter reality of what married life entails, they suffer from acute depression. early marriage often leads to physical complications and may even lead to death. It seems so brutal that these girls these children, in fact are forced to act like adults and shoulder such burdensome responsibilities. And there isn't a way out for them either. In our society, divorcees are treated with no more respect than outcasts are. So the result is that an innocent young life is just wasted away.

Mistakes are always made. But why don't we learn from them? Why are we still unprepared to believe that females can build their own lives? An obvious question that would come to one's mind is that, isn't there a law against all this? In fact, there is. But laws are made only to be broken. And in this case it is quite easy because you only have to pay an extra bokhshish to the kazi to prevent him from flashing out the 'crime' to the law.

Some particular people may find it surprising that I, being a male, am so concerned about such a subject. But I wholeheartedly believe that child marriage is a social disease, and the consequences are being borne by the society as a whole.

By Saqeb Mahbub Rafi









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