Musings

Some Trivial Language Issues: Part—1

Language issues — Mohammad Tauheed

Some random trivial language issues in Bengali and English in local and international context, I might add more to this post or post separate part-2 later 🙂

Spicy
Please do not use the words “spicy” and “hot” (taste) interchangeably. In Pan-Indian cuisine some food can be very spicy yet not at all hot, and vice versa, some food can be full of chilly pepper however not much other spices, that food is “hot,” not spicy. They are two different words with different tastes and meanings!

পাছে
অনেকের ধারণা, কামিনী রায়ের বহুল প্রচলিত কবিতার “পাছে লোকে কিছু বলে” পংক্তির “পাছে” শব্দের অর্থ “পেছনে,” অথবা পাছে মানে খারাপ কিছু—”পাছে লোকে” মানে খারাপ লোকে—এই ধারণাগুলো ভুল। পাছে মানে “যদি” (lest)। “পাছে লোকে কিছু বলে” মানে “যদি লোকে কিছু বলে!”

পাছে শব্দের সঙ্গে সামনে-পেছনে, বা ভালো-খারাপের কোন সম্পর্ক নাই, এটি কোনো বিশেষণ (adjective) নয়, এটি একটি সংকোচক অব্যয় (conjuction)। 🙏🏼

জামাই
জামাই মানে Son in Law, জামাই মানে Husband না! এই বহুল প্রচলিত শহুরে ভুলটি আমাকে খুব অস্বস্তিতে ফেলে। মানুষ যখন “আমার জামাই” বলে স্বামী বোঝাতে চায় তখন আমি বোঝার চেষ্টা করি ওর মেয়ে হলো কবে, সেই মেয়ের আবার বিয়ে হলো কবে, জামাই পেল কিভাবে এত তাড়াতাড়ি, কদিন আগেই না নিজেই বিয়ে করল! #কিএক্টাবস্থা 🤷🏻‍♂️ 🤦🏻‍♂️

Knock me
বাংলাদেশের বাইরে কোন ইংরেজিতে knock me কথাটা reach out to me, call/text me এগুলো বোঝাতে ব্যবহৃত হয়না। Knock somebody (off) বলতে কাওকে মেরে শুইয়ে দেওয়া বোঝায়। এবং ইংরেজি মাতৃভাষার কাওকে knock me বললে তারা #কিএক্টাবস্থার মধ্যে পড়ে, ঠিক বুঝতে পারে না আপনি কেন মাইর খেতে চাচ্ছেন।

Check out the comments and discussion on my Facebook.

The History of the Future

The History of the Future — Photo by Abdul Momin

[Photo © Abdul Momin]

History is a philosophical and political statement or opinion, and it is invariably incomplete. It is never absolute, and will always invoke a range of responses, from outright rejection to enthusiastic support, depending on who the narrator, and who the readers are. We have learned to accept the incompleteness of history and the inherent conventions that come with it, but for a better understanding of our current state and predicting the future, we need to turn the tables and look at history through different perspectives.

This idea of questioning history and accepting the inherent limitations of any account gives us a unique opportunity to understand history in a whole new way: to look with fresh eyes at some of the incomplete and erroneous narratives in text books and everyday discussions.

The ‘production process’ of written history is a kind of a luxury. It is usually written by the victor, and only produced by privileged people, such as historians and chroniclers who are sponsored and supported. Any recorded history is aligned with the imaginations, desires and myths set by rich and powerful patrons. This represents the hegemony of the privileged few over the rest.

The raw material of history is documentation. The evolution of history, for this reason, was much slower, for example, than art. Documenting was an expensive business until the invention of cheap paper, and later computers. While artists were already practicing self-expression, architecture and historiography were still beholden to the powerful. It has only been in recent times that the work of a historian has become easier, cheaper and a way of life, and historians have started to enjoy independence from patronage and established hegemony. Today, the number of photographs and recorded videos produced everyday in the world might be more than what have been produced throughout the 20th century. This change has a massive impact on the future of how history will be absorbed, documented and written, and may mean that we are heading towards a more comprehensive version of the history of humanity.

Leaving a mark on the timeline of history with ‘architecture’ versus ‘Instagram’ has some stark differences! Architecture can work as a map of the society, a culminating work showcasing long standing culture, whereas Instagram is a snap, however, still important as a historical evidence. We do not have much opportunity of looking into the snaps of everyday lives of everyday people from even the 1700s. All we have are archaeological evidences and written pieces that are slowly and carefully crafted, often to represent the ‘greatness’ of emperors or piped up heroism of generals and soldiers.

Architecture is not always a very efficient mode of communicating and documenting history, although, often that’s all we have when we are looking into the past. Learning history from the ancient architecture has some fundamental problems. It is slow and ambiguous. One of the biggest missing pieces of the puzzle of reading history from the ancient architectural and urban archaeology is the daily snaps of random people. It was never documented in such volume with architecture, art or even literature, the way it is happening now. Consider yourself a historian of 2090, and suddenly you have a plethora of written evidence with fine details since the late nineties when people started posting their daily lives on the Internet.

The future of history is going to be very different. It is potentially going to be more complete, and hopefully a little freer from bias. Then again, there is the inherent problem of focusing on the ‘snaps,’ as they come from only the people with access to internet, technology and education. Since it is now easy to document, if we want to change the dynamics of how our own history will be written in future, we have to start posting more about the people who are otherwise left behind, and creating a balance. That’s the only way to work against the hegemony of history. The key to a more independent and unbiased history is in the uniformity of the distribution of how accessible information is. For the first time in history, anyone can write and post, take photo and shoot videos, and directly contribute to the global archive of documentation. We need to leverage this change! This will surely change the dynamic of the future of history.

In order to fix the problem of the production of history ‘today’, we have to empower the marginal communities and people who cannot afford the luxury of contributing to it. A big portion of our national expenditure needs to go into the production of history to turn the table from the West to East; rich to poor, colonisers to oppressed. And it is easier now than ever before.


Originally published on the newsletter-magazine of Bengal Institute: Vas—issue 04.

Why is the concept of ‘culture’ is problematic

The existence and use of the word ‘culture’ has a fundamental problem. It is inherently selfish and the brewing ground of stereotypes.

The word culture, quickly makes us self-conscious, defensive and proud. We jump into defining the boundaries of it and desperately try to promote its uniqueness.

I want to question the fundamental necessity of it. Why do we at all need to define it, promote it, push it? Isn’t this whole concept equally problematic as nationalism?

I am a Bengali. And I am proud of it. And because of the beauty of Bengali ‘culture’ of openness and pluralism, ironically, I also deny participating in any blatant marketing of it. I carefully judge the limits of celebrating a culture and pushing it to undermine others.

———

23rd April, 2018; 10:15

Then suddenly while reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari:

”Ever more scholars see cultures as a kind of mental infection or parasite, with humans as its unwitting host. Organic parasites, such as viruses, live inside the body of their hosts. They multiply and spread from one host to the other, feeding off their hosts, weakening them, and sometimes even killing them. As long as the hosts live long enough to pass along the parasite, it cares little about the condition of its host.

In just this fashion, cultural ideas live inside the minds of humans. They multiply and spread from one host to another, occasionally weakening the hosts and sometimes even killing them.”

Is Donald Trump an accident or a planned accident?

Trump is an unfortunate accident, no matter what. But the question is whether it was a planned accident or it just happened and slipped through the cracks of democracy?

The first few chapters of Fire and Fury indicates that the campaign didn’t even want to win the election! They were genuinely surprised by the win and caught off guard, and completely dumb founded about how to handle the preaidency. If that’s the case, then I’d rather believe in what Bannon said about the Russian connection “It’s just a conspiracy theory. The Trump team wasn’t capable of conspiring about anything.”

They were just a herd of monekeys trying to buy fame out of a hastily run political campaign and disrupt the scene. ‘Accidentally’ they won.

Now, this accident is problematic, the existence of a character like Donald Trump doesn’t disturb me, but the fact that people voted for him and he became the POTUS is the scary problem there! This fact scares me that so many people were there to support this buffoon. That’s the single most depressing and scary part of this whole story.

If it was an accident then I would feel a little comfortable. But there are no accidents, as Master Oogway said 🤔

Coffee 😌 and iPhone 8 Plus 🙄

Coffee bean and French Press

That’s my daily elixir of life and work. Coffee. I can’t live without. Ever since North End started roasting beans here in Dhaka, the whole coffee scene changed. Now if you look carefully, it’s whole beans from North End stored inside a blasphemous Nescafe jar! And right beside it the ubiquitous french-press.

Thank god, beans are slowly taking over the notorious Nescafe! Interestingly enough, when people think tea, they think of real tea-leaves here, they don’t think about some suspicious soluble substance like instant coffee! They know you need to brew it to get tea and throw away the leaves. But when you say ‘coffee’ in general terms in Bangladesh, people understand ‘instant coffee,’ they think coffee by default is supposed to be a soluble powder. All credit goes to Nestle and their marketing for this mess of course! People started to know coffee without knowing they are getting shit in the name of an elixir. So at office without compromising, even if it is expensive, I buy my own beans, grind them, and press them or brew them in a drip-machine. Yap, we’ve got a grinder too, just to make sure we get the freshest coffee from grinding it right before pouring water.

After experimenting with several different beans (single-origin and blends) from all over the world, I now have comfortably settled in North End’s regular Espresso blend, it’s the safest choice, readily available, never fails. Often-time I mix around 10% French Roast in it, to enhance the burnt smokey flavor. I can’t take French Roast on its own, it’s too roasty and loses the complex taste.

If you are wondering what is iPhone 8 Plus is doing in the title of this post, look at the photo again. You must have noticed that blurred stem of the press? That’s iPhone 8 Plus’s faulty ‘portrait mode’ that artificially creates a low depth-of-field effect. During the first few days of the phone I didn’t realize it’s artificial blurring; silly me, of course it is 🙄 But who cares, oftentimes, this phone takes remarkably good photos! Although the low-light performance of iPhone 8 Plus is nowhere near the mighty Pixel-2.

New found chocolate love: Magnum Espresso

Dark chocolate + coffee, the combination couldn’t be any better! I never tried a Magnum chocolate before, they are not very popular/known here. The taste is very good! Although the texture is a little odd due to its 3% cocoa nibs content, I like smoother options. It’s a 50% cocoa solids bar, with 45g sugar per 100g bar.

Noticed that Equadorian cocoa thing, I’m a big fan of any chocolate coming out of that country!

But one fine-print made me think, the Magnum brand is owned by Unilever! Come on, leave at least a few things out of corporations!

Bebgal Boi started selling Vas, the background story of the Bengal Institute’s newsletter magazine

Vas is the newsletter-magazine of Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements that I edit. Started off as a newsletter reporting different activities of the Institute, it is now gradually turning into a magazine focusing on various op-eds and reports on architecture, design, cities, environment, arts and humanities. Since last few days the 3rd issue of Vas is now being sold at Bengal Boi.

It all began when I decided to archive anything and everything that happens at Bengal Institute, an unlikely move in local culture. We Bengalis are not good at archiving, writing and publishing, it is not in our blood. I realized it even more, when I traveled to the United States quite a few times. Documentation, archiving, publishing, presenting and eventually promoting is an integrated multidisciplinary art, which Americans are masters at! A demonstration of five people in front of an establishment for a niche cause would already have a website, a name, a hashtag, accounts in all social medias, there will be dedicated people for media and public-relations, posting, photographing, videotaping and updating every tiny detail to make it look as if it is the biggest movement of our time. At the beginning I found it difficult to digest. It seemed like a over-selling, narcissistic mechanism of selling a cause, I frowned upon a little. But I also was a preacher of the phrase that “if it is not available in the internet search, then it doesn’t exist,” no matter what it may be!

I made it my mandate that I will photograph, note, record everything at Bengal Institute. BI has an amazing motto of working towards creating an informed conscious generation of thinkers and doers who would jump into the overarching mission of ‘Designing Bangladesh;’ with the leadership of Kazi Khaleed Ashraf and the Chairman of Bengal Foundation, Abul Khair. These two visionaries have been inspired by Muzharul Islam’s long lost dream of ‘designing every inch of Bangladesh,’ Bengal Institute literally have taken up that mission. With post-graduate, multidisciplinary, short-course academic programs and a thriving research and design program, BI is producing massive amount of contents, knowledge and ideas which we could share to the global bank of information, through as many media as possible.

I started documenting everything starting from 1st August 2015, the day our academic program launched. Google Doc being my favorite, most versatile tool, a single shared doc file became by note-taking and file archive platform. After the first semester, I shared it with Kazi Ashraf and Luva Nahid Choudhury. Both were excited and professor Ashraf came up with the idea to publish a printed newsletter, he said, why don’t you simply put these note up for designing it for print? I was a little startled, as those notes were just for my personal and internal record of the day-to-day activities of the institute, I didn’t write for publishing. I was taking notes just for archiving. Kazi Ashraf was convinced, that these notes are good enough for publishing, I was still hesitant. Then I started editing all those notes, and started compiling photos, videos and all other recorded materials. Faisal Huda, our then academic associate, helped me in many ways with the compilation of information. Imran Irteza Tonmoy and Rashed Chowdhury, jumped into designing the printed version of the newsletter based on the epic Google Doc. And they did a terrific job! Vas-1 was mostly reporting of events, and publication of works by our participants. I am still proud of our first semester at Bengal Institute for the quality of participants and their works, it is still the best one. Although Vas-1 was just a rudimentary compilation of small reports now, yet it is beautiful. Here is how it was

Our academic team grew a little bigger, Farhat Afzal and Muntakim Haque joined. Both of them became tremendously helpful in bringing out the second issue of Vas. Both joined ‘after’ the timeline of Vas-2, i.e: they had to write and compile information about the events and people they didn’t know anything about. It was a collossal work to collect and archive all the information and putting it into a magazine format. Again, Irteza Amin was to rescue us with yet another beautiful design. And this is how it was:

Vas-2 already began the quest for transitioning it into a magazine with op-eds, from a mere newsletter full of events reporting. Still the events at BI have their own charm, because of the people we feature. From Gary Hack to Balkrishna Doshi, Bengal Institute have been lucky to invite and host some of the biggest thought leaders of the world of deign, architecture and urbanism.

In the third issue, we pushed it even more towards turning most of the writings into articles. More, reading materials, than simple flip-through image-based reporting. Not sure how much we could do it, but I think it is going there. Check it out digitally here:

 

Now that it is available to purchase at Bengal Boi, go grab your copy!

 

This photo of me with a copy of Vas-3 is shot by my friend Farhana Psyche Sufi at Bengal Boi on 20th January, 2018.

Bringing back the blog for the sake of blog

It’s been really long since I shut down the first blog I created back in 2005. WordPress was running its 1.0.3 version I guess! I made this multi-author blog called ‘The Brain Witness,’ it became quite popular I’d say. One fundamental agenda of Brain Witness was, “It doesn’t have an agenda,” it is a multi-author personal blog simply just for the sake of personal writing; more like an open-diary, a collection of personal thoughts and experience shared with the world. Well that was technically the whole idea of any “blog” then it all began in the internet. Over the time, the definition, purpose, and nature of blogging have been changed and moved to many directions.

For long, I thought of creating a personal website. Making anything personal is very difficult. Writing a CV or making my portfolio is one of the most annoying, difficult tasks, so is making a personal website. I decided not to plan and design, and just launching it. So I did. This is just a simple WordPress theme found randomly, and everything in it is also just cobbled up without any plan. This website might become the one place for anyone who wants to learn more about my works, life and thoughts. Nothing extraordinary here.