Dhaka’s best soup

Every time I visit Dhaka, I make it a point to try and visit my favourite restaurant – Cheng Pei. Yes, one of Dhaka’s oldest Chinese restaurants is my most favourite places to eat. The food is nothing to brag about at all, but this is the only restaurant where one can eat Bangladeshi style oriental cuisine, in its truest sense.

The entire restaurant culture in our country was rather an endearing matter. It did not just involve a couple spending the evening out because it was the end of a long stressful week. It was a real cause of celebration. It was the solidarity of family members including grandparents and uncles and aunts.

It was a family affair. It was an event where people took pride in what they wore and how they did their hair. Ladies would lay out their best silk sarees since morning and the men would press and starch their most prized shirts and pants. It was a celebration. It was a day to remember. It was the day that brought a lot of happiness and harmony to a family.

Sadly enough, this culture has fallen far behind our galloping generation.  Nevertheless, Cheng Pei and many such old-fashioned oriental restaurants will always be remembered in Dhaka. These restaurants continue to employ the stiffest of waiters with starched black and white uniforms and bow-ties. They continue to dim the restaurant lights and block out sun-light with thick velvet emerald-green curtains. Furnished with heavy wooden tables and chairs, they still serve the best Chinese or Thai cuisines cooked to an absolute Bangladeshi perfection.

My favourite is of course the Bangladeshi style Thai soup which I have recently learned to cook. Of course, unless you are sitting in a dimly lit room struggling to push your chair in and the sound of Dhaka traffic trying to pry its way through the city, it’s not going to taste the same. However, the people who live abroad and dearly miss our Chinese food, please help yourself to my most recent quest. Please remember that the measurements are only an approximation. Now, my mother has taught me to cook based on guesstimates. So I suggest you always start off with smaller proportions and keeping the taste in your mind, work your way along, tasting your soup often.

Happy cooking everyone!

Chicken broth:

3 cups of water

2 or 3 pieces of chicken – use bony pieces like the wing, rib-cage or neck bone

1.5 teaspoon garlic paste

1.5 teaspoon ginger paste

0.5 teaspoon salt

2 cups of water

Method – in a pot, pour in water and add the chicken and the ingredients. Boil at medium heat for 1 to 1.5 hours. Add warm water when needed.

Soup:

Remove the chicken pieces from the broth

Remove meat from bones and add to soup

Add shrimp (optional)

Add approx. 2 tablespoon vinegar

Add two-thirds cup of sweet chili Thai sauce

Add 1 tablespoon soya sauce

Add juice of half a lemon

Cook mixture for about 20 to 30 minutes – adding in any vegetables (optional -pepper, long beans, baby corn, carrots – but traditionally, this soup has no vegetables)

If you want your soup to be spicy – slice two chilies in half and throw it in now

Whisk an egg until is fluffy and light – Pour into soup while stirring.

Add lemon leaves and lemon grass

Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until lemon grass releases flavour and fragrance.

Mix 3 tablespoons of cornflour with cold water well and pour it in the soup while stirring to prevent clumping. This gives a thick pasty touch.

Serve with no smile while wearing black pants, white shirt and black bow-tie.

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Do we really need to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

I am sitting here watching all my friends express their love for their better halves all over Facebook and I am wondering, do we really need to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Is it necessary for everyone to share one given day of the year with everyone else to express their love and to spend a considerable amount of money confirming that love? It is not that I do not take heed about other people’s affections towards their companions, I just would like to know, why are we so open about these feelings?

There was once an era when people would be too humble and reserved to show others that they are truly, madly and deeply in love. In fact I have never seen my parents or my elders express their love in front of us children. For generations, love was expressed through so many different ways. Our forefathers never needed 14th February to show the strength of their love.

So, what is it about the 14th of February that makes everyone turn into Romeos and Juliets? What is so special about this date in particular? Why cannot I express and celebrate my love on the 24th of August or 3rd     of June? Who are you (whoever created this concept) to give me a date for the celebration of my love? Why must I open my intimacy for the world to see?

Salman Khan, a famous Indian movie superstar, often says on television when asked about his love-life, that the love-life is HIS, his girl is HIS, why is everyone so worked up about it? I could not agree with him more. I do not need to show everyone that I love my mate. My mate can see that, and I know how much I love him. Is the virtue of our love diminishing every year that the 14th of February becomes a sort of renewal date?

I believe that the expression of love has become a show-business. It has become a competition; who can express their love better than whom? And it is a competition that will generate a lot of negativity in society. In certain ways, it can damage relations between people.

Women will begin to compare what their husbands or boyfriends did for them and what their friends’ companions did for them. The financially “fortunate” ones will be confident and proud of their husband or boyfriend. The financially “less fortunate” ones will be swimming in a pool of envy. Men will have to listen to this comparison from their women, and they would either be pressured to do more the following year or they will develop an unconscious hatred for those with whom they are being compared to.

To the Muslims, Valentine’s Day should not even be considered. When Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that Valentine’s Day was “not suitable” for Muslims, he was absolutely right. It is purely a pseudo-Christian celebration – not even truly Christian though they cleverly use a Christian saint’s name – to dupe innocent Christians to go on a shopping spree in his name. We Muslims should not observe it. It will lead to unaccountable spending and possibly immoral activities. Why, don’t you remember the famous Arabian couple Laila and Majnun? Their love story was legendary and iconic to everyone all over the world! They died for one another. Did they need a 14th of February?

I am not saying that we should not love one another, nor should stop expressing our love for our companions. If anything, our Prophet taught us to express our love – even by telling directly – if we love someone. I am not against love. In fact, I believe that love should be a given factor between any couple. I do not want to have to have kept reassuring my partner that I love him every year. It should be known to us and to our friends that we are happy with one another. What we do to celebrate this love is, frankly, none of anybody else’s business. And nobody has the right to tell me when I can celebrate this love.

Valentine’s Day is an annual commemoration that celebrates love and affection between intimate companions. Intimacy is a private and personal issue. I do not believe that it should be shared with the whole world.

It is just a date, my friends, with absolutely no substantial value. It was a date created from no historical or religious event. Please do not oblige one another to be lovers on this date. I will love my partner until I stop breathing and whenever I feel like celebrating my love, I will do it in a way that makes my partner happy. Not in a way set by Archie’s or Hallmark. Do not commercialise “love” or allow it to be a business. It is a very spiritual and personal subject upon which couples are making their lives ever since the birth of mankind.

Sheikh Sibat-e Mubeen

The Third Gender of Bangladesh

From the beginning of the history of society there exists a group of people that has been forced to hide under the layer of gender. We see hermaphrodites in the media as a source of amusement. We live in a society where we cannot tolerate anyone that diverges from the common. Hijras are seen as freaks of nature and they are ridiculed and often feared.

The term “Hermaphrodite” or “eunuchs”, commonly known as Hijra in Bangladesh, dated back to the era of Roman, Greek and Etruscan mythologies. Once upon a time, in the era of monarchies, Hijras were appointed in the king’s council. I’m sure all Game of Thrones fans are aware of this reference! However, as time passed, they have become a joke because society became ignorant. This ignorance began at home and ended with the government. Hijras have no place in society but who are we to deny them of their basic civic rights?

According to Adnan Hossain, a PhD student in Social Anthropology Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull, and “Hijras or hermaphrodites are people with ambiguous genitalia Also called intersexed, hermaphroditism is primarily a medical condition, which results from multifarious biological factors. The term ‘intersexed’ is reserved to refer to a somatic condition in which the hermaphroditic person is supposed to posses both masculine and feminine traits”. However, Hijras of Bangladesh define themselves as people who are neither male nor female. They regard themselves as people incapable of sexual sensation. They also claim to have neither a male nor female genitalia.[1] 1 Canadian researcher and filmmker’s, Aude Leroux-Lévesque, studies showed that in the last two centuries, Hijras have increasingly struggled against ostracism, harassment, malicious rumors and the denial of human rights and basic human necessities. As a result, the number of Hijras who turned to prostitution radically rose. This is because according to Hijras themselves, they are not given any support by the government or local authorities. In fact, almost all faced ostracism by their families. Ms. Leroux-Lévesque has spent considerable time in Bangladesh, working with non-profit organizations, studying the life of the Hijras. She and her partner, Sébastien Rist, co-directed their first documentary “Call me Salma: The story of a young transgender girl”. [2]

Mr. Abu Mokeram Khondaker, Secretary General of Association for Environment and Human Resource Development (AFEAHRD) says,“Hijras face prejudice and discrimination at every turn. Marked out by their sexual difference, they are hounded out of schools, and hence lack the necessary qualifications to get proper jobs. It’s almost impossible for them to become educated, to get a passport, or even to open a bank account.”[3]

The Hijra community was principally deprived of human rights under Bangladeshi law, save for right to life, because Bangladeshi law recognizes only two sexes: male and female. All Bangladeshi documents therefore are prepared for men and/or women.

Recently, the Bangladeshi government, being the first government in the world, has granted “a third gender” status to approximately 10,000 Hijras living in the country. The new law does more than just give Hijras the option to put down a gender on paper. It gives them benefits and opportunities including access to rights of education (Article 17 of the Constitution), right of employment, right to participate in social programs, holding passport and right to drivers’ license. 2 Third gender status also provides an avenue for reducing discrimination against Hijras. Our society has led them into poverty, which meant begging for food and shelter to prostitution. Often Hijras resorted to black magic as a method of survival. With the granting of civil rights for the Hijra community, our society at last has been questioned.

Ms. Sara Hossain, a Supreme Court lawyer, said, “We cannot ignore the fact that they are nature’s creation and they have been a part of society for thousands of years. We have to accept their diversity with respect.’’

Hijras are humans and the objective of the Shariah is do justly treat all man. It is only Allah swt Who possesses the right to treat one different from another, as we are all His creations. Thus, Hijras shall be subjected to the same fiqh. Article 27 of the Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees equality before the law. Other rights that follow through are Article15 (d), which provides the right of social security, Article 29(1), which provides for the equality of opportunity in public employment and Article 42(10), which provides for the right to property. Such are the basic fundamental rights in Bangladesh, which is determined by citizenship and not sex. Article 15 of the Constitution clearly states that it is the fundamental responsibility of the State to provide for the basic necessities for Bangladeshi citizens. So why have Hijras been left out?

6235402 What is even more shocking is that the world has come together to fight for homosexuality and the one right LBGs are being deprived of: marriage. The world remains ignorant to the plight of the Hijra community. Homosexuality has been described not as a fundamental right of choice of being but it is an alternative-life-choice. Dr. Michael Mercen of the World Health Organization has identified a cause of AIDS to be homosexuality. Yet, society continues to contend for those who already have everything remaining blissfully unaware of an entire community of under-privileged human beings who were ostracized by the same society. This is not an satire but a sin committed by society.

The biggest thrust for protection and advocacy for the rights of Hijras came from two social factions – The Bandhu Social Welfare Society and Boys of Bangladesh (BoB). They are the only bodies within the country that have managed to launch and advocate a movement in face of society’s discrimination.

The traditional social dishonor against Hijras is the primary hurdle for the group’s acceptance into mainstream Bangaldeshi society and all-encompassing South Asian culture. A change in society’s behavior materializes over a life span – much longer than the canon of government. After countless years of being denied basic fundamental civil rights, shunned, ridiculed and abused, the Hijras still have a long and difficult road ahead of them. Despite these challenges, our Bangladeshi government has taken a very important step in fostering social equality and equal opportunity for the Hijras. We now stand at a point where it is a social responsibility to overcome its self-created stigma and accept these long-persecuted citizens of Bangladesh. Society must continue to progress and with the utilization of social groups, the Hijras can too someday experience the privilege of belonging to mainstream society.

hijra-bangladesh

Sibat-e-Mubeen Sheikh

[1] https://lgbtbangladesh.wordpress.com/transexualshizrastransgenders/

[2] http://every-2010.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/newsfilm-canada-bangladeshi-hijras.html

[3] https://lgbtbangladesh.wordpress.com/transexualshizrastransgenders/

The exciting part is coming up!

It’s been 26 weeks and I have already ballooned up. I have never felt so bloated and uncomfortable in my life. But I know at the end of it all its going absolutely beautiful.

Ladies, I think your first pregnancy is always experimental. Each day is absolutely brand new and once you wake up you spend an extra 10 minutes in bed anticipating what is going to happen today. Recently, I have started feeling my bub’s movements. Some say it’s a fluttering feeling. To me, it felt like tiny bubbles bursting in side me. I’ve had an anterior placenta, so I felt the movements a little later than usual.

Luckily though, I had a pretty good first trimester than most. I was only but always nauseous. However, I was sleep deprived and had insanely vivid dreams. I felt I was in another world and I could not connect myself back to reality. Of course, the added pressures of my husband being in another country made me feel as though I was about to fall off the face of the earth. I had a good doctor though. I paid her more than regular visits because I just needed someone to talk to; a third person, whom I had no relation with whom I could openly share things.

Luckily, my mother came to my rescue. She connected all the dots and life was good again.

During my first trimester, I did experience something quite strange. I stopped talking to people and began avoiding certain people. Just the mere thought of someone made me nauseous. I had nothing against that person but it was just what I experienced. Please don’t ask me if you were on that list. I wont tell you.

So, I have reached the half way mark and its about another 14 weeks from here. I am glad though that I have left those days of the dreaded first trimester far behind. I was scared back then but I am thrice as scared now as I was then.

cute_newborn_baby-wide

I am much healthier now. I walk approximately 30 minutes to and from work. I have become a bit paranoid about gestational diabetes so I have cut down on chocolates and carbonated drinks. Actually, that is not entirely true. The other day I bought a box of Lindt chocolates and I ate them all! I also threw away the box so I could not be blamed for not sharing. But, I mean, come on! How can you be pregnant and NOT take advantage?!

I am trying to keep myself active and occupied as much as possible. I will work until I pop. We are moving house and I just cannot wait to go baby shopping. But, I am dreadfully exhausted and all I want to do is get some sleep for a whole day!

Cute-Baby-25

So, guys, quick question for all of you – do you think I am having a boy or a girl? If you know (because I told you), don’t tell.  I know what I am having because I need to get the right coloured clothes and shoes and baby stuff.

So, polls are open! Go! Go! Go!

Friendship redefined

My entire life I have been very short of friends. I did most of my schooling at a prestigious school in Malaysia, The Alice Smith School, were I was constantly bullied and ignored for being brown. Perhaps that was the beginning of an end to my skill for making friends.

 I never knew how to make friends. I would walk into a room filled with girls my age and I would sit there very quietly until someone spoke to me. Often, such behaviour was perceived to be haughty and snobbish. In actual fact, I simply did not know what to say. Simple pleasantries such as “hi” and “hello” coupled with a large smile were always there but after that, what did I have to say to attract a person to being my friend? I never knew and I still don’t.

 I feel the root of the matter lies in my unpleasant experience from Alice Smith. I remember myself as always trying to impress the other girls. I was always defending myself. I made up stories which I hoped would impress them. I gouged my closet in hope of finding clothes that befitted their taste and liking. Yet, nothing worked. The girls were different and I, even more different.

 The situation did improve slightly. I moved to a different school in Malaysia and by that time I was older. I had friends but I realized that the girls in my new school had been friends since kindergarten. There was no way I could infiltrate into their clique. The girls were definitely much friendlier and more accommodating to my ethnic background. However, to truly call them “friends” was yet again impossible. Please also remember my diminishing skills for making friends.

 My mother proved my theory wrong. It was possible for a clique to accept new membership. My mother was different you see. She has skills and charm that not everyone has. She is perfection and possesses numerous talents which make people want to be like her. She was a born leader. She could do anything.

 Abu Dhabi was the platform where my mother discredited my theory. In actual fact, she helped me make the friends I have today. She pushed me to go out with them. She opened the doors for me and introduced me to people and I met a group of fantastic girls. I did not have to change myself in Abu Dhabi. I did not have to deter my clothes. I was who I was. Reserved, defensive and paranoid.

 However, the notion of friendship I grew up day-dreaming about was nothing compared to what friendship is in reality. The world has redefined the meaning on friendship. It’s now a faithful way of competing against one another. Or, it’s an easier way of competition. Two contemporaries can never be friends because the level of competition that exists between them is intense. This competition could be on a social level or or a professional level.

 I once went for bowling with my friends. A particular girl won the round. At that time she was the only once amongst us who had a job and an MBA. After winning the round she was screaming, “I won this game! I won this game! Not only am I the most successful in life, I have also won this game.” Congratulations for winning the game, but was it necessary to rub it in our faces that the rest of us were unemployed?

 Has it become easier to people to compete in smaller groups now because the rate of success for competing with the world at large has proven to be rather disappointing? But the bigger question is; is this friendship?

 Why is it that a group of five or six girls cannot not compete with one another? Why do I have to hide my pretty little purchases from my friends or not reveal the stores where I buy fanciful clothes from? Why do I have to politicize in my own circle? Why do I have to hide events from friends; events that put me in a better position? Why do we betray one another in the smallest sense?

 People cannot genuinely be friends nowadays. The whole definition of friendship as changed. Selfishness and competition comes first. People cannot be selfless. People will play the game of politics in their own society. Yet we still cannot let go of our social circle. My father once told me that society doesn’t need you; you need society. He is right. But why? Islam says that the greatest form of entertainment is companionship. We really cannot live alone. Strange isn’t it, how we behave like we are the only ones living alone yet we all have our own social circle?

 Perhaps my lack of friends-making skills was a blessing in disguise. Maybe the universe wanted me to grow in a world where I become self-sufficient. I have actually to a certain extent. Right now I have a very limited number of friends – in the word’s actual sense. I also have a cat that won’t leave my side. I am grateful for what I have. At least it’s genuine.

Hello and Welcome!

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Dear Readers,

Let me start blogging now! I have always wanted to do this but never really found a purpose or an interesting topic to write about.

I don’t have any particular hobbies. I am impartient and I lose interest in what I am doing. I was a dancer when I was in high school and University but that pretty much went down the drain pretty much after my parents moved to Abu Dhabi. Life had demoted me quite back then.

I do take photographs once in a while but then there is the question of editing and that totally puts me off. I have to be really in the mood for it. My brother seems to think I have talent. However, when I see the 1000 over pictures stored in my memory card, I think he was exaggerating. More of photography later. I actually have a few interesting stories I would like to share.

I like to read and have read a vast number of books. By books, I mean hard copies. Not e-books. E-books are not books. They do not make you feel like you are reading something. The only time I read e-books was when I was stuck in a boring class with a French English-speaking lecturer, whose words I could not understand AT ALL. I am sure my classmates will agree to that.

I would like to talk about my books from time to time. I was recently quite facinated by Dan Brown’s Inferno. I thought it was a far better written from his past four books. What drew me to this book was that I was able to clearly visualise the action scene. Not many writers can do that. Jack Higgins writes action novels. CANNOT see anything. The second he talks about gun fights or high speed chases, my mind goes blank.

So, welcome to my blog everyone. I hope I can keep it going. I enjoy writing. Please comment and share opinions even if it is completely different. Keep me motivated.

Bye!