Archive for the 'Society' Category


All Issues are Connected – Shabana Azmi


“All Issues are connected”

A Conversation with Shabana Azmi
By Asif Saleh
With her outspoken stand against fundamentalism and communalism, Shabana Azmi has now become the icon of the South Asian activists worldwide. I met with the activist Shabana recently on behalf of Drishtipat and talked with her candidly on her philosophy, life and the social issues she is working on. And her answers, just like her, were hardhitting and straight to the point.

Asif: From slum dwellers rights to fights against fundamentalism, you have so far worked on a number of issues, what is the issue that is closest to your heart?

Shabana: All the issues are connected. From the slum dwellers rights to the issue of communalism — they are connected in certain ways. When communal riots happen, it affects the slum dwellers the most. They become the victims because they are the weakest in the society. I got involved with an organization called Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti which sees itself as an agitational group that fights for the rights of the slum dwellers in Bombay. We are helping almost about 40 slums in Bombay to fight for their rights. Here we see that all the issues that we work for helps these people regardless. However, I strongly believe that ultimately it is women’s empowerment that is the key to development of any nation. If we keep the women down and oppressed, we will never be able to move ahead in this world.

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Much Ado About Adda

Iffat brings the definition of Adda perfectly — “sense of lightness, of wholehearted laughs and clever jokes, of juicy gossips and inactiveness, sitting pretty with a moving mouth-Bengalis definition of a perfectly wonderful time, doing Adda.” Too bad she contradicts herself later saying “Addas aren’t meant for criticizing absent individuals”. But an integral part of adda is gossiping — and is gossiping about someone really possible with the person being present? Last time I checked, it caused fistfights.

Jokes aside, I have often thought about why we so rarely have quality addas here (in foreign land) like good old days in Bangladesh. Yes, as Iffat states, there are high-minded know-it-alls which kill the spirit of addas. But putting everyone in that same bracket and blaming individuals as the reason for the demise of adda in the foreign land would be a little to simplistic. Did the addabajes from Bangladesh suddenly lose their appetite for adda when they moved here? Not really. Its just that they haven’t found each other.

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The American Deshis

So when are you coming to see us?”, said my sister anxiously. Why not celebrate Anahita’s (my daughter) first birthday over here in North Carolina?” I replied reluctantly in the negative, “I have made other plans”. “What plans?”, she asked. I said with more hesitation, “We are going to Florida for a vacation. We need a break.” My sister replied with surprise, “Coming to our place is not a break?” Detecting the disappointment in her tone, I did not say that going to meet family has its own charm but it is not really a vacation. I calmed her down by saying that we would come soon. She hung up by saying “Khub Americander moto kotha bolo ajkal”(talking like a true American these days).

That made me wonder, when did we stop being Bangladeshi and start becoming Americans (hint: note the negative connotation of the last word)?

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