Runs in the Family

New findings about schizophrenia rekindle old questions about genes and identity.

In the winter of 2012, I travelled from New Delhi, where I grew up, to Calcutta to visit my cousin Moni. My father accompanied me as a guide and companion, but he was a sullen and brooding presence, lost in a private anguish. He is the youngest of five brothers, and Moni is his firstborn nephew?the eldest brother?s son. Since 2004, Moni, now fifty-two, has been confined to an institution for the mentally ill (a ?lunatic home,? as my father calls it), with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He is kept awash in antipsychotics and sedatives, and an attendant watches, bathes, and feeds him through the day.

My father has never accepted Moni?s diagnosis. Over the years, he has waged a lonely campaign against the psychiatrists charged with his nephew?s care, hoping to convince them that their diagnosis was a colossal error, or that Moni?s broken psyche would somehow mend itself. He has visited the institution in Calcutta twice?once without warning, hoping to see a transformed Moni, living a secretly normal life behind the barred gates. But there was more than just avuncular love at stake for him in these visits. Moni is not the only member of the family with mental illness. Two of my father?s four brothers suffered from various unravellings of the mind. Madness has been among the Mukherjees for generations, and at least part of my father?s reluctance to accept Moni?s diagnosis lies in a grim suspicion that something of the illness may be buried, like toxic waste, in himself. Continue reading “Runs in the Family”

Between absence and presence

Between absence and presence

Car wreckage, left, and Seats, car wreckage and the bird, right. Artist Dhali Al Mamoon?s public art in memory of film-maker Tareque Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier who died with three others in a car crash on August 13, 2011. Shorok Durghotona Sritisthapona, Dhaka University campus. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
AWARD-WINNING film-maker Tareque Masud, broadcast journalist Mishuk Munier and three others died in a car crash on August 13, 2011 when a Chuadanga-bound bus rammed into the film crew?s microbus on the Dhaka-Aricha highway in Manikganj. It was raining; the bus was travelling at a high speed. Their deaths were instantaneous.
Dhali Al Mamoon, his artist wife Dilara Begum Jolly, Tareque?s wife American-born film editor Catherine Masud, production assistant Saidul Islam, and writer Monis Rafik survived the accident. Mamoon?s injuries were the most severe. Continue reading “Between absence and presence”

Humanitarian to a nation

Originally published in Saudi Aramco World

Humanitarian to a Nation, Written by Richard Covington, Photographed by Shahidul Alam / DRIK

Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the Edhi Centre in Clifton, Karachi.
Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the Edhi Centre in Clifton, Karachi.

In the cool interior of a mental ward in Karachi, a short, powerfully built man with a flowing snow-white beard and penetrating dark-brown eyes is standing at the bedside of a distraught young woman. She has covered her head with a sheet and is pleading for news of the two children her husband took from her.
?I know you are suffering terribly, but this is no way to bring back your children,? says the man with stern compassion. ?You have a college degree. You can do many things to help the other patients.?
More photos on flickr: Continue reading “Humanitarian to a nation”

Global Photography Exhibition Opens at UN Rights Council Meeting

Photographs Humanize Rule of Law and Access to Justice

Photographers: Kabir Dhanji, Lucas Lenci, Shehzad Noorani, Vicky Roy, Farzana Wahidy
Curator: Shahidul Alam
?In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda,? a photo exhibition on the challenges of development and the rule of law by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and Majority World photo agency, launches on the 2nd March 2015?during the opening of the UN Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva.
IDLO_Photo Exhib 2015_Booklet_WEB FINAL_Page_01 800 pix
Continue reading “Global Photography Exhibition Opens at UN Rights Council Meeting”

Pathshala student again wins Ian Parry Award

Pathshala student Farzana Hossen declared winner of the prestigious Ian Parry Scholarship at the?Visa Pour L?Image, Perpignan, France

2013 Winner / Farzana Hossen / Pathshala / Bangladesh


FarzanaHossen
Farzana Hossen 2013 Winner
?Without a doubt, this is the strongest set of images and written text that we have seen today. I get a clear sense that Farzana has an invested interest in conveying the horror of these attacks. Congratulations to all those who entered on undeniably strong work? Don McCullin,?Patron.
?I am delighted that the judges have chosen another strong winning entry this year, both in terms of the importance of the subject and Farzana?s remarkable personal story that brought
her to approach it.? Aidan Sullivan Founder, IPS.
Magda_Rakita
Magda Rakita 2013 Highly Commended
Kazi_Riasat
Kazi Riasat Alve 2013 Commended<
MehranHamrahi
Mehran Hamrahi 2013 Commended
?One of the most rewarding experiences of judging this year?s award was seeing the explosion of work being submitted from foreign photographers, particularly Asia. I was impressed with
the standard and professionalism on display and how these photographers approached important social issues in their locality? Simon Roberts, Judge and former winner.
The judges felt that Farzana?s winning portfolio ?Lingering Scars? communicated an intensely personal story with brave and intelligent visual story telling of great strength and depth of composition. In Bangladesh, reports of violence against women are on the rise. Oftentimes, it takes the form of acid attacks, which are estimated to occur every two days, the majority of sufferers being female.
We received an unprecedented level of entries again this year, the standard was higher and applicants younger than ever before. Our judging is done as a process of elimination, so portfolios are removed from each round depending on their strength as a potential winner. The final round of portfolios from institutions like Pathshala, Danish School of Journalism, LCC UK, Westminster UK, Ohio USA, Falmouth UK, Newport and Azad University of Ahvaz, showed such flair and extraordinary vision that the judges found it difficult to select just four finalists.
Ian Parry was a photojournalist who died while on assignment for The Sunday Times during the Romanian revolution in 1989. That was 20 years ago, he was just 24 years of age. Aidan Sullivan, then picture editor at the Sunday Times, created the Ian Parry Scholarship with Ian?s friends and family in order to build something positive from such a tragic death.
This is the second time in three years that a Pathshala student has won this prestigious award. The 2011 award was won by Rasel Chowdhury with his work “Desperate Urbanisation“.
Farzana is a contributing photographer to the Majority World Agency. Her work was recently shown at the Guardian Gallery in London.

The Imperial Cocktail

How the gin and tonic became the British Empire?s secret weapon.

By?Kal Raustiala|in Slate.

Gin and tonic with a slice of lemon.

This stuff really is medicine.
Photo by Brian Jones/iStockphoto/ThinkstockThe gin and tonic is having a moment. From Spain?where gin and tonics are practically the national drink?to our summer shores, the venerable G-and-T is everywhere. House-made tonic is on the menu in restaurants from coast to coast, and in many fine bars gin and tonics come in dozens of varieties, with special tonics and fruit garnishes matched to distinctive artisanal gins.
Of course, a lot of classic cocktails are enjoying a resurgence?part?Mad Men, part the boom in distinctive small-batch spirits, and part the waning fad of faux speakeasies with handcrafted bitters and bartenders in arm garters chipping away at blocks of ice.
But the gin and tonic is different. For one, it requires no unusual ingredients, and it?s very simple to make. More interestingly, the gin and tonic has a storied history that places it at the heart of the largest empire the world has ever known. Indeed, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the gin and tonic was as essential a weapon for the British Empire as the Gatling gun. No less an authority on imperial power than Winston Churchill once declared, ?The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen?s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.?
What was the source of the gin and tonic?s great power? As is sometimes said of tequila, the gin and tonic is not just a drink; it?s a drug.
The story begins with the jewel of the British Empire: India. British India comprised both more and less than modern-day India. More, in that it included large parts of what are today Pakistan and Bangladesh. Less, in that much of India under the British Raj was quasi-independent, in so-called princely states that were nominally sovereign but largely under England?s thumb. India was so important to the empire that in 1876 Queen Victoria added the moniker ?Empress of India? to her title. Her successors continued that practice right up till 1948, under George VI (he of?The King?s Speech?fame).
Controlling India, in short, was central to the British Empire and to Britain?s sense of itself as the world?s leading power. What allowed Britain, a small island far off in the northern reaches of Europe, to rule over the vast semi-continent of India for so long is a subject of some debate. But in?Jared Diamond?s famous words, Europe?s military superiority was built on a mix of ?guns, germs, and steel.?
Guns and steel clearly favored powers like Britain. These innovations allowed Britain (and other European countries) to deploy weapons such as machine guns at a time when many societies around the world still used swords and spears. But germs were more equivocal. Malaria in particular was a virulent killer of colonized and colonizer alike. While malaria has a long history in Europe, it began to be eradicated in the 19th?century, and even earlier it was never as deadly as it was in tropical locations. So as Europeans established colonies in the tropics, they faced a serious and often mortal threat from the mosquito-borne disease. Soldiers and civilian officials alike succumbed to it.
In the 17th?century, the Spanish had discovered that indigenous peoples in what is now Peru used a kind of bark to address various ?fevers.? Stripped from the cinchona tree, the bark seemed to work well for malaria. The ?Jesuit?s bark,? as it was known, quickly became a favored treatment for malaria in Europe. (Before the discovery of the cinchona tree, European malaria remedies included throwing the patient head-first into a bush in the hope he would get out quickly enough to leave his fever behind.)
Eventually it became clear that cinchona bark could be used not only to treat malaria, but also to prevent it. The bark?and its active ingredient, quinine powder?was a powerful medicine. But it was also a powerful new weapon in the European quest to conquer and rule distant lands.
Quinine powder quickly became critical to the health of the empire. By the 1840s British citizens and soldiers in India were using 700 tons of cinchona bark annually for their protective doses of quinine. Quinine powder kept the troops alive, allowed officials to survive in low-lying and wet regions of India, and ultimately permitted a stable (though surprisingly small) British population to prosper in Britain?s tropical colonies. Quinine was so bitter, though, that British officials stationed in India and other tropical posts took to mixing the powder with soda and sugar. ?Tonic water,? of a sort, was born.
Still, tonic water was basically a home brew until an enterprising Brit named Erasmus Bond introduced the first commercial tonic water in 1858?perhaps not coincidentally, the very same year the British government ousted the East India Co. and took over direct control of India, following the so-called?Sepoy Mutiny, a violent rebellion and counterattack.
Bond?s new tonic was soon followed by Schweppes? introduction, in 1870, of ?Indian Quinine Tonic,? a product specifically aimed at the growing market of overseas British who, every day, had to take a preventative dose of quinine. Schweppes and other commercial tonics proliferated both in the colonies and, eventually, back in Britain itself.
Gin, which in earlier days had been associated with vice and social decay among the lower classes in Britain?take a look at William Hogarth?s famous print?Gin Lane?for a taste?was by the 19th?century making its long march toward respectability. It was only natural that at some point during this time an enterprising colonial official combined his (or her) daily dose of protective quinine tonic with a shot (or two) of gin. Rather than knock back a bitter glass of tonic in the morning, why not enjoy it in the afternoon with a healthy gin ration?
The gin and tonic was born?and the cool, crisp concoction could, as Churchill observed, start saving all those English lives.
And American lives. Quinine proved as critical to the battle over the Pacific in World War II as it had to the struggle over India. As Amy Stewart notes in her new book,?The Drunken Botanist, Japan seized Java, the home of huge cinchona plantations, from the Dutch in 1942, cutting off nearly all of the Allied supply of quinine. The last American plane to fly out of the Philippines before it fell to the Japanese carried some 4 million quinine seeds. Unfortunately, the effort was largely in vain: The trees grew too slowly to provide sufficient quinine to the Allied war effort.
The gin and tonic, of course, was not enough to keep the British Empire alive either. Churchill, and many other British leaders, fervently believed that imperialism was essential if Britain was to remain a truly great power. But the strength and appeal of independence and self-determination was overwhelming, and India could no longer be held down by a small coterie of foreign officials, even with their quinine-based cocktails. By 1947 India?and Pakistan?were independent nations. Kenya, Jamaica, Malaya, and other tropical colonies soon followed.
Today, ?empire? is a dirty word. But the gin and tonic lives on. The drink went from a bitter medicinal tipple in tropical outposts to a mainstay of British clubs and bars by World War I. In postwar America, the gin and tonic became synonymous with WASP summer retreats and country club lounges. Then, in the ?70s and ?80s, gin was almost forgotten as first classic cocktails went out of fashion and then vodka began to explode in popularity. Now the gin and tonic is back, especially at the very high end, where artisanal gins from Brooklyn, San Francisco, and all parts in between can be mixed with special tonics like Fever-Tree (get it?) or Fentimans.
But the gin and tonic certainly did the British Empire a lot of good. So as you mix your next one, remember the curious history of the drink?or is it a drug??in your hand.
Troy Patterson on finding the perfect gin and tonic:
 

Does Obama know he?s fighting on al-Qa?ida?s side?

ROBERT FISK?The Independent?Tuesday 27 August 2013

?All for one and one for all? should be the battle cry if the West goes to war against Assad?s Syrian regime.?
Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted ?All for one and one for all? each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if ? or when ? the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.
The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords. Continue reading “Does Obama know he?s fighting on al-Qa?ida?s side?”

In pictures: India coal fires

Underground fires have been burning in the small dusty coal town of Jharia in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand for more than 80 years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain. Photos: ?Arindam Mukherjee: BBC

Jharia coal fires
In places like Laltenganj, the fires are now burning overground. Continue reading “In pictures: India coal fires”

No religion is higher than humanity

Abdul Sattar Edhi


The most remarkable man I’ve ever met. If ever a man deserved a Nobel Prize… but then he’s a bearded muslim from Pakistan, so Kissinger and Obama and Peres will be given the Nobel Prize, but Edhi will not. Neither of course did Gandhi!
Pakistan: Hope amidst the chaos
What Matters
Humanitarian to a nation

Happy Birthday Lisa

Lisa on 13 December 2010 at 9am at Drik.
Lisa on 13 December 2010 at 9am at Drik.

 
She is a murmur in the wind, which touches the rain-ravished lake in a quite late afternoon; she is the benevolent shade in the burning rays of mid noon; she is the peace that enchants in the mist of twilight; she is an enigma that engulfs the nocturnal. She is a friend, who lives in my heart, who breathes in my thoughts, touches my senses, stays in the ripples of my tears. She is a friend whose voice I will never hear, whose face I will never see, whose hands I will never ever hold again even for once. Even as she continues to visit my memories, she will never face me in the present or in the future because time has hijacked her to an unknown land, where there is no email, no facebook or phone, no address what so ever.
Our friendship took wheels when she was diagnosed with cancer back in the last week of November 2009, few days before my mother passed away. Few months later we really become close, we used to go together for her radiation therapy. I befriended her knowing she might not lose her battle with cancer, but never believing that she will one day. And truly never considering it will affect me to the core.
Our friendship was not always smooth, there were rocky rides also, but it was pure, the love was never fake, which we shared. Yes there were jealousy, cruelty and foolishness lurking in the back ally of our relationship; but our friendship always had the upper hand. We shared more than a cup of tea, we shared dreams to grew old together, do childish things, be there for one another and my friend abandoned me in the middle of life, leaving me lost? all alone? perhaps she is the only member of the same gender I believe to be my best friend.
Lisa at Hospital on her last birthday with her friend Momena, on 30 June 2011
Lisa at Hospital on her last birthday with her friend Momena, on 30 June 2011

She kept a smiling face so many did not know the pains she went through, the physical pains of the inhuman treatment, not once but twice, the mental pain of seeing friends and family?s indifference. But the most dreadful pain was seeing one?s life vanishing before one?s eyes, the time escaping like sand through one?s tight clutch? the pages of one?s life disappearing?
She was like a butterfly who was caught in heavy rain, her love for life kept her going but the aggressive cancer was giving her no chance. After a yearlong treatment and with a clean card from her doctors she was picking up on life, making plans, but in the early part of 2011 the cancer returned, worse than last time. Within a few months she went in for another surgery and the second chemotherapy, this time her body was not taking it any more, she almost died a few times but she pulled through, the smile was returning but only for a few days, in late December of 2011 the virus was back. And this time Lisa was losing the battle, she became aloof, her temper was short, most likely the cancer had reached her brain, in fact it was spreading all over her body; doctors refused treatment saying it would not help. The last three months we lost touch, we met very little, on 30 March 2012 Lisa?s mother called my sister, who is a doctor to come and see if Lisa was alive. Her family was taking care of her in the home, when we went the house was echoing in Lisa?s mother sobs, my friend was lifeless, and she had departed around 10 am. I never thought I would tie her toes together to keep her lifeless feet together.
I can go on writing forever but I will end for now, saying today is her birthday and she will never grow old, she will be forever young and beautiful, my beloved friend! I pray to Allah that may she get a place in heaven. At her last birthday in 30 June 2011, Nazmul and I celebrated her birthday in the hospital at the first day of her second chemotherapy. She joked that this might be her last birthday, well guess what, it turned out to be just so. Unbearable but true!
Lisa you are deeply missed happy birthday, stay well wherever you are, love.
—————–
The writer Momena Jalil was a co-worker at Drik. She is a Pathshala alumni.