London launch: My journey as a witness

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Book Launch: Organised by Candlestar

We invite you to the official UK book launch of ‘My Journey as a Witness’,?a book of images by celebrated photographer?Shahidul Alam.
An extraordinary artist, Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, activist, and social entrepreneur who uses his art to chronicle the social and artistic struggles.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam?s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organisations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam?s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts that are at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.
Supported by the Bengal Foundation and published by Skira Editore there will be a short film and brief talks by the author, editor and sponsor accompanied by a book signing.
Date and Venue:
5.30 – 7.30pm Monday 10th October 2011
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill
Library Room
30 Portman Square,
London, W1H 7BH
Due to limited numbers please RSVP by Thursday 6th October RSVP to?[email protected]

The kindness of strangers

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By Babui / Arjun

He lived as an exile, by himself, all alone,
Far from his country, his family, his home.
And he was a loner — lacked warmth in his heart.
Of company, friendship, he knew not the art.
He lived in a city — in millions, but one,
In the city, where fortunes are lost and are won.
But even in cities, the caring heart beats.
And he was befriended by strangers on streets.
******
To the likes of the stranger, we’re wary and distant,
And yet, that may change, in the space of an instant.
The face of the stranger is shuttered and cold,
And who can observe it but those who are bold?
There are some, who are lonesome — or driven by lust;
And they, at a stranger, their gazes may thrust.
There are some, who’re not used to the city-folk’s way;
And so, at the stranger, their gazes can stray.
There are some, who have lived in the city for long;
And yet, they are innocents, still don’t belong.
And each of the ones I have listed he met,
And others unlisted — we safely may bet.
******
For the nature of humans is social — and so
We reach out to others — though others say no.
The child, she is curious, and yet she’s afraid.
She looks at the stranger, though nothing is said.
She sees in a stranger both angel and devil,
A bounty most precious — and whispers of evil.
And the parent that guards her is wary as well.
How many, the tales that the TV shows tell!
For though, in a village, the children have trust,
In the midst of the city, precaution’s a must.
No different, we, than the cats and the kittens.
For novelty scares as novelty beckons.
******
So back to the exile, abandoned awhile,
The one, who but rarely could manage a smile.
He lived by himself, did his shopping and went
Back to his refuge, increasingly bent.
And when he was aged and he hardly could see,
At crossings, he’d stand and conspicuous be.
And in less than a minute (though sometimes in more),
Along would come one, who our faith would restore.
And every such “angel” would help him across,
And leave him to carry on further with cross.
And some would have issue with term that I use.
Can one, who does duty, the others excuse?
******
But judge them not harshly, the ones who passed by,
And left him to stand there. And ask not for why.
But be like that exile. Be grateful, that some
Do still have the heart, when beckoned, to come.
And those, who had leisure and watched him for years,
They saw how he managed, despite all their fears.
For he was befriended, when all could be lost,
By strangers who helped him, and often at cost.
Strange are the ways of the world that we’re in.
We note not the virtues. We notice the sin.
And strange are the twists and the turns of the world.
A moment — and deep in the abyss we’re hurled.
******
For now he’s been taken to live in a “home”
That’s wrongly so named — and he lies there alone.
And yet, there are workers and residents there,
Who help him, his troubles with patience to bear.
And troubles are many, neglect is but one.
So easy to lose, what with labor was won!
Yet surely, without all the help he receives,
From those who give freely, his living would cease.
There are actions of kindness, with little return,
Save for the knowledge of serving, in turn.
And these are the acts, as we struggle to cope,
That say, “Where there’s heart, you have reason to hope.”
******
He once was an exile, by himself, all alone,
Far from his country, his family, his home.
And still, he’s a loner — the warmth in his heart
Is rarely expressed — as he knows not the art.
And yet, in the midst of the city of dangers,
He still is befriended, by those who were strangers.
On the kindness of strangers, he lives out his years.
They share in his joys and they share in his tears.
2011 August 21st, Sun.
Brooklyn

Tedx Ramallah

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Given the recent deaths of film makers Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier, this powerful affirmation of the power of film can be an inspiration to us all

And hip hop used as never before: Believe me this is one you don’t to miss.

Subcontinental drift

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By Salil Tripathi

Does the controversial book about Bangladesh?s war of liberation uncover new truths, or simply reverse old biases?

It is an article of faith in Bangladesh that three million people died in its war of independence in 1971. At that time, the population of the former East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh) was about 70 million people, which means nearly 4% of the population died in the war. The killings took place between 25 March, when Pakistani forces launched?Operation Searchlight, and mid-December, when Dhaka fell to the invading Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini forces (who was aiding whom depends on which narrative you read? India?s or Bangladesh?s). As per Bangladesh?s understanding of its history, the nation was a victim of genocide. Killing three million people over 267 days amounts to nearly 11,000 deaths a day. That would make it one of the most lethal conflicts of all time.
One of the most brutal conflicts in recent years has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the International Rescue Committee reported that 5.4 million people died between 1998 and 2008. A more thorough Canadian analysis now concludes that the actual figure is about half. At 5.4 million deaths, the daily death toll would be around 1,500; at 2.7 million, around 750. Was the 1971 war up to 15 times more lethal than the Congolese conflict?
A history of violence: A scene from the bloody conflicts of the 1971 Bangladesh war. Photo: Getty Images
A history of violence: A scene from the bloody conflicts of the 1971 Bangladesh war. Photo: Getty Images
It is an uncomfortable question. Many Bangladeshis feel that raising such a doubt undermines their suffering and belittles their identity. But a thorough, unbiased study, going as far as facts can take the analysis, would be an important contribution to our understanding of the subcontinent?s recent history.
Continue reading “Subcontinental drift”

Poems of war, peace, women, power

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By Suheir Hammad

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin break for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you or dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain?t
louder than this breath.