|A Satire on Politics and Society
In Fool's Paradise?
By Nadeem Qadir
Published by SUBARNA
Pp 203; Tk. 250
Columnists often face the temptation of bringing out a book of all their writings in newspapers or magazines. Few actually go through with it, perhaps due to financial constraints or because they are too busy writing their columns. It is therefore a rare pleasure to get hold of a compilation of articles written by seasoned journalists writing about the pressing issues of a certain time frame. What makes Nadeem Qadir's 'In Fool's Paradise?' an interesting read is that the articles in the book document the crucial events political and social between 1993 and 1996.
This timeframe encompasses the rule of both the BNP and Awami League. Qadir analyses the activities of the two parties with equal zeal, both when they were in government as well as when they were in the opposition.
Ironically, after going through the book one gets the distinct feeling of deja- vu as one realises that little has changed in the political scenario. The same political squabbling and political sincerity and the same apathy towards real development that Qadir cleverly comments on are almost identical to those of the present time.
Most of the articles were previously published in The Daily Star under the same title as the book- 'In Fool's Paradise?' which hints at the satirical flavour of the column.
Being the youngest columnist of the newspaper at the time, the writing contains the idealism and honesty typical of youth. Qadir is definitely political yet refuses to politicize any issue. He is equally critical of the AL as he is of the BNP without being overly critical. There is in fact a certain carefulness in the way he criticises, softening the blow with legitimate commendations and practical solutions.
This perhaps reflects the kind of person Qadir is an eternal optimist who shuns the idea of painting a morbid picture of Bangladesh while at the same time admitting its frailties.
Some of the accounts are of a personal nature and allude to his inner turmoil of losing a father at an early age. Son of Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abdul Qadir who was killed by the Pak army in '71, Nadeem Qadir is an ardent patriot who continues to hold the torch for his father. The book is dedicated to his late mother Hasna Hena Qadir, whom Nadeem attributes all his successes and good fortune. He acknowledges the contribution of his mother in bringing up her children by herself in difficult circumstances and instilling in them the patriotic values of her husband.
While politics make up the bulk of these articles, some of them deal with social issues relevant to general readers the issue of paying respect to the martyrs of Independence, what our national dress should be, the woes of Dhaka's traffic situation (very relevant today), the use of Bangla language in everyday life and so on.
A few offbeat articles reveal a quirky side of the author. 'All about the letter 'P' is a satire on all the newsworthy words that begin with the letter 'P' and that relate to a 'prosperous' and 'peaceful' Bangladesh. 'The value of Spine' is another little snippet of philosophy.
But it is the analytical pieces on particular issues that warrant a serious look at the book. The approach is diligently journalistic, quoting the facts and raising questions in a matter-of-fact way.
Qadir's journalistic portfolio is certainly impressive enough to justify such a book. Now a Special Correspondent for the Paris-based Agence France Presse (AFP) and Research Associate for Reader'' Digest magazine, Qadir has been in the profession from a very young age with stints at various print media. He has also been a guest presenter at Ekushey Television and now for Ntv. As far as academic laurels go, Qadir has plenty of those too. He is for example, the second Bangladeshi journalist to receive the UN Correspondents' Associations' Dag Hammarskjold Memorial Scholarship.
The foreword by noted journalist Afsan Chowdhury and notes from The Daily Star's editor and publisher Mahfuz Anam as well as editor-in chief of Holiday Enayetullah Khan, gives an insight into Qadir's vast experience in journalism as well as a glimpse of the media environment where he made his debut.
If any criticism is to be made of the book, the primary one would be the absence of good editing which would have enriched the writing a bit more. Qadir admits to this and simply says"Well the person who would have edited it was not there" namely his mother.
'In Fools Paradise?' however, is quite unique in that it exposes the author as being a natural in journalistic reportage and yet with a touch of passion that makes what he writes quite endearing.
Reviewed by Aasha Mehreen Aamin