Monday, July 16, 2007

Diary: Week Fifteen

I rediscovered the amazing hospitality of Bangalee people, and I regret doing it very lately. My stay here might be much more interesting had I come to know these nice people just after I came to Pittsburgh. Now when I found it, I had only six weeks to stay.
I began the week in North Side of the city. I went to interview a local ward commissioner, Peter Ferraro, in Ross Township Monday. One of the nine commissioners of the township, Ferraro has been elected the president of state ward commissioners' association this year.
"I was a democrat just before I became a commissioner," Ferraro said as he was describing his joining Republicans to win in the commissioner election in 1989. While he was protesting against
the then local commissioner's move to construct a huge building, the commissioner asked him to settle the matter after emerging out winner against him, and Ferraro took the challenge. And he joined Republican bloc as the man was a democrat and came out successful. Since 1989, Ferraro is the commissioner of Ward No. 8.
Our (Post-Gazette's north zone reporter Len Barcousky and I) focus of interview was to about the commissioner's future plan about the area and what he wants to do as the president of the state commissioners' association. We were excited that one from our locality became president of the state association. We, however, found out later that another one
from Pittsburgh was elected president a few years ago.
I went to a meeting of Ross township in the night to see how the local units of government work here in the U.S. I was literally amazed to see the decision-making process in the local government level. Most of the agendas were related to housing: construction of garage, splitting a land into two, getting building plans approved, use of certain land for business
purpose etc.
Besides the parties whose matters were to be discussed and their neighbors who may be affected for the projects were there ordinary people. After presentation by the parties, the neighbors can have their floor if they want to make any point.
Then the township, chaired by one of the commissioners who has been elected to chair the meetings for one year, would discuss whether the projects need more works or can be approved. A member of local planning commission, who is an expert about legal aspects and has a very good knowledge about planning, is always there.
If anyone thinks it can be approved, he proposes a motion while another commissioner
seconds it. The 'house' then take decision through voting.
You will not find this practice in Bangladesh. The parties do not have access to such meetings let alone their neighbor or ordinary people. And the decisions come, in many cases, through under-table dealings.
I was also taking photographs for the assignment.
I started working for another story -- this is for the health section -- the next day. This time I was working on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a very common biological difference that makes people distracted, has contribution in lack of focusing, hyperactivity etc.
In fact, I got the idea when I found a newly published book on ADD, Pay Attention, by Dr Craig B, Liden, a Pittsburgh-based doctor who has been dealing such patients for more than 25 years.
"I've seen over 9,000 patients with attention deficit disorder problem and say it that people do not have clear idea about the problem," Dr Liden said Wednesday as I was interviewing him at the office of Translation, Dr Liden's publishing house dedicated to work on ADD.

The interesting thing is people have misperception that it is found only among the children and can be understood when they cannot focus in their classes.
"But the fact is, it is found among people of all ages, though it can be noticed easily among the children," Liden said, adding that 40 percent of his patients are adult.
Although it is a pervasive problem, little literature is available on it. And often times people mistake it for 'Bipolar Disorder'.
ADD cannot be totally cured and if it is not treated during the childhood, it can create further health hazards. Obesity, bad food habit, lifestyle, alcoholism are associated with ADD and worsen it.
Saying that only medication is not enough for ADD treatment, Dr Liden is advocating a three-pronged treatment that also includes counseling and involving the family, caregivers
and colleagues in the process of treatment.
I had surprise waiting for me by the end of the week. A Bangladeshi cardiologist called me Thursday over my cellphone to invite me to a music evening at his house in Oakmont the next day. They Bangladeshi community has brought in an Indian Bangalee singer, Shantanu Roy Choudhury, from Kolkata to perform at the program. When I went there, I found myself surrounded by all the Bangladeshi people. They had a lot of questions about current political situation in Bangladesh and I had to answer it because I 'know it better as a journalist.'
However, most of them know about me before I went there by reading my article in Post-Gazette about eBay fraud story. Some of them called me at my office and one of them wrote me email. It was interesting. It was a good evening.
The next evening, I attended Gharoa, a monthly program of Bangalee people from Kolkata where the sing songs, eat dinner together and then again sing songs most of which are chorus in the second part.
As some of them knew beforehand that I sing Lalongeeti, I had to sing two. My audience was very pleased listening to my songs, although I think it was not that good because I didn't sing in last five months at all. These people's sincerity and love for Bangalee culture touched me greatly. They are nice people.
And most important thing is this kind of function or get together strengthens the bond between people of this community. As if they were hugging each other lovingly.

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