Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 37, Tuesday, September 27, 2010

 

Fiction

Lilac nail polish

ADRINA almost raced to the school gate as the last bell rang. She was restless all through her time at school today. Julia, a classmate, asked her in the geography class, “You look so edgy today. Is anything wrong?” Adrina retorted, “I am doing just fine. Could you tell me the latitude of Bangladesh? I keep forgetting it.” Adrina made a grim face; it looked as if she was angry with herself for forgetting Bangladesh's geographic location so often.

Adrina looked at her watch so frequently today that Ms. Shabnam stopped lecturing and begged Adrina to leave the classroom if she had more important a task to finish. Adrina was embarrassed beyond words. She shrunk to half and for the rest of the class, did not dare peek at her watch, a black digital Casio that her uncle gave her on her last birthday.

Adrina was finding it difficult to believe that a bottle of nail polish could make her so restive that even her teacher would scorn her for her lack of attention.

Out of all the colours in the world, it was lilac that she wanted to wear on her nails. For this Eid, she has asked her parents to buy her nothing but a bottle of lilac nail polish. “Any brand will work,” she repeated several times. Sabina, Adrina's mother looked for the colour in the stores of Elephant Road, Gulshan and Dhanmondi but alas, it was one colour that the shopkeepers did not carry.

She put up a fight with one shop owner when he said, “You are the first woman to have come to our store for such a peculiar colour. We don't keep lilac because it does not sell.” Sabina was sweating profusely in anger and hatred toward the man - he was too rude.

“What would he understand of motherly love? My only child hardly ever asks for anything. She wanted nothing but a bottle of lilac nail polish and I can't seem to find it anywhere in this city of shopping malls.” Her eyes stung.

Adrina's father Shameem was looking outside his office window. Catching a glimpse of the endless heavens is a sheer piece of luck in this metropolis. Shameem has always considered himself fortunate to be working at the finance department of a local food-processing company. Jobs are scarce, food is expensive, and house rents are exorbitant. “Living in Dhaka is becoming a luxury.”

He has a small family, only one daughter to look after. Sabina, his wife, has come into his life like a blessing. Their only daughter Adrina is 14 years old, a most polite child. Shameem cannot remember a day when she threw tantrums at them like some of the children he knows.

“She is growing up fast. Soon, she will be in high school. Time flies,” he thought. “I can still remember the day she was born, she was a bundle of joy for the two families.” But Shameem is unnaturally sad today. Eid-ul-Fitr is in another three weeks. He asked Adrina earlier what she wanted. “A bottle of lilac nail polish. My friend Ishrat painted her nails lilac on our school picnic. She looked so pretty,” Adrina said sheepishly, she has always felt shy when it comes to asking something from her parents.

“I am happy and grateful to be the child of the planet's most loving parents; there should be nothing more for me to ask from them,” the teenager believed.

That very night while sharing their day's events, Shameem asked Sabina to buy a lilac nail polish for Adrina. Sabina looked for a bottle of lilac nail polish in every cosmetics store she knew, but there was none to be found. It was so strange.

Shameem has decided to leave work early today. He will go to New Market and check the stores there for a lilac nail varnish. The traffic jam was horrendous and it took him almost two hours to reach the Government New Market from Motijheel.

He went from store to store and asked shopkeepers if they had lilac nail polish - the urgency was clear from his tone, the desperation of a father to make his child happy was clear from his eyes. The heat multiplied his thirst every minute. But little did Shameem care; it was the thought of getting a bottle of nail colour for his daughter that circled incessantly on his mind.

Unhappy and heart-broken, he sat on the pavement. The pangs of hunger caused by the fasting, the unquenchable thirst caused by the day's high temperature seemed nothing compared to him not finding the nail colour his daughter wanted.

Adrina has been restless since morning. She was sure one of her parents would buy a bottle of lilac nail colour for her today. When she entered home and stole a look at her mum's pensive countenance, she found the answer to her question. “No, she didn't find it for me.”

An hour later, the doorbell rang. Sabina did not leave her bedroom to answer it-she was busy solacing her heavy heart. It was Ishrat who rang the doorbell.

Shameem came home; his hand was too heavy to be raised and brought to press the bell. He was in tears on his way home. The rickshaw puller turned his head twice and frowned - it was unusual for a man of his age to shed tears, sitting on a rickshaw. Adrina rushed to open the door; she knew it was her papa. Her face shone like a diamond sitting proudly inside a black velvet box. “My child is happy beyond expressions, what is it?” Shameem wondered.

Adrina hugged him and pulled him inside. Ishrat, who was sitting in the living room, stood up and greeted her friend's father. Lying on the centre table of the room was a little bottle of nail polish. Its lilac colour glittered under the yellow electric light.

The square bottle had a silver cylindrical top, which fearlessly reflected the people around it- Ishrat, Adrina and her father.

What happened:
Upon learning that Adrina liked the lilac nail colour she wore to the school picnic, Ishrat went home and told her sister how many times Adrina said she loved the colour. Ishrat's sister Nusrat got the nail colour for her from Singapore, where she went on an office conference. A day later Nusrat handed Ishrat another bottle of lilac nail polish - it was the bottle that Nusrat bought for herself when she bought the one for Ishrat.

Nusrat wrote a little note on a lilac paper for Adrina. The little note said “Little girl, enjoy a lilac Eid this year!”

By Wara Karim


Check it out

Labour of love

If one wanted to be close to nature to do what Nietzsche said to do, or to do what doctors prescribe to those who are weary of the stone walls or cement jungles of our metropolises, one had only to go to the Alliance Francaise exhibition to see the nature paintings on silk saris.

These scintillating items were seen recently with Mithu and Mintu, the painters nonpareil, considering their youth and economic conditions. One had the opportunity to meet the young entrepreneurs, a decade back, in their studio in Mirpur, which is still a hired outlet, one presumes.

One knows full well how they imagine, work, and persevere ad lib. They work their hearts out, and only hope to eke out a living, somehow, anyhow. Yes, there are sales, but the two artists, trained in the district area of Dhaka, don't have sale as their primary focus.

The two artists have taken to cloth painting as something commercial to subsidise their painting. As they don't have pleasing the viewer/buyer/critique as their goal, and are not yet quite established to say “Hell with the world”, as Van Gogh did, and as do some of our own Bangladeshi artists, they must go in for struggle and strife and the “slings and arrows” of life.

The two artists work together, in unisonsometimes doing entire saris and drapery pieces one by one, and at items doing parts of the paintings at one go, treating each item individually, each artist painting a single piece. Seeing the two young artists in their love of labour is a sheer joy. One stood and stared at the items on two separate days, forgetting for some time the tedium of survival in the claustrophobic existence of living in Dhaka for four decades. Paintings, by themselves take one away from the tedium of any world, at any time and place.

These paintings, done on cloth, took one away to the clouds and moon of another time and place, so to put it. The paintings, although they more often than not had Bangladeshi flowers in mind, brought in lilies and roses in the French Impressionistic manner, or in the manner of the Baroque painters (in which ever manner as one saw the flowers, butterflies, leaves and tendrils).

Abdul Hamid Mitu (Bachelors in Fine Arts) and Rafiqul Alam Mintu (Masters in Fine Arts) have used “Acrymin “ paint from Germany. The brushes involved are from India. Their canvas has been Balaka silk, crepe silk chiffon and endi silk. Their base colours were mostly light, although they did use emerald green, midnight black and even mauve at time. They also used rose pink, light amethyst colour deep purple.

They first tighten the fabric onto frames. There is no drawing involved in the depictions of flowers, birds, butterflies etc. The free flow of colours brings in a striding peacock in all its glory, flame of the forest, "shimul" (gold and yellow) “oporijita” or “nilkontho” (blue) exotic tropical birds, leaves, creepers. One could almost hear birds warble and smell the exquisite flowers.

The ideals of the two young artists remain Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Rodin, Picasso and Salvador Dali. Among the local painters S M Sultan, Zainul Abedin and Quamrul Hasan remain their ideals.

Their favourite teachers were Mohammed Eunus (from Chittagong) Sheikh Sadi (from India) and Baby Sultana (from Chittagong).

By Fayza Haq


Exquisite embroidery

Seeing Sharmin Akhter Chowdhury's superb work at the Alliance Francaise, in the recent past, reminded one of the tapestry of the Middle Ages -- of the days of knights and troubadours -- so fine, elegant and exquisite was the work, done mostly on silks of pastel shades.

Sharmeen is not onto the “for the people, of the people” slogans. She is proud of the fact that she caters to the requests of the upper echelons of buyers, placed in Europe, the US and the Middle East. Yes, flower motifs have been done by Nahidu Sharmeen and at times, by Lisa Mowla. But the exquisite work with flowers had a niche of its own in the world of embroidered garments for occasions.

More than anything else, the forty-something, good-looking Sharmin's confidence while speaking to “The Daily Star” was nonpareil. Sharmin held her first exhibit at Hotel Sheraton in 1998. She had no desire to make a big sale, “To reach out to the masses was not my aim”, she says.

Sharmin brings in hand embroidery on local fabrics. As a child with two siblings, she learnt from her mother who sewed the children's clothes herself. Mum always worked on white as white stood for purity, according to her, and she felt that white or black would be a suitable backdrop to highlight embroidery,” she says.

Speaking at length about herself and her background she says, “I worked in Ajker Kagoj and Bhorer Kagoj with Afsan Chowdhury, who was the BBC correspondent in 1993 and 1994. Later on she became the Managing Director of Creative Ltd. Mass Communication”.

She had a large circle of friends in the US, Canada and Saudi Arabia. They contacted her from overseas. The quantity was worthwhile. There was no requirement for a showroom. "I wanted to maintain the quality I felt I could match the demands of my special clients. I feel satisfied as my buyers say that each costume is like a colourful canvas. My friends and family egged me on.

“The hand-embroidery is minute, with mixing and matching with flowers and leaves, that graces and enhances the feminine beauty. I feel that Bangla raw silk and endi-cotton and silk take time and patience to work on. The designs are my own and I believe I'm a born designer. I do follow sub-continental trends. I specialise in shalwar kameez sets. There are many variations of colours and design. I feel that if I don't specialise I will lose out in the end.

“For twelve years I've used this type of stitching and designing with focus on fun and festivity. Materials and colours have been changed, keeping various designs in mind.”

Alliance Francaise in Dhanmondi, Dhaka was her second venue. There were 80 pieces. Prices ranged from Tk12,00 to 8,000.

By Fayza Haq


Under a different sky

Shall I meet you halfway?

By Iffat Nawaz

Shall I meet you halfway? Who will decide if it's exactly half? I assume the miles counted and defined before us will give a notion of measure, oceans will expand and contract, the waves will scare me off wanting to stay put; but I still will ask one more time - do you want me to meet you halfway?

It is the end of the mango season and the ripe smell has turned into sunshine, the butterflies have left town to love in peace and I hear they are at the outskirts of the city, turning into caterpillars. Remember when I told you that story about the jar of caterpillars my grandmother collected for me just to show me the biology behind the poetry? I was nine. The two caterpillars lay side by side turning green. I fed them lemon leaves. They never ate in front of me but when I would wake every morning I would find little bite-sized holes on the leaf and it made me happy. I smelled like fresh limes and stared at the cocoons waiting for the transformation. Twenty-one days later the butterflies fluttered their moss-olive wings. They met halfway turning into one, shared the same life, exactly in half. Shall I meet you like that? Halfway somewhere?

I hear it's also warm where you are. The streets breathe smoke and the smell of dry tar mixes in with popsicles. I hear you are learning to climb again - rocks and trees. Who is belaying you now? Checking your knot to see that you made a perfect figure eight? Holding the other side of the rope so you can climb on? Shall I meet you halfway?

Send me the other end of the rope, I will look out for it. Pull me in so I can free climb through smooth and bumpy roads where every step seems large some days. I will hold on to the rope and move through traffic jams, tie it around my right arm while the left waves goodbye to the returning crows in this city. Pull me in fast before the angry end of the sky starts to pour, pull me in will you so I can meet you halfway?

And no, I will not meet you in quarter or full, and I won't let you come to where I stand. I want the middle; not for balance, not for the comfort of being equal, but for re-establishing my belief that there is such a place called halfway and to reach it I need to be half more the woman I am, and you too perhaps, giving up half of what we are so we can face the half and unite. Isn't that a great challenge, a perfect understanding? People are claiming there is no such thing; that there is no such point, so why don't we prove them wrong and meet half way?

And when I do meet you there, even if it's a dump, or the border of Kashmir, or the middle of Gaza, even if it's the tip of a pyramid, I will stand still and embrace you. Even if you show up as death or an old song, just promise me that you will meet me halfway.


Knowledge speaks

Hello parents

Ishrat Ameen

I know that parents are extremely possessive about their children and the relationship between them and their children's teacher is very formal indeed. Although all parents are not teachers by profession, most teachers are parents of students. Teachers should not fail in discharging their duties to the best of their abilities. Parents should trust them. When you drop off your child at school, give a hug and a kiss, and tell them that you will be there after school and leave! Please help your child by getting on with your day. Let the teacher take over.

Drop off time is not the time for an impromptu conference. If there is a question or concern, schedule a time when you can visit the teacher or call and request a meeting. The teacher will be happily oblige.

Conversations between you and your child's teacher should be confidential. If you are unhappy with the teacher, go through the appropriate channels. Do not get other parents involved. Of course you wouldn't want the teacher to tell you, "I have heard from other parents that you have a concern. I'd very much like to resolve the conflict. In the future, would you please come directly to me?"

Be open-minded. If the teacher sends a note home stating that your child has hit a classmate in the stomach, don't jump to the conclusion that the teacher hates your child. Talk with your child and follow up with the teacher. Be mindful of your tone. If you are feeling defensive, it will show in your voice.

Modelling respect starts at home. Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

Schedule family vacations during school vacation time. It's hard to understand why the necessary trip to “Fantasy Kingdom” wasn't planned during the holidays rather than the first week of school. Please consider the fact that your child will have to handle the missed schoolwork.

Don't hand out birthday invitations at school to only a select few students. Be considerate of young, tender feelings. Send the invitations by mail. Please resist any temptation to invite the teacher. The consensus is that it puts teachers in an uncomfortable position. Children idolise teachers and look to them as role models too. Teaching your children to respect authority is a lifelong lesson that serves everyone's best interests. Feel blessed parents, and enjoy a healthy relationship with the teachers this year and always.

 

 
 
 

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