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Images through a theodolite II: The evening
21 June, 2003
We sat next to each other, leaning against the giant couch in Anita's living room. Over the years her parties had become a melting pot for old friends and associates. What began as pre-exam sleepovers for girls back in the days of medical school turned into a social gathering of friends she collected along the way. Familiar faces kept coming back, sometimes punctuated by unknown intruders playing their roles as cameos.
Today, I was enjoying the time. For a change.
A little tipsy by the drink, I lightly rested my head on his shoulder, a familiar position I had learned to seek over the years. We snuggled by each other like two lost souls re-united after an eon of separation. As I pressed my ears against his ribs, his heartbeat seemed to have gained a life of its own. As his blood bumped against the walls of his heart, the drum overpowered the whirling noise of the generator switched down below.
Summertime power cuts were back on.
He responded by placing his large, shaggy arms in a tight, half embrace around my body. He hardly spoke, responding to remarks directed to him only with a smile -- his familiar smile. A warm feeling conquered our speechless co-existence at Anita's.
I hummed the tune playing in the background. Anita was discerning when it came to selecting her party music. An evening out at Anita's was a pre-planned affair. More often than not, there was a dress code. She would just say “Weave” and let the invitees take the queue from there. Not that everyone complied, but those who didn't were left out from her next gig. Young waiters in waistcoats and bowties would move around the house with glasses of drinks, and there was no coaxing, no pressure to choose alcohol or any anything else. Her parties were carefree, or so she liked to think. At Anita's, parties were meticulously planned, sometimes to the extent that the life was drawn out of them.
Today, however, it felt different.
We were the early birds this evening. He had picked me up from Mohammadpur and promised to drop me on his way back home in his dilapidated Volkswagen. Inside his car there was pin-drop silence. He switched on the radio and it was playing our song, one amongst a hundred. Before I realised I was humming along and his laugh lines creased…a faint hint of a smile.
The car was his late uncle's, handed down to him as a family heirloom and he was inconceivably attached to the car, as he was to his grandfather's mahogany table. And he loved the radio.
At Anita's party just when I was enjoying this new-found affection and warmth in his embrace, he placed a cushion behind my back and moved to the veranda for a smoke, I assumed.
I felt neglected, even ignored. It was months since we last touched each other, found comfort in our embrace. In the days before we tied the knot we would often sit beside each other. He made no concessions to his smoking and I stayed busy with my class notes. But it was moments like these short spells of silence that made our bond firm. Months into our marriage, it was this very silence that seemed unbearable. I would speak all day and he would stay speechless, numb.
His social skills or the lack thereof, were legendary. The whole world was aware of it. All but I. Too smitten by his charm, I failed to take note of his clinical indifference to everything that went around. Those who knew him, or at least a little, knew enough to overlook this glitch in his persona. Others couldn't care less and termed him “arrogant” and “rude.”
Anita introduced us. “That's my dear friend, "Pothbhola." You might have read his work. He fancies himself a writer,” she smirked.
“Yours truly” was his subtle reply, with a smile.
His charm had swayed me off my feet; his spirit seemed indomitable. He had penned a collection of political satires: "Clavicle and other stories", which shared mixed reviews from readers and critics alike. “Food for worms and vermin” he would often say with added humour.
Through the tinted glass of the sliding door separating the balcony, I saw the silhouette of a man puffing a cigarette. I stared at his image and wondered how our worlds have now been set apart by a glass brick. One could see through the partition, the other side visible through the translucence of reflections when once it was transparent.
Between the two of us, we shared dark secrets; secrets that were for us to hide from those who cared to peek through the glass walls that we seemed to have built around our existence; secrets that endangered our beings, our bare existence.
“Care for a drink?” Anita interrupted the smoke of thought.
-- Yes sure
She asked the waiter to give me a re-fill and disappeared into the crowd. As I looked back at the veranda, there was a shadowy figure of a lady speaking to him. Binty, in all probability. I was enraged and took the gulp of the rum down my gullet. My throat burned as did my ego.
Silence prevailed as we returned from the party. Staring blankly at the traffic spotlight, as the lights went green, yellow, red and yellow again, rage came flooding back and I was engrossed by it.
“What were you and Binty doing?” I asked. Demanded an answer was more like it
- Nothing just talking…
He said with a share of guilt. If there is one thing I still admire about this man who sat beside me in the car, it is his inability to lie.
“I don't believe you.”
I didn't want to show him the guilt in my eyes. I had wronged him and deep down inside it burned like a cross. Fleeting thoughts built up like a jigsaw puzzle, blurring the unreal with reality.
His eyes never lied. And in them there was a glint of shame and deception.
- Look at me Nina. He said softly.
He banged on the steering wheel, making the horn honk. The car stopped in the middle of the road. With a fit of fury he got down and punched on the aluminium chassis of the car. "God!"
I pressed my hands on my ears and begged him to stop. "Please stop. Please…you are scaring me."
But he kept right on, and the radio kept playing…"The first cut is the deepest, baby I know
The first cut is the deepest
( To be continued…)
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
UNDER A DIFFERENT SKY
By Iffat Nawaz
How is it outside? She wondered. Her day was spent like any perfect Friday should be spent; indoors, with music, with books, with naps. Just showered, unbrushed hair, the smell of soil and noises of street children climbing up the floors; the sky peeking in once in a while craving attention.
June days, unpredictable June days. It is the month of Aashar, Borsha started since the beginning, like magic. All that climate change talk, well at least Borsha remains faithful in Bengal. It's been raining for three days now and there is definitely more to come.
Switching television channels, the same news flashed by. The unfortunate woman who was beaten by her husband, the opinions of experts, activists and law makers. She watches it for the nth time, and then looking over at the laptop next to her similar news feeds come up in the social networking sites. Everyone is worried, the world is ending everyday, and there is no justice, so we must all put up our opinions. Who knows whose will end up being the magic solution.
She browses more; she sees people including herself, commenting on each other's posts and photos and activities in that same social networking site. It makes no sense to her. If one had to determine someone's mood according to their online activities it would be as though most of us are of split personalities.
She notices her own posts. In one she had commented on that same unfortunate woman's news, about the audacity of the husband, the unfair treatment of women in this country, how the men always get away.
The next post is her attending a human chain to protest this act, to ask for justice. The next one however is a comment on a friend's photo, just a few minutes after she was engrossed in this discussion about the case of domestic violence. This post reads “looking super smashing girl! xoxo.”
The next one is a song that she posted of Morcheeba, “Over and Over Again Now,” quite sensual and calming. She asked herself, what does it all mean, how swallow has she become and does she ever mean anything she says?
Now she is not the type to over-analyse and she knows these are just words, floating around; the mind is never really fully where it should be. But then, still she wondered, when bad things happen, and for a second the heart jumps, how easily do we move away these days?
Last week four girls were dragged through Banani 11 by a car, the same car in four different incidents. One of them was dragged for 15 meters, each of them had burns, cuts, stitches. The muggers took their purses, gave them big enough bruises to end up in hospital, she even signed some petition to protest against this. And then she moved on to the playlist in her iPod and danced a bit to a song that always gets her moving.
Is it wrong? Is it strength or the power of putting things in the back burner? Is it self protection against negativity or is it education? To prove that she understands and cares and hence she must take a stand always, and make a point. And then move on always, always.
Closing all connections to the opinion and factual world, and stopping herself from being too harsh and confused about her actions she walked over to the kitchen, where a pot of steaming khichuri was waiting. She smelt the spices, the warmth touched her face; life shouldn't be taken seriously she thought, not now, not today. It rained more and she slept well that night.
Chikan white dupattas
Matching Fair -- the familiar shop at the New Market -- has always been a lifeline to city ladies. It is here that your search for the perfect matching blouses ends; you are bound to find the most difficult or even uncommon shade of red, cyan or yellow or any other colour you are searching for to match your saris.
This shop has expanded its reach and is successfully running in Pink City shopping mall for quite some time now. On top of that the shop has gone big in many ways; they added a full section of shalwar kameez sets, yardage of cotton prints, matching chiffon dupattas and more.
Of course this is stale news and this is not what we want to share with our readers, what is actually hot in this shop this week is their chikan white dupattas with lace borders on both sides. Obscurely tucked among other chikan yards that you buy to make your shalwar with, you'll find these snow white cotton dupattas that are must-adds to your summer wardrobe.
White shalwars and dupattas with coloured kurtis are trendy this season and the lace borders and chikan embroideries add an ounce of extra elegance to the garb.
FOR MEN ONLY
Packing made easy
At least 20 percent of clothes that most people pack in suitcases remain unused. This is because of a lack of prior research about the destination. Let's say you are off to Bangkok in December. In Dhaka it is delightfully chilly, whereas in Thailand the sun will be scorching. The jeans and the full sleeve tops you lovingly packed will not see the light of day on this trip!
Instead, they just take up valuable space that could have been better used for holiday purchases. Now you are wishing you had Googled for local weather before deciding on your fashion statement. Check the Yahoo! 5 day weather forecast as part of the research and pack accordingly. Hot conditions and high humidity in the tropics call for light, loose-fitting outfits and they are less bulky to pack.
It is better to underpack than overpack. The true essentials are the passport, wallet and camera (don't forget the battery charger). Whatever else is forgotten may be purchased at the destination. It shall also satiate the ever-present shopping thirst we perpetually suffer from. Moreover, who wants to lug around a heavy suitcase in such hot conditions!
After the sight-seeing, the best part of all holidays is shopping for local goodies. Imagine the nightmare of not having enough space or being charged extra for overweight luggage!
Some other essentials that you must consider are sunscreen, mosquito repellant, emergency medications and a visor or a hat.
As for clothing, stick to knitwear if possible. Crew neck T-shirts along with polo shirts are quite a fashion statement. They are easy to pack, easy to wash and hang in the shower curtain rod overnight for drying. Shorts and draw string cotton/ linen pants would be my advice.
Probably the most important thing to pack is a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Unless you plan to attend parties, there is no point in packing jackets and ties. I would rather be 'footloose and fancy free".
All packed? Ok, ready, set, go!
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