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POP UP

For cooks

For those of you who have to visit the kitchen, your daily encounters with food must have left unwanted smell on your hands at least once, especially if you had to deal with garlic and onion, a must have in every Bangladeshi dish. So don't walk around smelling like a kitchen and try out these simple steps that will make your hands smell fresh and clean.

Put a dime sized spot of liquid soap in the palm of one hand. Put either an equal amount of salt or coffee grounds in the soapy spot.

Coffee is excellent at removing the smell of garlic or onions from your hands, but salt is a good back-up. Lather well, scrub your hands together for a minute or so, really working the salt or coffee grounds into the garlic or onion smell. Rinse your hands under water and rub them against a stainless steel item. Your hands are now ready to be sniffed on to.


FICTION

Images through a theodolite IV: Clavicle and other stories

The Past
The cat wagged its tail, possibly in disapproval of Nina's cuddle. Bilkis was like that. Moody. Even with her owner. And it seemed I was her mortal enemy; more so than the neighbourhood dog. She scratched me once for changing her staple lunch from tuna fish to shutki bhorta and rice.

She was Persian; that explained her haughty air. Grey, fluffy and six years old, elderly by feline standards I was told.

Nina brought Bilkis to the house along with her wedding trousseau; she told her mum “I am taking her to the vet.” Her attires were transported in advance to Samiya's place (who lived close to Nina's house). And we were wed, Najmul and Omar stood witness as we tied the nuptial bond. I remember that date but not as distinctly as I should have remembered 17 July!

“Here is your flask of tea…” She placed the silver, thermos flask on the mahogany table. “…your supply for the day, so that you can concentrate” she smiled and then she gave half an embrace kissing my forehead. “We can really use the money. You know that don't you?"

“I love you.”
- And I love you.
I replied instantaneously. Almost like a reflex action. Like swatting a mosquito as it bit your hand.

I closed the window of the word file I was working on, and switched to the other which bore a few medical jargons, which I knew would please Nina.

“Can't wait to hear you read out to me when I get back” she said with genuine affection.

And she left wearing the starched, milk-white apron mandatory at medical school, closing the door behind her.

I took the plastic cup placed on top of the flask, and poured some tea. My third of the day although it had only been 7:14 am. I hated waking up so early but Nina felt neglected if I didn't bid her goodbye before she embarked on her rickshaw ride towards college.

There was a time when I used to accompany her but now that I had formally struck my name out of the attendance roll, I could concentrate on writing.

Clavicle and Other Stories was a meagre hit, by any standards. People, as expected, frowned upon buying English titles, and the critics took a stern view against my political philosophy. They found my ideologies archaic, sometimes too utilitarian. “Politics…”a critic wrote, “cannot be judged solely by the outcome. The initial intent is as pivotal in the game of politics as the ultimate result.”

But I was congratulated for my wit as I was criticised for making some authoritative political figures appear like clowns.

- This time it will be a fiction.

I told Nina one night. I switched on the bed lamp and turned her over.

- This time it will be about roots and legacy.

“Its three in the morning and you woke me up to say this,” she looked visibly annoyed but I didn't notice.

- Nina, it's the Eureka moment! I have been looking for this idea, “the idea” for so long and it was right in front of my eyes all the time. Right in front of your eyes as well.

“I need to sleep. I have an “item” tomorrow.”

- Oh! You and your college. Forget the quiz, listen to my story…

And she did. Her gaze blankly directed at me, idle and careless, punctuated by yawns.

“I need a cup of tea. Want some?” she said.

We sat on the bed as I told her the story, till the muezzin called upon humanity for a prayer.

At college, that very day, Dr Nawaz called me to his room. “Hello young man!” he said in his impeccable British accent. “Take a seat” he pointed to the chair in front of the large desk that had a mummified eagle on it. Legend had it, it was his pet and as it passed away he had had it preserved. I personally liked to think he had bought it from a poacher's shop. He was much loved by his students, and I for one, was not one of them.

“I will get straight to the point. You have been missing a lot of classes lately, is everything okay? How are you feeling these days?”

- I am fine Sir. Thank you.

And I felt fine. A little euphoric but I decided not to hint on it.

“Dr Kazi was full of praises for you. He really liked the way you moulded his research paper. He is in the middle of a book and he asked me, as he thought I knew you better, to see if you could help him write it.”

- Write a book?
I was perplexed.

“Yes. He will provide all the information and brilliant as you are in analysing and interpreting medical information, you can actually pen his thoughts in English. There will be a handsome remuneration,” said Dr Nawaz, leaning back in his revolving couch.

“You must be kidding! This is outrageous!” Nina did nothing to hide her astonishment.

- Can you believe this?
I was disgusted.

- Dr Kazi will not even mention my name…not even in acknowledgement…

“So when are you writing it?”
- What do you mean? I spoke with surprise.
“The book of course! We have been through this before.”
- But my name?

“Your name does not pay the bills. The second floor has remained vacant for the last three months now. I have used up all the savings and so have you. It is time we get some cash. Ask for some advance…”

- But Nina, my name…
I went silent. We actually did go through it before.
Life as an aspirant author is not paved in stone. I had received similar offers before. All of which I rejected, politely. This however was different. I could say no, and suffer the repercussions at the examination table. And the offer was too good to say no to.

But where does my integrity and honour as a writer, or a human being, stand when I let others use my pen, my name only in exchange of money? Was I so immoral? But the money was indeed lucrative.

So I decided to withdraw from school and write, for Dr Kazi. His brilliant, yet to be published, research paper on Pediatric Cardiosurgery; one that could bring him academic laurels, which he seemed to have lacked in his distinguished career.

So every day Nina left a flask full of warm tea, as I sat before the computer with a pile of books in front of me, comparing notes made by the Doctor with text books. Sometimes, she would remember to give me the pills and on occasions she missed. But I liked getting high. The lack of the neurotransmitter in my blood spurred my brains and I was put in a fit of euphoria.

Sometimes, when bored to death by medical theses which I did not want to write in the first place, I looked around the house. Staring blankly on artefacts that have been there all along. I discovered the grandfather's portrait in the living room one day and brought it to the study and hung it on the wall over my computer.

As I looked at it that day, sipping my cup of tea, I heard him speak. Looking at his bloodshot eyes, wearing the pin-stripe coat, I could for the first time actually hear his very words. He wanted me to write about legacy! About forefathers and progeny.

(To be continued)

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif


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