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Rainy reminiscence
By Afreen Khan

These two rhyming lines by ayoung Tagore carry the veryessence of our monsoon season. The monsoon season, which is a great change after the sweltering heat of grishmo, brings about incessant showers, cascading downpours, the occasional sleet storm, the realisation early in the morning right after you wake up that it had been raining the night before, the cool wet winds, overhung skies and maybe the rare glimpse of a rainbow.
Most of us love rain for countless and utterly meaningless reasons, to some, it is as basic as the fact that it is just simply rain. But there are those rare folks who grumble and scowl at a cloudy sky with a flicker of lightning in its underbelly and complain of headaches on rainy days.
Most people will agree that you have one of the best times ever when it rains the whole day in school. On an overcast day, you have a viable excuse for coming late to school- your house and your
neighbourhoodiis under so and so feet of water thanks to last night's downpour, your car would not start because there's water somewhere inside its system, your mother was scared that the whole city was flooded and would not let you go till her mind was at peace, and so on and so forth (Do mail us at the Rising Stars if you have a collection of rainy day excuses, maybe we can use it when we cannot report to the RS office and, it will make utterly fascinating reading). No sooner do the skies open for the rain, you are bound to find some of your school mates not in proper uniform anymore, I remember my school authorities running helter skelter in frustration due to the sheer number of students wearing black shoes. Every culprit mumbled, stated, shouted or pleaded the same explanation, the school white shoes were soaked because of rain of course, what else?? But students are not the only ones who forget (more like pretend to forget) during the rains, there are also the teachers who, for some strange reason, don't turn up in class, but that's all rolling in the hay under the sun great for us, it's a free period, about an hour of gossiping and quarreling and playing cricket with paper balls in the class, not a worry in the world…unless the strictest teacher in the whole school and possibly the whole city ends up substituting the whole lot of you.
There's also loads of fun during the downpours if you travel by school bus. You might actually reach school during the break period thanks to all the water in the streets and Dhaka's (in)famous traffic jams that become even more chaotic in an inundated city. I remember being stuck in front of the Prime Minister's office for over an hour early one morning while the rain sheeted down, it was great at first, but soon we got bored. So the whole bus started playing with a basketball, dribbling it from the front aisle to the back seats till one guy got over enthusiastic and threw the ball…straight out an open bus window onto the head of a man on a rickshaw. The middle aged man, sitting quietly and maybe even dozing a little, got the biggest shock of his life. It was a good thing that he actually agreed to return the ball after we all profusely apologized, he even found it funny (maybe the ball conked some screws out of his head).
The monsoon season brings in a world of treats to us, from the juicy mangoes, lichies to the fried jackfruit seeds to chew on, there's some mouth-watering food for
everybody's taste bud. The city is already a great place for those who cannot digest their daily meal without a juicy, sweet yet slightly tangy mango on their platter. If you are one of those blessed Dhakaites who still have a garden in your house that boasts a mango tree, then your monsoon season is sweet and full of content all the way. My mother's sister's, hence my khala's house used to boast three such trees (now the place is a multi storied apartment with not a tree in sight).
While my sister and I were staying over at her place during the summer vacation, there was a huge storm, with trees swaying, open windows banging, rain sleeting down and two of us and our cousin huddled under the bed (not because we were scared, but to feel a greater effect of the storm…you know how kids are). Soon the tin covered roof of the house started getting bombarded, not with sleet, but with mangoes, it was literally raining mangoes!!
We begged our aunt to let us go see the spectacle, but my aunt feared we would all get concussions or crack our skulls (well… she wasn't exaggerating at all). When the winds finally subsided, we discovered a roof carpeted with ripe mangoes, we devoured mangoes till my mother called up and forbade us to do so after we all got tummy aches.
Then there are delectable delights for those who like spicy and tangy flavours. There's aamer bhorta with some salt, mustard, red pepper and a twinge of sugar, there's fried dry jackfruit seeds to munch while you sit with a book or with your walkman in your ears while the heavens send rain, nothing beats a bowl of muri and chanachur mixed well in mustard oil while you watch a movie and of course there's khichuri with what you think goes well with it…the list is endless, but I better stop before you drool all over the magazine.
Rainy days do have some drawbacks though, continuous rain can cut short a day out with friends or cousins, it can ruin a planned and highly anticipated shopping spree and picnics and other outings are out of the question. But there are the lovebirds who think rainy days makes dating more romantic; the weather apparently incites more passion than usual (I never said this or wrote this!). It can also be fun to ask friends to come over for a movie or gossip marathon, with yummy food breaks in between of course. A long drive out in the city's outskirts on a cool windy day with friends can also be quite fun and refreshing.
Then if we were not careful enough we have spent the rest of the week with runny noses and our mothers giving us that ' I told you so' look and lecture every time we sneezed or coughed. Some of us cannot help but admire the different hues of orange and red that adorn the sky during a sunset on a rainy day or be slightly awed every time the red night sky is lit up by lightning, an inevitable sign of rain. Waking up in the dead of the night or during the first light of dawn and realising that the beat of the rain and the rumble of the heavens have woken you up can also be quite an experience at times…unless of course you are too sleepy and you snuggle right back under your blankets for some more shut-eye. Most of us love the touch of rain on our skin, the rippling and wavering sound of heavy rain is a favourite of many and at times continuous downpour turns our daily routine haywire and gives us a surprise change.
The monsoon in Bangladesh stays with us for quite a while, and in the coming months, we will have to accustom ourselves with lots of rain, gloomy, windy days and let us not forget the waterlogged streets and sometimes, the happy croaking of frogs (I am hearing an orchestra of them right now).

Myself and my jinxed providence...
By Preetha

Indering whether the grey matters of my brain has already all evaporated, I am sitting with my right foot immersed in a tub of near boiling water. Not for my amusement, of course. It is supposed to be an effective treatment for a sprained ankle. I seem to have a rather recurrent tendency of injuring myself, especially when it comes to spraining ankles (this happens to be the third time--a hurting hat trick--quite an unasked-for achievement, if you ask me!) It's the same feet, the same spot, the same doctor, the same medications and it even takes the same length of time (which in my case is three to four weeks, while for the others, it's usually only three to four days) to recover every time. The only difference in each occasion is the seriousness of the lecture-- which appears to intensify with every sprain-- that I receive from my parents on the importance of being cautious and prudent.
Not that I blame them, though. They have a valid reason for scolding me. I am not a footballer or a cricketer or any other sportsperson for that matter. I don't run, practise karate or jump up and down from a moving bus (like those future Olympic gymnasts--the nation's regular bus/tempo riders with acrobatic skills amazing enough to challenge the likes of Alexi Nemov!). In fact, according to all those who have had the (dis) pleasure of being acquainted with me, I am one of the laziest and most languorous persons born in the face of earth. "A disgrace to humanity, " to quote one of my highly energetic friends, who always seem to be doing something or the other, but as yet has failed to complete a task fully owing to her hyperactive personality which refrains her from sticking to any job for more than a period of two days.... So how come an inactive person, like yours truly, who would rather stay hungry than walk to the nearest food shop, have such a high record of spraining ankles?
Ever heard of the word "fate"? That's exactly what the reason is--amar pora kopal!
There can be no doubt as to the fact that I have a pora kopal. Must have been born under the wrong star or something, although I can't really say that for a hundred percent certainty (since I possess no astrological knowledge/power what-so-ever like Hamdu Mia, the ex-horoscope writer and present crap writer of the RS!) Why else would any team I support in any sport inevitably lose? During the footbll world cup, it was Argentina in the first round, Italy in the second round, and England in the Quarter Finals who got kicked out of the tournament. And even in the finals, when I was supporting Germany for perhaps the first and last time in my life, they lost! (To think that all those times I had cheered for the other teams playing against them, the bloody Germans had invariably won...!)
The Cricket WC was even worse. I guess I should have known that, with my former record and all. Just observe the uncanny similarity of the events: First match between South Africa and West Indies, I support SA--WI wins; match between Sri Lanka and WI, this time I support WI--SL wins; match between WI and New Zealand, I support NZ--WI wins; match between SL and NZ, I support NZ--SL wins.... and for the first time in the tournament when I support the Sri Lankans, because I don't want the Kenyans to win and make us Bangladeshis look worse than we already do, guess what happens? Why, of course, the Kenyans win in what is a major upset of the tournament!
Now who is the crackpot of a wise guy who says cricket is an unpredictable game? Any team I support, their opponent wins. Tell me, what's so unpredictable about THAT?
In fact, if there's anyone nearly as ill fated as myself in this whole wide weird world, it has got to be the South African team. In 99, they tied in the semis and dropped out, and in 03, they AGAIN tied, only this time it wasn't Klusener's wild dash, but his NOT making it, that determined SA's doom.... unfortunate and shattering, as usual.... But now that I come to think of it, can this terrible fate of SA have anything to do with the fact that they happen to be my most favourite team? One wonders...
I might have been able to accept the undesirable truth that I was a kufa as far as sports was concerned, if only it didn't trouble me in the other spheres of my life as well. But hell, whatever it is that I do, something or the other has to go wrong. Only my articles vanish from the hard disc of the computer, while all the others remain intact; and just when I am about to press 'Ctrl S' to save the report that I have been writing for four long arduous hours, the electricity goes out and I am left marvelling at God's weird sense of humour! My mails get lost for the most mysterious of reasons, and every time somebody wants to treat me at Movenpick or Club Geletto, it turns out that I have a bad case of tonsils. The CD's I buy don't usually work and even my thriller/mystery novels have the last page missing.
Just when I am expecting a very important call from overseas does the phone stop working and no matter how sick I am for weeks, I become as sound as ever before the exams! I sit before the TV watching a match of Man Utd and nothing happens, but as soon as I go out of the room to receive a phone call, Nistelroy scores!
Sometimes I wonder whether this life is really worth living the way I lead it. But, as my esteemed buddy philosophically puts it, "What CAN you do? I guess you can kill yourself. But even then--God forbid that such a thing should ever happen--I don't think, with your luck and all, you'll be able to carry out the procedure flawlessly... For all you know, if you decide to jump from a twenty-storied building, you might get caught in a net, and if it is but poison that you choose to take in, I can bet a thousand mangoes that it will turn out to be a bhejal one. And as for standing on the highway for a car to come and hit you, the engine of the car might break down, but you will surely remain intact...." He was being melodramatic, true, but he did have a point!
I have to admit though, once you get used to it, it isn't all THAT bad. And besides, in those very rare occasions when I am able to complete a task from tip to toe without any major mishap, the joy and thrill I feel is beyond measure.... almost makes it worth all the distress!
Note: A brilliant idea just struck me. Why don't you people out there, the ardent football and cricket fans, pay me to support the teams you hate when the next world cup comes around?
That way, you can know with certainty beforehand that your team isn't going to lose, unless, of course, some other person pays me a greater amount to support YOUR team! Think about it... it's (without sounding too corny) an offer of a lifetime!






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