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All my brothers

Safety pins and naughty grins
Booties, bibs and lots of toys,
Lullabies and sparkling eyes
And millions new reasons for joy,
So my life shared with my lil' bro
Be an endless adventure of love
In a bright world of happiness.

Ok, so you people must be wondering since when have I become such a good poet right? Actually the thing is- I have a new baby brother in my family. Well, he's not 'new' any longer- he's six months old and his name is Ishraq. I thought of writing this article long ago, but time just passed by too quickly before I could even keep track of it.

Anyway, I had really expected a sister so that we both could team up and do things against my brother (Itikaf) but now it has become the opposite. I am dreadfully counting the days when my new brother grows up and he along with Itikaf starts fighting against me.

During the last few days of my mom's stay at the hospital, before the little one was born I was so excited about everything that I started visualising a lot of things whenever I was sitting alone outside the room. Say for example, me being born at that time and having bhaiya as my boro bhaiya and Ishraq as my chotto bhaiya. How would things be then? Would either of them change my diapers, feed me cerelac and khicuri, help me take a bath, play with me when my mood was off or even put me off to sleep? Hmm.

Ok, so now me being the eldest 'daughter' of the family I have to look after my two lovely younger brothers while my mom's at the office. The elder one Itikaf is 8 and the picchi one Ishraq is only six and a half months old. I still remember how enthralling I felt holding Itikaf in my arms for the first time. I was only four then, just a little kid. He was like those REALLY cute and chubby babies.

Whenever mom would put him off to sleep I would go and lie down beside him and poke him. I would pull his cheeks until they went ruby-red or maybe until I woke him. Only now I know why I used to do that- he would look amazingly cute when his cheeks would be all red.

People would jokingly tell me that I couldn't be his sister. I was a skinny little girl and it didn't seem that I could be the elder sister of such a cute, chubby child. I didn't give any heed to them whatsoever. Now bhaiya is 8 years old. You know, as I'm writing this he just came to my room and gave me a gift. It was a cute, little handmade mobile phone. He knows that I'm dying to have my own new mobile so he tried his best to make one for me.

As I'm a girl, he used pink paper. It's a samsung model with my name and mobile number on it. It also has a cover under which there is a diary inside so that I can store my friends' numbers. How's that? Well, just cause he gave me a new mobile doesn't mean that I'm not gonna fight with him for not giving me one of the new rackets he bought last night!

We're absolutely contradicting each other all the time. He loves cricket that is why I hate it. I really, really like Shahrukh Khan, which is why he hates him. Almost all the things happen to be like this. I hope it changes when he grows up because sometimes it just gets boring opposing every tiny thing. So I just sit with him and watch "POKEMON" and at times he watches "FRIENDS" or "SANJIVANI" with me.

But god has been kind enough to grant me another darling baby brother. I love him just as dearly as Itikaf. He's just my cute 'little' brother. (Yes bhaiya, of course he's your brother too but I'm sure he would love me more). Ishraq resembles bhaiya's childhood quite a-lot.

Papa tells me that I'm like his 'second mother'. Don't you guys think he said a little too much? I do. But I have to admit that life with Ishraq has been like wonderful. When I'm sleeping ammu goes and leaves him on my bed so easily I wake up. Most of the time I'm busy with him. I've become quite responsible since he's born (and busy too!)

He's almost thirteen years younger than me, so I guess I won't have the type of relationship that I've always wanted to have with a brother (or sister). You know the type of relationship when you can have a brother to help you wipe your tears and share secrets or be right beside you at all times, even when your friends are not with you or even me being there for him. I guess I won't ever have any relation with anyone other than my friends.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter. So now I hope that he loves me just as much as I love him. Whenever I smile at him and call his name he gives me back a warm toothless smile! Isn't that wonderful? But when he's angry with me he wont even look at me no matter what I do. Pretty headstrong isn't he? All I want is Ishraq not being like bhaiya. If he eventually does, then I guess I'll have to die with a heart of stone. (It'd be like the 'mummy' in THE MUMMY RETURNS when his princess doesn't save him after doing so much for her).

At times I wonder how we would all be like ten years from now. I would be doing either of those things-MBA, Masters or maybe studying creative writing! My bhaiya would be in university and Ishraq would probably be doing his A'levels or something. I imagine all three of us grown up. Early in the morning I'm shouting at them to hurry up. They whisper something within themselves thinking I didn't see it. I drop them off to their respective schools and head for my own school. I would have nothing more to ask for except that our bond remains the same.

By Armeen Kabir

A different sunset...

Finally I got some time to reflect upon 2003. Oh, it seems like 2003 was the most diurnal year of the millennium. Yet 31st Dec drew its grand finale. Unlike most 31sts, it was cloaked with the cloud of great remorse as the martyrs of the Benin air crash were landed at Zia International Airport.

Speaking as one of the many who saw the live telecast of the entire evening, it was heart wrenching! Initially when I had read about the plane crash, I only sighed as most would have done when they read about mishaps. Then I went back to my own business as if nothing had happened. An inexplicable excitement was working within me, keeping the 31st in focus. We planned on dining out, being the rather subtle celebrators of the New Year's Eve. As the evening of 31st commenced, my mother kept pestering us to see BTV, as they would telecast the arrival of the dead bodies live. BTV was the last thing we wanted to see on 31st when other satellite channels had flamboyant programmes lined up to celebrate the evening. As always Mom's the boss so follow her rules!

As the programme began my disinterested siblings found ways to leave the TV room. I sat with my mother in front of the TV, thinking anything would be better than studying for MCAT (medical college admission test) test on 31st. Strangely enough as the programme progressed, I found myself getting interested in what was being said and shown. The martyrs' families waiting in that bitter cold for the dead bodies of their loved ones to arrive, was a sight that overwhelmed my conscience. I started to think that here were people who gave up their lives fighting for a country that's not even theirs! No matter what great honour the country shows to the bodies of the departed soul, it can never commensurate the losses their respective families have suffered had. A child who has lost her father will always be known as an orphan or the wife who lost her husband will always be known as a widow. Except for the solace in knowing that their loved one died for a noble cause, to help them hold their head higher. Thinking how they would ever conjure the courage to move on with their lives without the member who matters most in life, the Man of the family, I began to shed tears.

For the first time in my entire life I realized that anyone who dies means a lot to somebody even if the deceased is a complete stranger to us. I earnestly wished people in this civilised world would find a way to settle disagreements with words rather than weapons. May be physical forces work faster than peace-talks but in the long run so much is lost that the eventual success leaves behind heaps of debris and nightmares for the victims and that so-called achievement tastes bitter!

I began my New Year by not being angry at my father who couldn't keep the promise for the perfect new year's eve party. I was rather happy that he devoted his time in organising this memorable occasion at the airport for paying tribute to these exceptional Bangladeshis, who has put Bangladesh on the world arena with an entire new image at the cost of their noble lives…
I know I can't do anything for their families, due to my limitations as a teenager. On behalf of all those teens, I would like to tell the mourning families, ''You are not the only ones mourning for your loved ones, we share your grief and hope and pray that God gives you enough strength to endure this great tragedy.... We are really proud of you!.

By Nusrat Nazneen Nasir

The pleasures of ragging

I still recall that scene vividly as if it happened just yesterday. I was stepping into the university for the first time in my life, a waif of a teenager seeking admission, accompanied by my mother, when a most unusual sight greeted me.

Right at the entrance of the sprawling campus, on a tree branch perched a youngster. He seemed quite 'normal' in all respect. Only he was cawing, rather awkwardly, unmindful of the numerous parents and students going past. Further ahead, as we made it to the hallway, another unusual sight met us. A youngster, also looking normal in all other respects, sat on his haunches like a dog, and was barking at the crowd.

Thus began my initiation into the world of ragging.
My fellow students will recall with nostalgia, glee, and a dash of embarrassment (but very, very rarely with revulsion) many such tales of ragging. Both when they were subject to a practice that most of Bangladesh today seems to have decided is negative, and the time they put their own juniors through the paces. It was all done in the spirit of fun, and the underlying purpose was familiarization. At the end of it all, walls between the juniors and seniors became non-existent, and friendships were formed that lasted the entire academic year and beyond. My university was known for many things, but its ragging custom was unique to all universities.

The first week of the academic year was devoted to ragging, with seniors pulling newbies into the cafeteria. My own ragging happened there, and there is a sturdy tree outside that I can never forget, for it was the first recipient of my amorous advances.

As part of my ragging my seniors told me to kiss a tree which, most concurred, was a far easier thing to do than propose marriage to the senior girls, which happened to be the alternative choice. Emerging relatively unscathed from hugging and smooching the tree, my next task was to play cricket in the cafeteria's approach road.

Sounds simple? Try playing the role of the bowler, batsman, fielder, and umpire all rolled into one.

After this ordeal when the seniors offered to treat me for lunch (food and tea were always paid for by the seniors during ragging), I thought it was in sympathy for my plight. When I was asked to eat a square meal, however, I knew my day had yet to end.

A square meal is not what most Bengalis yearn for, and is exactly what it says. You eat the meal in a square manner -- that is, you raise the spoon towards your mouth in a square manner, and put it back similarly. Take care not to smile during this; I did, and was asked to cut the smile, literally again.

Which meant standing on the chair in the crowded cafeteria, imitating a pair of scissors with my fingers to cut the smile from my lips, and pretending to shove it up my backside. And shouting 'oh sugam' [oh, pleasure!] for the entire cafeteria to hear.

The finale was tea -- drunk hot, from the side of the glass furthest from you. Try doing it, without spilling. If you did, you will have to repeat the whole thing.

Rules of ragging had it if you are ragged by one gang of seniors the others don't rag you. Everyone goes back as friends. If you thought I had it tough, spare a thought for some of the others from my batch. One was asked to cover his face with a handkerchief like a bandit and hold up a bus with a pen. Another was asked to beg in a train compartment. Yet another measured the distance from the classroom to the cafeteria, with a pencil. One student was given an ordinary analgesic but told it was an 'upper', and he actually got high!

All of us who underwent the ragging enjoyed it, and as was the custom looked forward to doing unto others the next year when we became seniors. Alas, that was not to be. An ordinance had just been promulgated banning ragging, and my university was determined to root out this phenomenon. Violators were even threatened with rustication for an entire semester, but we were in no mood to listen. The authorities came down heavily.

Most of my friends were either suspended or, in a couple of cases, rusticated. I was part of the few who faced the inquiry committee which went around spying on students, gathering incriminating evidence, but was let off because none of my juniors testified against me.

The difference came in our 2nd year. When the first year students got in, there was no ragging, and mine slowly got to being just like another universities. We didn't get to know the new students or them us, and so there began the communication gap between us. That was not how we sent out our seniors who we had gotten to know in the days of our ragging.

Sure, ragging is bad when taken to extremes like in the news reports one reads about. Luckily that was not what our university was known for. After all, we referred to ourselves as the 'masters of UC' (my university) but the college authorities couldn't care less. Ragging was an 'evil', and it had to be rooted out. Ask any student from the heyday of UC's ragging era, though, and most, if not all, would root for it any day!

By Samiha Esha




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