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Happiness the ultimate goal

I suffered the darkest days of my life in my childhood. I was not the liveliest boy in the neighbourhood nor was I the brightest boy in school. The boys at school made fun of me while the teachers pitied me. My friends were never there when I needed them most, because they were not loyal enough to stand by someone like me. I could never build up the courage to grab the collar of the boy who would spit on me, and give him the thrashing he deserved. I was not like others in fact, I could not be like others. I was not a 'normal' boy, who would come home from school, throw his stuff away, switch on the TV and have a cool drink. I did not have normal parents either. My father, a renowned business magnate spent most of his days as well as his nights away from home. My mother found great pleasure in parties, clubs, parlours and friends; and honestly speaking....neither of them seemed to be aware of my existence. To them, I was just another of their accomplishments a 'son', to be showed off in front of the right people, and then relegated to the back of their minds. It was not as if they starved me or anything: in fact, just the opposite they piled my room with any material possession that anyone could have ever asked for. I would spend hours looking at the ceiling, occasionally looking down to force a hard kick on my X-Box. Loneliness would never leave me alone, and it would tear down my insides when I would try most to get rid of it.

It was to be another boring morning in the series of boring mornings since the start of my holidays, each one being more boring than its predecessor. I looked out of the window towards the trees to see the leaves dripping with dew. It was unusually foggy outside, but the street was buzzing with the usual ever-hurrying people, literally rushing not to be late at work. The crowd slowly thinned, but with that the much more interesting aspects of suburban life were showing up. A girl, whom I recognised as our housemaid, was having the time of her life with the reasonably-handsome paper delivery boy, while on the other side some boys of my age were playing soccer with what looked like a drinks can. They were about my age and wore ragged and tattered clothes. I supposed they were 'part-time' street beggars of Dhaka. But I suddenly felt this incredibly irrational feeling jealousy! I was rich, I had some of the most expensive clothing money could buy, and I could buy about hundred footballs with the money I had in the side-pocket of my schoolbag. Yet I wanted to be like them. I wanted to play football with an empty can with some street beggars. I wanted to smile like they did, jump in joy needlessly, and rattle my bones by kicking a metal can.

One of the boys spotted me poking my head out of the window and watching them. He called out and asked me if I would like to play. I don't know why he did that. Maybe he recognised the naked longing on my face that he and his friends felt all the time but of course for widely different reasons. It was as if I had discovered some thing new. Never in my life had someone called me to play or even spoken to me without a feeling of contempt or irritation, for I was the 'poor little rich boy' who was never satisfied even though I seemed to have the world in my hands. Now, I could not believe myself. I had half a mind to rush down to the street, say cheers and give a hard kick on the can. To my own surprise, I did just that.

I mingled with the urchins with such excitement as if there was nothing like 'them and us' in life. I soon had my shoes worn, my shirt torn and a sharp cut on my ankle, but I did not have time to notice. It was as if I was over the moon with joy. I tasted the pleasures of life, and for the first time in my life I had belief in myself. I finally realised that the world was not like I had always seen it.

That day I came back home with bruises in my arm, wounds on my foot and cuts on my chest. Yet I felt happy beyond reason. It was as if a curtain of bleakness had lifted from my heart, and my life did not seem so achingly futile anymore. It was irrational to be ecstatic over something like that, but I didn't really care. I suddenly realised what true happiness is all about it is the joy of being alive.

By Saqeb Bin Mahbub Rafi

Butterflies in raincoats

Friendship is something as unforgettable as school days. Friends of playgroup and nursery are simply impossible to forget.

After being admitted to Golden Eagle Nursery, I found myself a part of a bunch of about twenty kids, all jumping around. Our teachers, Parveen miss and Monika miss were busy all the day with us. We were mischievous, talented and quite a handful.

I vividly remember the dining sport. When the small bell rang, we ran to the dining room in a race to sit nearest to the kitchen. The staffs used to bring all sorts of food. Some of us didn't like to eat, and some of us ate every thing. The staffs always had a very hard time with Zayeem. Zayeem would scatter all the noodles around the plate and other kids got really annoyed and started shrieking. It was a scene taken out of a Harry Potter novel. In our minds, we were magicians, artists, singers and everything you can imagine.

One rainy day, we babies came to school with dripping raincoats and Mickey Mouse umbrellas. Many were late, so those of us who were in the class invented something that no Newton could ever think of. What we did was simply turn the chairs upside down and made them into cars. Sayeem, the thin Shoaib Akhter, started pushing the 'cars' around the class. Ashifur started doing the same. Thus the chair game virus spread like an epidemic. Soon we were all playing this new game we invented. That did not last long. Soon we saw teachers standing at the door with wide smiles on their faces. They didn't scold us, just told to get ready for the class.

The school seemed to be like a second home. Hardly anyone bunked or skipped class. Every one was mad about coming to school. We were no serious nerds at that time; no definitions of punks or skunks were designated. We were simply unique kids. I remember the singing class. We used to sing many songs and rhymes. The keyboard was playing tunes and we were chanting the rhymes. "Twinkle, twinkle little star" ... "Humpty Dumpty"... "Little Miss Muffet"... "We shall overcome"... "Bhor holo dor kholo". The singing class was exciting. Maruda was a real singer, while Saiful was the quietest boy.

We had colourful walls around the class with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck pasted all around. I was always trying to draw them but it was never perfect. We used to make shapes: Rectangle, Squares, Circles. This and that. Make sentences like: "Sun rises in the sky." Then we had a class to make something out of molds. The sticky spongy oval egg could be shaped into anything. Many of us made different shapes out of that. A few days back, I went to an art gallery and wondered how artistic we were!

I remember the small playground with seesaw and merry go round. Small cycles all around the corridor of the school. Football and small toys near the typist didn't much matter. Rules didn't rule us, we ruled the rules. The staffs were also playful, humorous and kind-hearted. If anyone asks me about my school life or my friends, I tell them these things. I still sing nursery rhymes and I really love them. Some says I am childish, others tell me to grow up.

A few days back I saw Zayeem with a smoking cigarette in his mouth. He didn't recognise me. It was hard for me to believe how much he had changed in just a gap of 10 years. A generation transformed into something else. Faisal was my playgroup friend. He had also transformed. Last week I saw him at Banani Volvo counter. He has become muscular and looks like a terrorist. I was wondering whether this was a nightmare. Friends change, but so much change is really mind blowing. When I walk along the streets of Dhanmondi I meet my old friends. I go to exam halls, and encounter old friends. I see them. I know them. They have all changed. The innocence got covered with some bitumen of stereotypical characteristics. Their faces shout at me. Before they talk, I hear what they say. Experience pours out, philosophies call out. What were once amazing butterflies have changed into caterpillars.

Black Street

He stood on the veranda, the acrid smell of generator smoke stinging his nose. The placid surface of the lake in front of the
house reflected the black, starless sky.

The lake suited his mood : calm, but dark.
People dotted the street underneath, lost in the sounds and colours of the Celebration. Even the cursed, stifling, humid heat wasn't enough to stop their futile mockery of Sorrow.
The air stirred. The lack shivered : and his nose found clean air. Ripples of song and laughter drifted up to him.
Suddenly, lightnings chased each other, over the horizon of the concrete jungle. The calm breeze turned into wind. And the sounds of merriment drowned the warning of a low thunder.

'How would it feel', he pondered, 'To be underneath a shower of death? Knowing there's no hope, waiting for it to come quickly, to a clean end. When night and day are forced to marry, by unnatural rain dropped from the bellies of giant metal birds. Like crow-droppings .... but staining the land, and lives, permanently.....'.

Another salvo of lightning lanced through the night, revealing the gray and purple underbellies of storm clouds. Thunder rumbled, louder than the last time. But, still, the people rejoiced, unaware, or ignoring.

'Where is God? He is supposed to be the Protector, the Just, and the Most Merciful. How can so many innocents die, like that, on God's earth?'

'What did the children do, that they had to die? Ripped apart by bombs, orphaned, their delicate memories scarred forever with the dying cries of friends, and family! What sin did the children commit, to endure such cruel and irrevocable punishment? Where are you, God?' he screamed in his heart.

Suddenly, the wind raged with him. The lake pulsed with small waves of fury. The tree branches creaked and slapped against each other. Windows around the neighbourhood banged themselves shut. Somebody screamed, as glass shattered.

As if shaken awake from a dream, the songs and laughter stopped dead. A branch of lightning reached down to caress a power-line, somewhere, and the street and 'mela' plunged into saturated darkness. Thunder pealed, like hundreds of bombers flying overhead.

Now, unchained to the sights and sounds of reality, the mammoth of chaos broke loose, in the black street.

An unbridled gale summoned waves of dirt and dust. The merrymakers were frightened blinded, and choking, all at the same time. Some clever drivers used their headlights to chip off slices of the darkness, here and there.

Flashes of lightning fell on confused and panicked faces. A moment later, another imaginary flight of bombers, twice more than the last, passed overhead.

The people who were, some moments before, singing of love and unity, started bolting in every which way; screaming, wailing shouting. The shrieks of the frightened children rose and fell with the gale.

Rain started falling, lightly at first, and then slashing out with murderous fury!

'Look at us', he thought; Just look at us! Rejoicing, fine, but so entangled in our colours and songs, that we fail to hear the footsteps of Sorrow, treading down our lives.'

'But, even then, when its too late, if we keep our hearts together, we can beat the threat! But, again we fail, fearing........ No, Fear we must, for we are men. Its only when we yield to our fears, that our dooms are sealed.'

Lightning and thunder flashed and echoed, seeming to affirm his thoughts.

A few thunderclaps later, the rain-brimming street was deserted, void of songs, drenched of colours. Lightning slashed the sky, showing dark mounds: the unmoving bodies of those who fell beneath the stampede. Some of them moaned in pain. But, more likely, that was the wind, pained to touch the fragile, weathering bonds, of love and unity, of mankind.

'How can fear rule over something as powerful as love? Even after so many times, why don't people understand that, like the legs of the tripod bearing the crown of Salvation, only together, can we stand? Without Love, Justice, and Honour, we fall. And keep on falling, because fear is as deep as love.

A roll of thunder seemed to applaud him, mockingly. Shaking his head, he withdrew into his house.

Beneath the empty veranda, the black street wept with the sky.

By Riaz Md. Nasek Khan

Tough teacher

A school teacher injured his back and had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable at all.

On the first day of the term, still with the cast under his shirt, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in school. Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the window as wide as possible and then busied himself with desk work. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.
He had no discipline problems with any of his students that term.






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