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Missing the plane to America!

That day was Feb 26. Jinat, Shazia, Sonia and I reached the university at 9:30 am. All of us were so sleepy that we could hardly look at each other, the reason being, we had been to Mymensingh for the annual picnic the previous day and reached home at 10:30 pm.

Once we reached the campus, though, we smelt news in the air, and all systems went on alert as we went sniffing for the source. The news was that 21 students of the under graduate level would be handpicked from three South Asian countries (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) to visit America and get introduced to the American culture. The last date for applying was Feb 26! TODAY! All thoughts of slumber vanished as our brains got busy scheming as to how to board the plane to America. In the blink of an eye we were not standing in the tumbledown building of Kolabhaban (Arts Building) but in the shiny buildings of an American university.

The first step towards boarding that plane was to collect the form from the department office. So we trooped to the office for the precious form. In the office there was a man (office clerk) who was utterly annoyed to have his peace shattered by these disturbing elements us. When we demanded the form, he pinned us with a vexed gaze and asked us why we wanted the form. We told him 'because we want to apply!' but inside, our minds were screaming 'Because we want to go to America!’

Grudgingly he gave us the form and we bore it to the photocopy shop like a flag of victory. Then we sat down to write a recommendation letter to be signed by the chairman. One of our classmates had applied for this program but he never told us about until Feb 26…
the last date! He was walking through the corridor of the department with an air of smugness. 'Look you bunch of fools! This is the last date! You cannot apply now! The time is over! Hahahahahaha!’

Seething inwardly, we wrote the letter as he dictated it to us like a specialist. It was then that we heard that if we were selected (inside our minds we were already selected!) then we'd have to pay for the ticket from our own pocket! This information stopped us short and took half our interest away but just for a single moment. After a moment of stark reality we started formulating wild ideas for collecting the money. And we had not even filled up the form yet!

Once we finished the letter (handwritten) we ran to the photocopy shop to pick our 'plane ticket' i.e., the form. After collecting the 'ticket' we concentrated on our boarding paper (the recommendation letter) and gave the handwritten copies to the office (to the clerk who took our letters with obvious reluctance) and were relieved that now the chairman would sign it for us. The relief state did not last long, as our friend Rabiul informed us that we have to type the letter first to obtain the signature. What fools we were!

Then we ran to the office to collect our handwritten copies and had to face that clerk again who was more vexed than before to see us again and gave our papers back with even more reluctance than before. Inwardly, though, he was probably very happy to see us running from one place to another (or it is better to say running from one floor to another as the office is in the 2nd floor and photocopy shop is in the ground floor). While we scurried about like ants in a storm, he relaxed in his age-old office and constantly pointed out that our douradouri was futile, because the chairman would not give his signature on the last date etc.

Two of us ran to the typewriter machine and the other two ran to the computer to type the letter. After typing the letter we were to attach the letter to the form along with the signature of the chairman and send the papers to the American Center. Then we sat down to fill up the form but there was another disaster lurking for us. Two of the photocopies had two pages copied twice and one page missing. Mine was one of them. We ran to the photocopy shop again to copy the missing page and ran up and down the three-storey staircase once again.

After we had had the missing page I went to the office to staple the form and the recommendation letter together. I wanted a stapler from that annoyed man. He seemed to be glued to the chair and wished not to move a bit. He stirred unwillingly only to say 'I can give you a stapler but that's of no use. This is the last date you know. Sir (the chairman) won't sign your form. You people always attend forms on the last dates. That's a very bad habit blah, blah, blah'. I stood there and listened to his long lecture for the sake of the stapler but he did not give me one. So I had to go to another clerk to get the job done.

When I sat down again to fill up the form, my pen was missing. Jinat took my pen to write the recommendation letter. She insisted that she gave it back but the pen was not in the bag. So we had to go out to buy one. When we came back, Jinat's pen was missing. So she had to go out again to buy another pen! When we finally sat down again to fill up the form, the thought that it was the last date and the chairman does not stay in the office for long, made us forget things like the spelling of "training",

'What's the spelling of "training"? Does it contain one "n" or two?'
'I think it consists of one "n",' one said.
'I think it consists of two', said another.
'Hey do you have a dictionary?'
'Look there is our teacher. Let's ask him'.
'Are you mad? What will he think of us if we ask him the spelling of "training"?’

At long last, we finished filling up the form. Then we ran to the office to submit it to the chairman. Our dreams were shattered at just one sentence. 'He (the chairman) has just left the office.' That man looked very happy to see our sad faces. His happiness knew no bounds. 'See? I told you before that sir wouldn't sign your papers. See how my words came true?' I felt so angry inside I blurted out, 'Yes I can see that you are very glad to see us not be able to apply'. His face changed its color at once. 'What did you say? Hey you come here. Listen to me.' But I had already started to walk towards the door.

We felt like we'd missed the plane to America by just a few moments. As if the plane was waiting for us on the front porch of the Kolabhaban (Arts Building) and we were waiting with our tickets and boarding papers but a simple twist of fate did not let us go!

Once the dream was shattered all the stupor that had vanished from our eyes three hours ago returned with a vengeance along with the bad headache that comes from lack of sleep.

Crestfallen, we came home and one of my friends called me in the evening.

'Hey Durdana, don't worry about what happened today. I have a job vacancy. They want a translator. The office is in Dhanmondi. Tomorrow is the last date!' Oh no, not again!

By Durdana Ghias

Grounded for life- behind the scenes

“The phone is off limits! And I don't have to remind you that you'll never be allowed to go outside for as long as you live." bellowed my father.

"I still don't understand, Sarah. I mean, we're paying so much just so that you can get a measly A in your report card. I mean, the money isn't leaking out of my ears. How hard can it be for you to get a n A?" cried my mother.

"Is the A for me, Sarah? Did I get a G.P.A of 3.99 for your grandfather? Was it for him, or was it so that I could make a life for myself? Do we need to push you to study all the time? Can't you be the least motivated?" exclaimed my father.

"John, we're not getting anywhere by saying all this. It'll go through one ear, and come out of the next. We've said it over and over again and it doesn't work. The best way she can learn a lesson is by just grounding her." My mother turned to me. "You are not allowed to talk on the phone, watch television, listen to music, go on the computer, no Rising Stars, and no going out, except for your tutors. Even then, you have one maid and one driver assigned to you who will keep your mobile and inform me if you do anything against our orders. Whenever you're home you will study in 3-hour shifts. Three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon, and three hours at night. In the evening you get to go to the club to walk, but that's as good a social life as you get."

"What does she need the club for? To lose weight? At her age? She needs to worry about studies now. Let her eat and study and sleep. And plus, why can't we cancel our membership at the club? I don't have money growing on trees!" blasted my father.

"John, she needs some form of exercise, alright?" sighed my mother.

"Shirley, she gets enough at school!" said my father.

"John, its not enough!" cried my mother. "Now that school's been mentioned, I'll talk to Mrs. Doberman, and have her arrange the front seat for Sarah. I'll also ask her to keep an eye on her to see if she talks in class, and if she changes her seat. I'll also ask her to make sure that she behaves properly and doesn't make a ruckus during recess. Give me her number, let me call her now." She got up, and I went to my room to get the number in question.

So, now you've met my parents. Quite an introduction, eh? Yeah well, with my parents, it doesn't get any better than that. They're quite the, ummm, boisterous pair, they are. Always shouting and jumping about, as much as my mother's back would allow. It's a guess, but I think this is my third grounding. Must be why I'm not that affected. I cried for days the last time.

" Mrs. Doberman?" my mother asked into the telephone. " As-salaam-walaikum. This is Shirley. How are you doing? Yes, I'm fine, thank you. I've called to talk about Sarah." She looked at me as she said so. I rolled my eyes. My father caught me, and glared. Scared, I looked down.

" No, I know she has improved, madam, but it's not up to my expectations, nor John’s. Yes, I know she's capable, very capable, in fact, but I feel she's not trying!" She stopped, as Mrs. Doberman said a few things on the other line. " Exactly my point. She's not showing what she's capable of. Why is that, madam?" Again, a few words from Mrs. Doberman. " Okay. Madam, can you also do me a favour? Can you please…" she went on to ask for the favours she had been thinking of asking earlier on.

"Thank you so much, madam! Take care. Bye." With that she hung up. She turned towards me. "Well that's taken care of. Sarah, go to the dining room, and take your books out. Now!" she screamed.

I scrambled up to gather my books and headed for the dining
room. It's just another day in my life, really. I'm grounded so often, I've managed to live with it. But what really gets to me is that how they keep rambling on about how I don't try. I mean for my last exam, the one that's got them so hyped up, I really did study. I studied day and night, and woke up as early as four in the morning to revise. But do they see that, or want to see it? Noooooooooo!

They're always on my back. They have nothing else to do but nag me; " Sarah, what are you doing out? Go study now!"; " Sarah, do I pay so much money for you to procrastinate? Start studying now, or I'll have your privileges (or lack thereof) cut!";

"Sarah what do you mean you came out to eat? You just had lunch! Go to study now!"
Yup, I hear it all the time.

Why, oh why oh why, can't I have a nice, peaceful life? I mean I just flunked a subject and my parents are angry. What of those whose highest grade is a D in all subjects and they still get to go to concerts and parties and stuff? And why so much protection? I'm no celebrity that I need a driver and a maid for bodyguards. If they think I'm going to sneak out somewhere, they're so wrong. I had so many chances to sneak out to a concert, but I didn't. They don't know that, though and even if they did, it wouldn't make difference.

And I don't understand why I can't keep my mobile. Who's going to sms me? Hardly anyone does except for my cousins. What's the point in taking away my phone? Parents... I'll never understand.

All right, maybe I do understand that what they're doing is because they want the best for me, they want me to achieve all that I am capable of and all that jazz. But what's with all the pressure? Why do they have to take away my freedom, my belongings, and my privileges, to make me do things? Its not that I'm not motivated to do well, I am. But in my own time. Always pushing me won't get far.

It’s useless saying all this to myself. If they don't get it, there's not much I can do. I love both my mom and dad very much, but I wish they would take it easy.
Like that'll ever happen.

By Sumbal Momen



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