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Check out China

Just one guess on what's running through the minds of most of our not-so-old-aged-readers right about now: "Who on God's Blue Earth would want to know about China? A place where everything seems to be banned (apologies for the derogative exaggeration - it's just that I couldn't find any gaming paraphernalia whatsoever) and the few times we've come across its virtues are in a history book."

Now, coming back to our thoughts, I kind of had a verisimilitude feeling when I was presented with our flight itinerary containing the formidable 'CHINA' printed across the pallid paper. However, China turned out to be something that fantasies are made of - a place hosting such magnificence that transcends words and gestures and had indefinitely transformed my narrow view of this awe-inspiring wonder regardless of its communication difficulties and paucity of gaming materials. Read on and discover the expedition, which transformed China for me into something much, much more than the pages of our history book.

Beijing welcomed us to China, the Capital renowned for hosting such attractions as The Great Wall, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven and The Forbidden City. As The Great Wall dominates the greater proportion of the spotlight, few have heard of the latter sites despite their awesome features and the ethereal and enigmatic tradition they have nurtured. When I first came across The Great Wall in school, the subject wasn't what you might say 'interesting' to me I mean sure, the fact that its over 5000km long and was developed on impossible terrain in order to defend an entire nation from the enemy, was impressive. But you can only ponder so much from a mere black-and-white picture on a page that has been photocopied numerous times. However a practical encounter with The Wall was a whole new different experience.

The milieu besieging The Wall is absolutely remarkable the ice-cold wind cleanses the body and mind and produces nirvana among its victims.

The polygonal stones exude maturity and pompously parade the myriad footmarks engraved over the ages by the copious people who have sauntered on them for both business and pleasure. And of course the authentic panorama from atop one of the beacon towers located at certain intervals on The Wall (for defense purposes) is guaranteed to render anyone completely flabbergasted.

The Summer Palace also known as 'Yiheyuan' (Garden of Nurtured Harmony) - is the principle Imperial Garden in China, covering around 290 hectares of land and originally developed by Emperor Zhenyuan in 1153. It may not possess the same strategic significance as The Great Wall, but it's not without reason that UNESCO listed it as part of the World Cultural Heritage.

The Palace comes right out of a Fairytale, hosting manifold beautiful, jaw-dropping attractions flaunting such names as The Hall of Jade Billows and Longevity Hill and Kumning Lake, which arouse a sense of enigma and wonder among us all.

What is religion? Some say it's a formation of guidelines established in order to assist us in discriminating between right and wrong, while others refer to it as a code by which their lives are defined (and of course there are those who couldn't care less) whatever it may be, the Chinese had a religion of their own, comprised of distinct beliefs, rituals and an amazing temple representing its supremacy. In ancient China the Emperor was regarded as the 'Son of Heaven' and was entrusted with the responsibility to administer relative matters on Earth on behalf of the Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven was the foundation for such activities and served as a medium for people to worship the Heaven and offer various sacrifices and prayers for good harvests. The Temple itself is a elaborate and gorgeous structure the northern and southern sections are designed in an intricate manner to represent Earth and Heaven, supported by twenty-eight pillars, each representing individual constellations that assist in various religious affairs. And all of this had been constructed without the use of any nails, cement or steel rods (yes, as much as that raised my eyebrows, so did the possibility of both Heaven and Earth collapsing on us, prompting Apocalypse).

The Forbidden City was a proper conclusion to our tour. The City had been renamed as The Palace Museum as it has a remarkable display of the various belongings of the twenty-four Chinese emperors who had dwelled there, governing China for over 500 years. And that's pretty much all there is to it. Honestly, I was kind of disappointed cause I couldn't find an answer to a question I had 'Why was it called the FORBIDDEN city?' the answer I got didn't quiet satiate me. Apparently there is no dominant reason for that. Well that's what the guide said, but then again maybe there is a reason for the name oblivious to the guide, or maybe she was well aware of it and had explained it too but I was too busy treating my eyes to other visual delicacies (ahem) to pay any attention.

By Paper or plastic

An all-encompassing digital beep woke him. "Cabin crew, landing in five minutes," a muffled voice said incredibly fast. He was surprised he could understand what it said at all. He looked at his watch: 2.30am. Rather late. Mentally, he corrected himself. No, it's only 12.30am, his watch was fast by exactly 2 hours. Ah, the wonders of the modern age, the world is round, and so it isn't the same time everywhere Inwardly, he thanked God for getting him this far. Two days ago, it seemed an utter impossibility that he would be here.

A room, worn-in by 4 months of habitation to be packed, a set of muscles atrophied by a month of exams, unfit for physical labor to be used to carry cartons full of books to storage, and a mind ravaged by the stress of studies, to be relaxed by the imminent joy, it seemed an insurmountable task for him to have come this far. It seemed the adrenaline of possibility was made all the more potent by the inherent fear of unfulfillment of expectations harboured for so long.

Slowly, he reached under his seat to find his seat belt, as the Fasten Your Seat Belt sign went up, punctuated by a muffled beep. He looked around him. Everyone seemed tired, yet expectant. He lay back and closed his eyes; this was a cakewalk. He had done it so many times before, it had become a matter of routine. Yet in all the 4 months between leaving and returning, this moment, as cliched as it had become by repetition over the years, held special meaning. The feeling of anticipation was a special one, and he knew it. He opened his eyes slowly, and turned his head toward the small porthole in the cabin, his head firmly set on the headrest.

He looked out at absolute blackness. The aircraft banked to the right, and a star of artificial lights filled the view of the small porthole. Silently, he praised God, for teaching man that which he knew not, that they may illuminate the darkness, make day of that which was night. He marveled at what he thought was humanity's greatest accomplishment and possibly its undoing: technology. His reverie was broken by the anticipation that swelled up within him, fighting for his attention. Now is not the time to admire or introspect, now is the time to palpitate. With all his might, he tried to hold that thought, the anticipation.

The expectance of something greater, the desire for something bigger overwhelmed him as he closed back his eyes and shut out the world around him. If he were given a choice to hold a moment, and to be held in that moment for the longest time, he would choose this one. The uncertainty of expectation and possibility, and the certainty of past record and experience bubbled within him, fighting for supremacy.

After what seemed a long while, the plane jumped up and down as she touched her mother's bosom; land at last! He closed his eyes again, as a man looked at him. "Look hard, dear friend," he thought to himself.
"Not everyday do you see a man sleep through a landing as rough as today's." The engines went on reverse thrust, and all sense of hearing was bleached with the bass rumble of the mighty engines that propelled this steel beast that carried him across the sea. Mentally he made a note to remember this awful excuse for a pilot for landing so harshly.

A ripple of clicks filled the air as passengers unbuckled their seatbelts, almost in unison. Again, he wondered at the marvels of herd behaviour. Despite his efforts, he could never recall unbuckling his seat belt so noisily or so soon after the engines stopped the unbearable reverse-thrust, yet every time when the plane landed, he heard them. He cleared this thought from his head, inwardly chastising himself on over-analysis of the world.

The air hostess proceeded to recite the instructions pertaining to ticket reconfirmation and the decorum of staying seated until the aircraft came to a complete standstill. First in beautiful Bengali, then in mangled English. Shortly, he noticed people standing up, retrieving their luggage from the overhead racks. He sat still. From the view outside, the aircraft was still only halfway through taxi. The terminal was a far way off according to his calculations.

A mind-numbing hour went by as he disembarked from the plane, got his passport stamped by manically depressed, disgruntled immigration officers, and retrieved his luggage. Retrieving luggage from this airport was always a charm. Yelps and screams cut through the late night air as corrupt officers told off equally corrupt laborers to go easy on the baggage, and the conveyor belt squeaked its futile squeak, unheard by whatever semblance of maintenance engineers walked the hallowed terminals of this airport. His heart beat like the drum of a Dragon Boat, rhythmic, intense and unforgiving, as he approached the automatic doors opening up to the humid air of Bangladesh.

A whiff of particulates and noxious gases from natural-gas and petrol engines assaulted his olfactory senses as he looked upon a familiar sight: his mother, craning her neck, looking right past him.

She was looking for someone plumper, more clean-shaved and with shorter hair. How he loved this part. His father recognized him, though. Being the engineer he always was, he always anticipated the longer hair and acute weight-loss. Putting the trolley aside, the boy knowingly smiled back at his father, and ambushed his mother with a bear hug before she could properly lay eyes on this sorry excuse for a man she once bore for 9 straight months so many years ago.

She protested, but he refused to let go. He looked up behind his mother where his brother stood, only one of two precious gems for siblings that he had. "Not the whole set tonight," he thought to himself, "but this will have to do" as he praised God with every drop of his soul.

He was home

By Iftekharul Haque

in your happy birthday lets break away all distance between us.


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