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An Eid adventure…then, now, and

'Kuddus! Come on beta, wake up! It's Eid!'
Glancing at the clock, Kuddus saw that it was seven in the morning…by his standards the day hadn't even started yet!
'MOM! THERE IS A LIMIT TO YOUR LUNACY! I'VE BEEN AWAKE MOST OF THE NIGHT AND YOU ARE INSENSTIVE ENOUGH TO WAKE ME UP AT THE CRACK OF DAWN THAT TOO ON A HOLIDAY! Chillax mom it's JUST Eid!'
With that he drew up the blankets and was back to sleep. His mother, with somewhat dampened spirits, returned to her only consolation, the 'halwa and shimai'.
'JUST Eid… just Eid?' Is that what you think this day is?' A hollow menacing voice reverberated from the walls of Kuddus's messy room. Fearfully the boy opened his eyes; the mystical figure that stood next to his bed by far surpassed his wildest imaginations. Bangla Bhai dominated the room, with his 'midnight black' complexion, a round belly bulging from beneath a typical butchers' worn-out Panjabi with the mysterious red tone. He glared at Kuddus and then growled, 'Come with me. There are things from Yesterday that you must see.' This hideous specter was enough to make Kuddus pee in his pants but before any such accidents occurred, the walls around him seemed to dissolve and then spiraled out and changed into a completely different scene altogether.
He found himself in the big mansion where his uncle lived along with all those bratty cousins of his. He had not been in this place for ages, but even then he could tell that there was something different. Less marble, crystals, less furniture, all these changes seemed to make the house somehow bearable. Suddenly the door flew open. All his cousins, even some of his second cousins came barging into the room, half-giggling and half annoyed. 'Kuddus! Why are you standing here? You are supposed to come and seek us! We've been hiding for ages!'
He was shocked to hear these words uttered by the cousin of his who is obsessed with video games and allergic to anything that involved socializing with other people. 'John…Are you ok?'
'John? You mean Jahangir,' he looked confused. This was getting way too freaky; John hated his real name!
'Something is really wrong with Kuddus today!' it took Kuddus some time to recognize the speaker. It was Sher, only without her hair ironed out into a shiny sheet hanging from her head, and also without the layers of goop that she generally dumped on her face. 'I think it's the fact that he was up half the night sewing our new dresses' Kuddus remembered doing no such thing.
'Hey so were we!' chimed in another girl, 'But then again we are used to it unlike you boys!' Kuddus knew that he might as well not try to figure out what is happening to him, but instead play along (not hide and seek though! Not for the world!)
'So…Sher, Aren't you hanging with friends today?” he asked.
'Why on earth are you calling us funny names!? It's Shermeen, and I wish I was 'hanging' with friends, as you put it, but you see Ma would skin me alive if I even mentioned such a thing!' With that she began spinning, her long flowing kameez swirling and swirling, taking up more and more space, engulfing the entire room in its flowery print. Kuddus started screaming…'NOooooooo....'
When he opened his eyes again, he was back in his room.
Kuddus frantically looked around for signs of sanity. 'For the love of God, God! You know I don't like nightmares dude! Peace, yo! Don't do this to me!” Kuddus was gasping out of relief.
“KUDDUS! Are you talking to Allah?” a menacing voice bellowed from his bathroom. This time a little pee did escape him.
Bangla Bhai emerged from the bathroom, lovingly stroking his tangle of scary beard. “Had enough of the past? I'll give you a little break now. Go on, enjoy the day. It's Eid after all! But remember,” dramatically putting on his orange, star bordered sunglass and in an accent rivalling the Terminator himself, “I will be back!”
The loud 50 Cent tune erupting from his cell phone brought him back to his senses. 'Hello?' Kuddus croaked, wondering if it was Osama Bin Laden.
'Kuddu! Eid Mubarak, baby! When are we going out today?' a sugary voice filled his brain. He wondered which one it was.. Tania or Sania? He decided to take no chances. 'In an hour? See you then, baby! Bye!' Quickly turning off his cell, Kuddus put on a pair of his baggiest jeans, doing full justice to his black cK underwear, the hundredth panjabi his mother had bought him, a shower of gel on his hair, and last his American flag of a bandana.
In an hour Kuddus was present on the Manik Mia Avenue with his Dad's Honda Civic. Lined up beside his car were five of his friends with their own varieties of Toyotas. It was going to be a good race. Tania/Sania could wait!
They went all over Dhaka, zigzagging through roads at the highest speeds their years old cars could take, frightening the jittery souls out of twelve beggars, over taking, breaking traffic, and what not! Jay's car even turned upside down in Road 27.
'That was a good race, dudes!' Kuddus smirked, putting his fifth Benson in his mouth. Life was good again!
'Let's go to Rainbow or somewhere! Hot chicks will be all over the place! I need a girl, bro!' Rajiv, the one guy who never seems to have a girl, piped in enthusiastically.
After two hours of severe chick check out, the best part of Kuddus' Eid day (actually the best part of any day) came up. It was drink time. He wondered what Bangla Bhai would say if he saw him then, but well, a few pecks couldn't hurt…………..
“Wake up Kuddus!” said a familiar voice.
“No! Get out. I'm sober tonight. This isn't real…are you still here?”
“No.”
“Alright, what do you want?”
“Open your eyes.”
Kuddus was greeted by a Bangla Bhai who was wearing a starched white panjabi and now sporting a white beard. In fact, everything in the room was white- the walls, the ceiling, the floor. There was nothing else in the room. The monochromatic colour scheme was broken by a small black rectangle on the wall on the far side of the room.
“What's with the Matrix look, dude?” asked the not-so-scared-anymore Kuddus.
“Must you call me dude?”
“Not really, I can call you B-man…B-diddy”
“Hai Allah!”
“B-Bop…Bang Damme…”
“Maybe you don't need to see the future of Eid.”
“So I'm seein' the future tonight, huh?”
“Let's see, you've seen the past, gone through the present…what did you think was coming next?”
“Hey, man…I'm just makin' small talk. Jeez, chillax!”
“Let's get this over with…” said Bangla Bhai finally as he walked over to the wall with the black panel. He took out a similar black card out of his pocket and slid it through a long groove in the panel. Immediately the room went black and green lines criss-crossed through the floor, walls and even the ceiling.
“There'll be less walking this time around. This will be a holographic lesson,” continued Bangla Bhai, “we will begin with the Eid prayers-”
“I'm always late for that…don't gimme that look! Gelling my hair takes a long time. Don't discriminate 'cus I'm metro.”
“As I was saying, prayers are conducted over the Internet and the mosque is projected three-dimensionally to rooms like these. You won't be missing out on anything. You'll even be able to shake hands, hug people and feel it.”
“How?”
“Umm…it's top secret technology…yes, very…very high security-”
“You don't know, do you?”
“No. But it's a definite improvement from the holo-suits. People used to get electrocuted if they hugged too much and every time they would prostrate during namaz…started a trend of afros being the 'in' thing…Are you hungry?”
“What?”
“Are you hungry?”
“No, had a lot to eat today. Thanks anyway.”
“Just say yes.”
“Yes…sir.”
“What would you like?”
“Pizza would be good.”
“A bit more traditional if you please…you know what, it doesn't matter. I'll synth you up a little of everything and you can choose.”
“Um…'synth'?”
“Synthesise. Cooking is a hobby now…err, then…in the future…you know what I mean. Just punch in whatever you want to eat and the machine makes it. You can put in family recipes, eat halim just the way grandma used to make it. You can even mail dishes to a friend's house. Eating take-out couldn't be easier; the food comes to you instantly. Food doesn't get faster that that!”
“Nice!”
Fifteen minutes later, after a quick snack and a preview of a documentary on the History Channel (George W and his women: Condi, Rita and Wilma), Kuddus and Bangla Bhai were standing in front of an ATM.
“Care to explain why Eid prayers are holographic yet the ATM is still in use?” asked Kuddus.
“Well, there was an MTM (micro teller machine), but it kept electrocuting people. Robbery rates were down though.”
“And this would be around the time everyone had an afro?”
“Yes.”
“What're you doing anyway?”
“Depositing Eid-ee in my nephew's bank account. Paper money doesn't exist anymore. Just swipe your card through the machine and you're set.”
“See, this I have a problem with. I like to show off a fat wallet. So what else hasn't changed?”
“Determining the date for Eid. After all the advanced technology, satellites, telescopes, the committee still has problem setting a date. Right, anyway, this concludes our dream episode. You will never see me again. And if you do, don't you dare go to the police. I hope you learnt something from this experience ('cus Allah knows my IQ's dropped fifteen points). Khoda hafez!”
And everything went black.
Epilogue:
A weary Bangla Bhai returned to his apartment. He told his roommates- the ghosts of Eid Past, Present and Future- that he'd keep his day job.
Kuddus didn't remember a thing the next morning. But he had a hangover. He had lied to Bangla Bhai about being sober. Yes, he was a brave, brave boy.
EID MUBARAK EVERYBODY!

By Aniqa Moinuddin, Fahmina Rahman and Raya Mahbuba


Book review

By the River Piedra, I sat down and wept

Just once in a while, an author comes along, and with his words, completely changes your perspective on life. Paolo Coelho is just one of these writers. Born in Brazil, Coelho is one of the most widely read authors in the world today. He is perhaps, best known for his book 'The Alchemist', and to date, has sold over 43 million books worldwide, and has been translated into 56 languages.

In fact, it was the experience of reading “The Alchemist” that prompted me to try out 'By the River Piedra, I sat down and wept.”

A pair of childhood friends falls in love, but shyness prevents them from entering into an adolescent love affair. Disappointed, the girl, Pilar, grows up to be an embittered cynic, the kind that has built a wall around her heart in the hopes that by not letting anyone in, she won't be hurt.

Then, suddenly, a decade later, she meets her old love. He's a priest and healer now, and still very much in love with her. They make a pilgrimage to some places they'd known as children, and the journey is initially fraught with tension as bitterness and unspoken feelings of old begin to surface.

Does Pilar learn to love again? Does her sweetheart being a priest come between them? Why does she sit by the River Piedra and weep? These questions are best left answered by the book when you read it.

Coelho's style is simple, flowing smoothly like the rivers that run through the enchanting locations in his stories. Behind these simple words lie profound messages, liberally drenched in his philosophy of optimism. That's what makes him stand apart from the gloomy nay-saying novelists of today. Whether the story has a 'happy' ending or not, you can rest assured that it is filled with a sense of hope that is as infectious as it is inspiring. Moreover, though his stories are languidly paced, Coelho certainly knows how to throw in a good twist or two when you least expect it, so don't think it's just another spiritual sermon disguised as a love story, because it is much, much more.

My friend who loaned me this book purchased it from Etc for Tk 451, so that's probably where you should go looking for your copy. Happy reading!

By Sabrina F Ahmad


 
 

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