Abrar walked out of the building and surveyed the street before him. It was filled with clanking rickshaws and honking cars. The sidewalk was crowded with people trying to make their way home before the Maghrib Azan sounded.
Although his classes had let out an hour ago, Abrar had spent the time sitting in the canteen watching his friends smoke.
“Aren't you guys fasting?” Abrar asked.
“Yeah we're all fasting.” One of his friends answered.
“ Then why the hell are you smoking?”
“Man… smoking doesn't break your fast, it just loosens it up a bit.”
“ Where'd you learn that?” Abrar asked skeptically. He didn't get an answer.
Now standing on the throbbing sidewalk, Abrar observed the crowd. It was filled with white-capped and scarf-covered heads.
Abrar smiled sardonically. Just a week ago this crowd would have been devoid of all the white caps and scarves. It would have been filled with gaudily colored manes and gel-covered hair. The only white cap would have been found on an elderly quietly making his way to the mosque.
Abrar suddenly felt a crawling vibration across his thigh. It was his cell phone silently ringing in his pocket. He decided not to answer. It was probably his mom calling to ask him where the hell he was.
He looked at his watch. 5:00 PM. He'd better get home.
Rahim Mia pedaled harder. The road was clogged with rickshaws but Rahim Mia found an opening and pulled his rickshaw through.
His passengers were chattering nonchalantly about what they were going to do on the day of Eid. Rahim Mai grimaced quietly. Ramadan had only begun but people were already more worried about Eid and what they were going to buy for the occasion. None of the passengers he'd transported today had talked about the holiness of this month.
The gaping hole in Rahim's stomach ached. His throat felt parched. Working and fasting was taking a toll on him. He was almost ready to break his fast for a drink of water. The unbearable heat wasn't making it any easier for him. He wished it would rain, and then at least the heat would die down.
“Aye jore cholan.” One of his passengers yelled.
Rahim Mia pedaled even harder but in his dehydrated state it was proving extremely hard to maintain speed. He started to glance inside the numerous shops lining the streets in the hope of catching a glimpse of a wall clock. He couldn't afford a wristwatch.
It was five o'clock. Rahim Mia dropped of his passengers and made for home.
Meena tapped on the window of the car. She looked inside the luxurious car and pathetically asked for alms.
The woman inside was laden with shopping bags from the numerous malls situated across Dhaka. She took out a glittering purse and looked inside it.
“ Sorry, I'm out of change.”
With a disgusted look Meena walked away from the car. Generosity was at an all time low, even in the month of Ramadan. She quickly crossed the road and made her way to the sidewalk. The signal was about to turn green.
Once on the sidewalk she looked around herself. She noticed other children just like her lying about here and there. She then turned her gaze at the various shops around her. Some of them were selling delectable Iftaar items while others had banners claiming an Eid Sale. She found it ironic that she was surrounded by the food she couldn't buy, while other people bought it in front of her and walked away.
She looked at the children her age coming out of the shops, clutching shopping bags filled with dresses she couldn't even dream to own. She looked in through one of the shop windows at a little red dress, while her empty stomach growled for food.
Meena pulled herself away from the shop window and walked into the street. The signal had just turned red and she had to beg to fill the hole in her stomach.
Abrar walked into his house just as the Azan sounded. His mother impatiently asked him where he had been. He didn't answer but made his way to the Iftaar table.
It looked as if he'd just walked in to a feast. The table was laden with food. At the sight of all the dishes Abrar lost his appetite.
Rahim Mia entered his shanty home a little after the Azan. His wife quickly gave him a glass of water so that he could break his fast. She then produced a plate, which held the Iftaar. Rahim Mia looked at the plate for a while.
“This is it?” He asked pointing at the half filled plate.
“ The prices of things… I couldn't buy anything when…” His wife meekly answered.
It dawned on Rahim Mia then. The prices of essentials had soared because of Ramadan. He had forgotten.
Meena finally sat down on the sidewalk late that evening. She had a little paper bag in her hand. Inside it were a few piyajus and begunis she had been able to buy. She looked around her. She noticed the other street children weren't as lucky as her. Some of them were eating half eaten piyajus thrown out by other people. She finished her food and lay down to sleep on the cold sidewalk.
Warriors molded in plastic
I am of course speaking of the halcyon days, when Power Rangers and Scooby Doo cartoons were appealing to us. It was essential for any kid to have action figures. Warriors molded in plastic of your favorite fantasy characters; a magnificent plastic model, which replicates a hero of might. He could wield a sword or brandish a gun. He could control powerful machines of steel. What a kid would give to have one of those? But times have changed since then. And now, after dumping my own collection of warriors when I last moved with my family, it's hard to trace one of these fine built miniature replicas. Kids don't bother to play with action figures anymore. They rather enter the big league with Pokemon cards and the frightful BeyBlade tops.
Back when we were kids there were no Pokemon or BeyBlade (thank God). What we had were comic books and cartoons. Those were the good times. Getting up early in the morning to catch G. I. Joe and Robotech, staying at home in the afternoons watching Transformers and Spider-Man, to say the least it was awesome. And then when the action figures were at the store we'd grab our parents and rush for it. I must admit it was kind of a craze amongst us youngsters back then. A bit like the Pokemon and BeyBlade obsession that's squalling over kids these days, but not quite. I have yet to unravel anything good coming out of this new fad, much unlike its predecessors. Playing with action figures has many constructive outcomes. All of which can be considered positive, while modern fads only tend to crush daddy's wallet and little Timmy's developing brain-cells.
Back then I had a little trouble getting my father to buy me action figures. Being an Aeronautical Engineer, he believed only toy aircrafts and cars, which run by batteries, were good for me. But the television taught me otherwise. So I always tried my best to persuade him to buy me action figures. I'm sure he always pondered, what could possibly attract a child towards action figures rather than remote controlled cars? Sorry, I never answered that question to you, dad. But the thing about action figures is that, one requires a bit of zealous imagination to play with them. You can take a bunch of action figures and create a whole new adventure with them. You can take your warriors on dangerous crusades and mysterious escapades or just make them battle it out with one another. You can also add wondrous twists to the stories like Spider-Man is the long lost brother of the Red Ranger and stuff like that. My personal favorite was the under-water adventures, in which I'd play with the figures in the tub. Then we would also have battles between neighbor kids' figures and we would also team up our warriors on outdoor crusades. All we had to do was imagine. This is really helpful for children to develop their ability of creativeness. And at such a tender age it is genuinely crucial. Playing with action figures even helps us get over racism and realize the benefits of teamwork, since almost every child's collection is comprised of a motley band of warriors from different cartoons and comics.
Our forefathers may complain that, playing with dolls can turn a child delusional. But I can't agree with that, since it's not delusions the child is getting. He is actually acquiring creativity, which only helps him to build a better persona. I won't hesitate to admit that I myself am an amateur comic penciler and I have created lots of characters of my own, of which some are quite good and playing with action figures has greatly attributed to my abilities here. But what can a child possibly gain from fads like Pokemon or BeyBlade? It seems that the range of obsession among kids have changed a lot since I was that age. Question is, is it for better or worse?