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Invisible people

"Do you know what it feels like to be free?' the old man asked Raju. Raju looked at the man for a while and thought. He had left his home two years ago. He thought about that time his father was a rickshaw-puller with a very small income and five mouths to feed. As is the case with most men in similar circumstances, he often came home drunk and beat up Raju's mother. Fear and hunger were Raju's constant companions in those days. It was to run away from his demons that Raju ran away from home. But living two years in the streets had taught him that you don't always find what you look for. 'No', he said. He had never known what it feels like to be free.

The old man seemed to have expected this answer from him. 'See those birds flying in the sky? When do you think they crave most to fly up there?' he asked. 'Uh, when they're put in a cage?' Raju guessed. The old man responded with a smile that assured Raju that he guessed correctly. 'Very good answer', he said, 'Freedom is a relative concept which depends on what one gets to have, or rather, what one does not get to have in a certain circumstance. It is a prisoner who realizes best what it feels like to be free'. 'Come, let's sit somewhere and I'll tell you a story that I'm sure you'll be able to connect yourself with,' he told Raju.

Raju didn't hesitate as he lead the old man through the crowd of shoppers to the narrow blind alley where he usually sleeps. For some reason, he felt that he could trust this man; he felt that he was someone who had, a long time ago walked through the same road he was in right now. Surprisingly, it wasn't even an hour ago that he met this man. He first saw the man selling cheap candies and chewing gums outside the new big shopping mall. All of a sudden, a woman in all her frantic rush of shopping bumped right into the man. The old man also seemed to be surprised by this unexpected accident, fell down very awkwardly and dropped his bag of candies. Only then did Raju realize that the man was blind. He ran forward to help the man gather his scattered pieces of candies. The man thanked him with a candy (which was originally the reason Raju had helped him) and then they talked about a lot of things and now Raju found himself leading the old man to his shelter. The man had managed to win his trust something no one had been able to do in quite some time. He seemed to be a lot different from the marijuana or heroine addicts Raju normally faces the people who remind him of the nightmares he had to endure in his father's place. And somewhere in his heart he felt that this man might have the answers to the questions that haunt his mind.

Before the old man started his tale, Raju offered him dinner a packet of biriyani he had managed to 'take' from the kitchen of the community centre this afternoon. This was one of the advantages he enjoyed for being a street child. He rarely got noticed and thus could manage to 'take' things without attracting too much attention.

Although they shared the food, the old man ate voraciously like someone who hadn't eaten well for days. He thanked Raju for the food and started 'This story is about a young boy. He was not born in a family too different from yours. He too had to face a lot of problems as a child, but fortunately he had managed to finds a refuge from all of it he had learnt to read. And so he read books; he collected them from wherever he could, mostly from the teachers of the primary school he went to. He dreamt of becoming a hero like the ones he read about in the books. He dreamt that one day people would actually notice him, for once he would be in the center-stage. It now seems like a short time in which the little boy became a young adult. But although he changed somewhat in appearance, his dream was still living in his heart. There was a great political change about to take place in the country, and in this turmoil he saw his chance to make his dream come true. He always wanted to be a leading man, he thought that he could do it by joining the Liberation Force. But the young boy had the sad wisdom to see that he was no hero here. War was cold and hard; and for the most part, not very adventurous. He wanted to share his views with his fellow fighters, but while many of them were charging against the enemy and dying to save the honour of the country, this idea seemed selfish and nonetheless foolhardy. But whenever he would see his commander or captain, he would feel a burning in his heart. After all, they were the leading men of this play, and he was…' the old man probably fell short of words.

'Invisible,' Raju said, as the sadness of the word filled him.

'I knew you of all people would understand,' the man replied sharing with him the paternal smile that made Raju feel proud. At least he had proved his existence to one person, no matter how insignificant that person might be. They sat there silent for sometime, while realizing the strength of the bond that seemed to have grown between them.

'As the war approached an end, the young boy saw his chances of attaining glory slim down to almost nothing,' the old man resumed his tale. 'He became desperate. Then one day, all of a sudden he had an accident. Partly because of his own carelessness and desperation and partly because of fate, he injured his eyes while making bombs. It was a weird feeling for him, to see a brilliant flash of light one moment, and then to never see again. But it is when one cannot see things outside, is he forced to look within. Can you guess, my little friend, what it was that he saw?' the old man seemed to be anticipating the correct answer from him.

'Uh… loneliness?' Raju replied quickly, though unsure.

'No, my dear child. He had felt that all his life, and like the birds in the sky, he couldn't even separate it from his own identity. It was something else. I'll tell you what, close your eyes and tell me what you see,' the old man said.

Very reluctantly and hesitantly, Raju obeyed the old man. He felt pretty stupid when he realized what he was doing, and quickly opened his eyes again. ' Nothing, I see nothing,' he said, feeling somewhat confused and also distrustful towards the old man.

'That's because you're not looking within. Please, child, close your eyes again and this time keep them shut. I'm sure you'll find the answer,' he was almost pressing Raju. But maybe to win the old man's smile or maybe to find something marvelous, Raju closed his eyes again. This time he concentrated a lot. Then suddenly, he started to see. He could see the small slum house he was born in. He could see his mother fondling him, feeding him. They weren't too bad off then. His father earned enough for the three of them. And so, Raju drifted across time and saw glimpses of his past a past that seemed only a dream now. Opening his eyes, he knew he had found the answer.

'He saw himself,' he answered the old man smiling.

'Indeed, dear child, he saw himself. And in that one moment he realized that he had always been the centre of his life the only hero of his tale,' the old man said and began laughing. It was only a low chuckle at first that soon turned into a full-blown laughter. It reflected fully in his eyes, and was infectious. Raju soon found himself laughing along with him. In that laughter, he felt a place in his heart filling, he felt a shade of happiness.

When he woke up the next morning, he found that the old man was gone. Strangely, he didn't feel any sorrow or sadness for him. He soon got ready for the activities of the day. He would try to get work in the automobile workshop today. He didn't care if anyone else saw him or not, Raju was real, he was alive.

By Constantine

Yuri Gagarin science fair

To reach outer space had been one of mankind's biggest dreams throughout the ages. In 1961, a brave Russian named Yuri Gagarin became the first man to reach outer space and fulfilled this dream. To commemorate 45 years of Gagarin's glorious odyssey, the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Dhaka and Bangladesh Astronomical Association have organized the three-month long 'Yuri Gagarin Science Fair'. For this occasion, a press conference was held in the Russian Centre for Science and Cultureon April 2 in the evening. The press conference was attended by Mashurul Amin, Director of the fair, Saadia Majeed Amrin, member of Bangladesh Astronomical Association and Javed Jafar, Administrative Officer of the Russian Centre for Science and Culture, Dhaka.

Bangladesh Astronomical Association has been the premier organization for amateur astronomers and space enthusiasts since 1988. To create awareness and interest in astronomy among young people, the association has organized events like the 'Shurjo Utshob' and 'Spacefest' in the past. This time it has tried to win the attention of school students as well as people of other ages through its programs for the science fair.

The 'Yuri Gagarin Science Fair' will begin on the 12th of April with the '12th National Astronomical Training Workshop' and will be inaugurated by Dr. A. R. Khan. The workshop will be conducted on a specific syllabus and is open for all. One can register for it by submitting an entry form along with an entry fee of one thousand takas before April 11. The workshop ends on June 8. There will also be a 'Young Inventors' Laboratory' open for only school students no entry fee is required. The students will have to make models of ten different things with the equipment provided there and with the help/guidance of the association members and volunteers. This program will be held on April 12 from 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. A seminar and science quiz competition will also be held. Students of class 8-9 of any school can enter the competition without any entry fee. The competition will be conducted trough a written test on June 8. The last date for entering the competition is May 31. A film and photography exhibition will be held on astronomy and the life and works of Yuri Gagarin on June 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. All of these programs will be held in the Russian Centre for Science and Culture, House no 510, Road no 7, Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka.

Besides these, a space observation camp has also been arranged in the National Science and Technology Museum in Agargaon in the city every Saturday. For more information on the fair one can contact Bangladesh Astronomical Association, 75, Science Laboratory Road, Dhaka 1205, Phone 8620112, 0171187555 or log on to the website http://mohakash.bangla.net.

By Zeeshan B. Rahman

Are Bangladeshis controlled by emotions or logic?

It is said that Bangladeshis are emotional rather than logical. Bangladesh, a relatively new state resurrected from the deaths of millions, it has quite a reputation it must live up to because of its glorious post and notable performances in many fields. In this regard Bangladeshis can be called emotional because we see their outburst of passion, which led them to protect their own mother language and culture. They sacrificed their lives for the sale of mother tongue. The 21st February caused the germination of consciousness and awakening in every nook and corner of the country.

This stream of consciousness led us to fight against any injustice and flagrant violation of human rights. At that time, Bangladeshies had a commonality of ideas and notions. They were unified for the sake of their goal, which was to achieve justice in every sphere of life; to achieve the right to know or to speak freely.

Now, however, 35 years after the Liberation War, we have to wonder whether Bangladeshis remain emotional or logical. The way our living standards, our priorities in life, our responsibilities even our tastes and preferences have changed and adapted to new dimensions is worth mentioning.

The question is whether this change is caused by emotions or logic. In the recent past Bangladesh has earned a bad name in the international community, presumably due to widespread views of corruption, lack of good governance and absence of the rule of law in the country. The patriotism we share is infectious, yet what is missing in the Bangladeshis is a commonality of ideas and notions.

This is highlighted in the animosity among the leaders of different political parties, which worsens the image crisis our country is facing. This gives reasons for us to believe that there seems to be a loss of pride in our nation, our institutions, to some extent in our leaders and eventually in ourselves.

We fought for a national identity with a new national consciousness and clear individuality. In these ever changing time, though, our nation suffers from identify crisis. Today, Bangladesh is passing through one of the most critical phases of its existence. We have lost our pride as a nation. We have replaced patriotism with selfishness and self-interests. So we must remain focused and rise above self-interest.

What we need more urgently now is to act as a united force of the nation of different fronts, a unity as existed in 1971. It the Bangladeshis are emotional, we need these emotions, passions which revive the spirit to come forward against any injustice and realize the dreams for which the martyrs sacrificed themselves at the altar of freedom. To bring back the proper image of the country and to establish a corruption free country, sincere efforts should be made without further delay.

By Syeda Raffat Hyder


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