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A bicycle called Titanic
It goes down the same way

The beginning of the decline of cycling may have begun with the first great disaster, the loss of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.

Before the Titanic was launched, many had predicted that a bicycle could not be built that large. The Titanic was almost 900 feet long, with deck stacked on deck of crew and passengers, and with two massive spoked wheels that were almost 120 feet in diameter. Critics contented that the strains of the roads would causes stresses and cracks that would lead to the destruction of the giant bicycle.

Nonetheless, when the Titanic began its maiden run between Southampton and New York City, the bike was fully loaded, and the passengers were in a festive mood. For the first part of the journey, there were no problems whatsoever, and even the most apprehensive were lulled into calmness or even joyous festivity in spite of the dangers of the road.

However, while in the vicinity of Newfoundland, a critical mistake was made when warnings of ice in the sea lanes were ignored. Not long after, as the Titanic was just beginning to descend a particularly steep grade in a heavy fog, cries of "ice" were heard. Indeed, the whole sea-lane was coated with a slippery sheet of ice, making effective braking or control impossible. Evidently, the cold weather had created an ice-storm-like condition. And so the Titanic began its wild descent to the bottom of the hill with most aboard not realizing their grave danger until their final moments.

On the heaving decks, a frantic effort began to get at least some of the passengers to safety. In case of such a catastrophe as was now occurring, tandem five-seater safety bikes had been mounted on hoists to allow the passengers to escape.

However, so confident of the safety of the Titanic were its builders that there were not enough safety bicycles for the passengers on the upper decks, let alone the teeming masses in the lower stowage or the laborers on the lowest decks, who continued to pedal to the very end, unaware of their impending doom.

In addition, the loading was carried out so frantically that often bikes were lowered to the pavement with more or less than five riders, with people sitting backwards on their seats, or even with children or no one in the steerer's position.

Frequently, too, the tandems were dropped rather than lowered to the icy pavement. And even when the bikes were properly crewed and lowered, their riders still faced a steep and icy road and nearly pitch black darkness (no thought had been given to providing lights).

The very last people who left the pitching giant bicycle noted that the band was still playing. Immediately afterwards, the frame broke from the heavy stress, and the Titanic crashed at the bottom of the hill, leaving few survivors.

Drug bliss

"SO, what have you guys planned for today?" I asked. I was in Ramna Park with three of my friends. Rashid, Ali, Basit and I, always hung out together. It had been like this for eight years. "I have to show you guys something!" Rashid whispered excitedly. He drew a bag of something which resembled dried remains of a dead plant.

"What is that?" Basit asked. "It is the essence of life!" Rashid replied with a smile. "Is that marijuana?" Ali asked. Ali was very intelligent, and apart from getting highest marks in the class, he had a basic knowledge on every subject. I frowned at Ali. "Must you know everything?" I asked. Instead of replying, Ali smiled sheepishly.

"Ali is right! Now stop wasting time and fill the contents from this packet into these cigarettes." Rashid said. "I have taken out the tobacco, so you can fill them with this" He explained. We followed his instructions and then finally lit the cigarette. Rashid was the first to taste it. I also took a puff. "Heaven isn't its?" Rashid asked. "Yes" Basit replied. I inhaled the smoke and closed my eyes, and soon I let the state of euphoria envelope me.

This continued for a many months. Everyday we met at Ramna Park after class to "fly". A term made popular by the Ali. One day the inevitable happened. Soon we were introduced to other drugs.

The one which we enjoyed was one called ecstasy. We had that in every party. Ali also enjoyed taking this new drug. We had no clue that these few seconds of enjoyment were leading us to the inevitable end faster than a flash of lightning.

Thus, time passed this way. Ali was to get a scholarship from Harvard's because of his extraordinary result. He was extremely happy. After the good news was announced we all met up at a night club to party. Rashid handed each of us a capsule. It was time for a little bit of ecstasy.

Ali took another pill, paying no heed to Rashid's warnings. A minute later, Ali fell head first on the floor. I stood numb with shock, watching my friend die before my eyes. After regaining my composure, we rushed him to the hospital. Next morning, Rashid called me. "Listen, man! Ali is no more. He was declared dead because of drug overdose!" I let the receiver drop to the floor. I stood there. The words didn't make any sense. Ali was dead.

Now when I think about it, I feel responsible for ruining a bright future of someone very talented. I didn't go to his funeral. I didn't have the courage to see him or the face his family. This event left a deep scar in my life. I will never forget my friend named Ali and I will advise people not to go to the path of drug, which is a rocket ship ride to the Death's Land.

By Osama Y. Rahman

The new crib

Not a room. Not an apartment in back. Not a man's house. Not a daddy's. A flat all to my own. With my couch and my pillows, my pretty yellow primroses. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody's garbage to pick up after.

Only a place quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.

A lovely picture, don't you think? Or maybe it's better off as a picture after all! Ever since I turned thirteen I've dreamt of having a place like that and all through last week I have been working like a dog to get that oh-so-perfect picture to real life… my life. It felt like a dream, when it was finally coming true, when my father told me I could have my very own flat! He and mother took me out to choose the flat I wanted and I found one right away. From that moment on, mother and I have been shopping like crazy for the new place. My father was happy to see I was happy, Mother thought I had “grown up so much!”, and my annoying little pest of a sister said “your house is so cool, can I bring my friends around?” I was so glad to have her off my back!

Nothing could wipe that huge grin off my face for the next two days: I would dance and scat around the house doing whatever I pleased. My mother's absence was quite bearable. No, I lie, it was the best thing that ever happened to me! But I was sort of beginning to miss my little sister.

Today is the third day in my new flat. Boredom and loneliness are setting in. I'm done with housework for the day. A thought surfaces on my mind but I try to ignore it. Oh what the hell! I grab the phone and call a list of people to invite them over for dinner.

Now about why I thought it was a bad idea to make the calls. For beginners, I am a BAD case of an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, and a veteran one to boot! That combination just couldn't get worse. I am always fussing over little things, much to the annoyance of my fun-loving friends. And I try to keep everything nice and clean, so much so that I forget to have fun. So when I say that I can do “whatever I pleased” it doesn't say much. Once I fix my own room, I don't even let myself in lest I should mess anything up. In my previous home, I could go to my sister's room but now, every room is MY room! Which means I just sit stiffly on the edge of my squashy couch and watch T.V. So the party is going to be one bold step!

I almost have a good time preparing dinner for the party, until I cut my finger chopping some carrots. Tears well up in my eyes and I want to cry “moooooommmyyy!!” Okay I'm eating my words now, my mom's absence is NOT a very good thing. I could also use some coaching on cooking, hey!

7:35 pm. Beth, Kimberly, Ryan and his girlfriend Anne have arrived. Beth helps me out in the kitchen (we have a lot of fun) while Ryan takes the liberty to play some “Offspring” on my C.D. player. Through the glass paneled kitchen door I see him flop heavily on my favourite couch and sop some drink on the carpet, Ugh! Dude, where are your manners! But I keep that thought to myself.

7:58 pm. Claire and Adam are here. Claire grabs me and hugs me to the point of choking me. You're rumpling my dress! Claire is a veteran party hopper, just as I am a veteran perfectionist. She always brings out the crazy side of me, which can't be a good thing right now! I see the bottles of whiskey in her hand and I panic. Does she want to get me drunk and ruin my perfectly perfect home? Oh but I can totally take care of myself!

11:20 pm. I'm sprawled drunkenly on my squashy living room couch, smiling. My mother would have told me off for that, but guess what? she ain't here!! Everyone has left. The room is a disaster; not a room in “my house” at all. Half filled glasses and dinner plate with left overs on them are lying on the coffee table DINNER PLATES ON THE COFFEE TABLE, that's blasphemy! an empty bowl of popcorn on one of the side tables with its contents scattered all over the carpet. But I'm happy, because I finally broke out of that cage and had fun! I actually had a food fight in my house! And you know what? I'm, not worried about the mess, cause that gives me something to do.

By Riot GrrrL

Book review
Sands of Time

Sorry for being absent last week. I was out in the forest in Tangail, spending nights under starry skies, enjoying firefly-lit walks under the moonlight, and waking up to birdsong. Keeping me company through the trip was yet another…yes, you guessed it, Sidney Sheldon.

This one's called The Sands of Time, and is based in Spain, where a band of outlawed Basque nationalists are valiantly fighting for survival against the Spanish army. Thrust into the thick of the battle are four nuns who have been aloof from society for a long, long time. Each nun has a remarkable story, and things come to a head when they come across the Basques. Fairly attractive, single women, deprived of masculine company…desperate men, stuck in battle-mode for months…you can imagine what transpires next.

Being in a forest, I could totally relate to the experience of the characters as they tromped through the forest, with the army in pursuit. Other than that, there's not much to be said about Sidney Sheldon's work that hasn't already been said before. The man has a spell-binding talent for plot-spinning, and spikes his stories with generous amounts of suspense and twists. If there's a complaint I can make about his work, it has to be the fact that all his characters have really messed up pasts. I know it makes for good story-telling, but if old Sid is to be believed, no one ever has a 'normal life'.

For a travel read, this book is perfect light, interesting, and action-packed. It should be available at all the local book stores for about Tk 300-400.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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