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Life in the Kingdom: A boon or a curse?

The great pop star Mariah Carey had once said "one doesn't remain a teenager forever."

The life of a person during his teens is probably the most important stage of his life, because that particular stage decides his future. The teen age is a period where one experiences many different and new things and it's also supposed to be the stage where a person actually realises his goal and strives hard towards it. It's the best opportunity to build a platform for one's future by learning and gaining more knowledge. Now, it's an obvious fact that there are different kinds of teenagers around the world, growing according to their surroundings and their different needs and therefore teenagers coming from different backgrounds have a different kind of mentality.

Fuel efficient transport in the land of oil.
In Bangladesh we use humans for the same purpose

Comparing the life of an ordinary teenager living here in Dhaka and one living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can be very contrasting. In fact it may also be said that a life of a prince is being compared to that of an ordinary person. Now, I was born in Saudi Arabia and I have been living there for the past 15 years. I always came to Bangladesh for my summer vacations every year and I feel that there is a very major difference in the lives of the teenagers living in both the countries.

Life over there runs at a snail's pace as compared to here. It seems that one has time to do many things, which is basically because there aren't many things to do there. Now if you are a teenager, living in Saudi, one of your only means of entertainment would be to roam around from one mall to another, because malls are the only things that they keep on building over there. No theatres, hardly any public libraries, and lots of other restrictions, which is of course not the case here. For foreigners like me, there isn't much of a social life to spend there.

Life here, from what I have seen, is totally different. People over here (even my very own siblings) are occupied due to one activity or the other and as a result most of the students have quite a busy schedule. Over there teenagers are mostly busy playing their arcade games, surfing the net, studying and may be planning out a gathering once a week.

Now hold on, it's not that Saudi is an entirely impossible place to live in! It will be highly unfair if I only highlight the disadvantages of living there. One of the better things that can be noticed over there is that there isn't much of a "level difference" as there is over here. For example, people over their also have house boys and house maids but they aren't treated the same way as the ones over here. People consider their work as a profession and respect it. And of course there are hardly any traffic jams or strikes to suffer from over there, and again, there are many good fast food restaurants (which are branded unlike "dominous" and a few other chain restaurants here). People stay out till two in the morning during weekends over there, which is considered to be perfectly safe. (Imagine doing that here!!!)

Spending the holy month of Ramadan in Saudi is amazing, totally different from here, it can be said that a special kind of an atmosphere enwraps the country during that month. Another major difference that can be seen there is the intermixing of people coming from different countries following different traditions, which sometimes gradually leads to a totally new culture. This is because a person living there has the liberty of having Pakistani, Indian, Saudi, Lebanese or even Bangladeshi friends and as a result, we can see people from different backgrounds and even different religions coming together and celebrating a common festival.

In a nutshell, if I had to describe the life of teenagers living over there, then I would say that they have a very luxurious life facing very few problems, they are less goal oriented and they don't have to strive too hard, which in turn leads to a dull and a lazy life, where as over here it is a totally different scenario. People over here face a much tougher life with many challenges to overcome. This is the reason as to why I had earlier written that a life of a prince is being compared to an ordinary person.

In other words, Saudi Arabia is a very peaceful and a perfect place, but only for retired people and definitely not a place where teenagers will be able to utilise their talent efficiently due to lack of exposure and opportunities.

By Naimul Karim

Years in Darjeeling

It was the month of pouring rain and scorching heat. The sky was dotted with patches of cloud predicting the coming of rain. The suffocating smell of petrol and gas hung in the air. Not a single tree could be seen.

High-rise buildings obstructed the view of the grand sky overhead. The honking cars made it impossible to hear anything but them. The cars passed by me as slow as tortoises on a march. The traffic policeman bore a look of disgust in his eyes. The passengers looked uncomfortable, as they pinched their noses and fanned themselves.

Passers-by trudged along tiredly, looking like they'd lost all the colours of life. Some of them were on the phone and others chatted as they walked in bands of twos or threes. Street vendors flitted across the street, trying to earn their bread and butter. Shabby beggars knocked on car windows, chanting prayers and whining for alms. Walking along a footpath of Dhaka, I felt as though God has abandoned this city.

I was a student of a boarding school in Darjeeling just three months ago. Our small town was perched on top of a hill like a nest. My teacher would always wake me up at the break of dawn to catch a glimpse of the first streaks of light touching the peak of Kanchanjunga, bathing it in gold. There was never a day when I found it the same as before. Instead with each passing day its beauty increased. I can still feel the chill wind touch me, the way it did on those mornings.

School was fun. We didn't have much homework; most of the work was done in class. Our class was a combination of opposites; the hard workers, the slackers, the jokers, the serious ones, the artists, the musicians, the tone deaf ones, the talented ones and the dull ones and so on. Our class teacher often remarked, “Our class is a perfectly balanced one.”

Twice a week I went walking around our little town, with a mission statement. “I will help the first beggar I see on my way” and “I will pick up papers from the road” were the most common mission statements. It was during such walks that the seeds of humanity, kindness and benevolence were sowed in my heart. I was asked to perform something to ease the lives of those around me everyday and one major task on my birthday (I have decided to sow a plant on my birthday this year.)

Everyone in the town behaved as if they'd known me for years. The town carried boisterous, kind, friendly people who were quick to take umbrage, and equally quick to forgive and forget. I remember the newspaper man pulling me into his house on Eid to give me a treat of pulao and beef curry. It had been the first time we'd met.

The environment inspired me to capture my feelings in words and brought into me a feeling of poetic tranquility. At times while looking up at the immeasurable blue sky I felt I saw my angels hovering over me. Peace, happiness and optimism reigned over my soul at such times.

The winter landscape of our town looked like an old lady dressed in white. There were times when it rained on only half the school, the other half was dry. Summer was cool though temperature has increased over the years due to global warming.

The meandering river in the green valley of the blue mountains, was distinctly visible from my room and I sat by my window for hours admiring it and concocting stories.

Sometimes I could see clouds floating below me and sometimes at level with me. To touch cloud is the most beautiful thing I have done in my life. To see a rainbow standing in front of me was a dream come true for me. Our school didn't produce scientists but it did inspire students to become poets, authors, leaders, welfare-workers, creative professionals and above all a good human being. The memories of that little town will always be cherished and missed.

While walking along the footpath of Dhaka that day I missed the little town and as if to console me, drops of rain poured down and pierced my shirt like spear heads, sympathizing me and whispering, “You would never have recognized the blessings of that little town if you hadn't come to Dhaka.”

My notebook read the following after a few hours:
“Life is,
Where the mountains are blue
With valleys that are green.
Trees that go on dancing
With the winds rolling.
The mornings are bright
And the night velvety with starry perforations.
Where clouds run and rainbows walk.
Where Lord stays.
Where love is returned with love.
There heaven is.”

By Efadul Huq


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