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The spitting image

The spitting image? No, this is not about Xerox or identical twins or Jinjira copies of Calvin Klein undergarments! This is about the whole image of spitting, literally. This can be considered a national pastime right up there with overtaking from the wrong side on a jam-packed road and littering. In fact you can even call it wet littering if you want!

It is an activity that ranks among the top ten list of Abominable-Things-To-Do. The list includes other things like cops taking bribes to meet quota, people continuing to punch an unconscious 'suspected' mugger and selling date expired medicine, food and blood. Driving around with unnecessarily loud exhaust pipes comes in quite low on the list along with the art of spitting. Of course, during the month of Ramadan this activity ranks right at the top. Apparently people's salivary glands go into overdrive. On a typical non-Ramadan day you might be wary of walking beside a bus especially the double-deckers. During Ramadan make sure you have an umbrella up at all times. Even angry crows are not this mean.

The reporter in me kicked in to find the reason behind this phenomenon. The urge kicked in even stronger especially after being the victim of countless near misses and one direct hit to the knee from a hanging bus conductor. I couldn't ask the conductor mainly because I couldn't catch him. Even if caught there is a doubt I wouldn't have asked him anything before giving him a few slaps- another national pastime!

I set off to find people who spit uncontrollably, which was easier to find than beggars at a Friday prayer. In fact, it was at a Friday prayer that I found the most number of spitters. Some of the people were getting up continually to spit out the window over the heads of other people.

Courage or stupidity (quite interchangeable) pushed me to ask one of them as to why he spits so much. It was a risk I ran because there were quite a few spitters sitting by the windows. People have a habit of ganging up on others who seem insulting and these guys had a well-stocked arsenal in their mouths.

The gentlemanly person had short neatly combed hair, an expensive looking punjabi and sported branded eyewear. To my query as to all the spitting, he replied quite seriously that a fasting person is not supposed to swallow any liquids. That explains it- after all saliva is generally quite liquid!

I got the same answer from a couple of rickshawallahs, three cigarette vendors and 11 different well-dressed and apparently well-off people. It always came down to the same answer, which was no surprise. However, when I checked with a couple of experts who have gone through the entire Quran several times, there was no mention of the fact that you should let go of your saliva in such a manner. After all it is a product of the body itself and does not need to be expelled. Fasting involves abstaining from drinking and eating among many other things. Swallowing saliva, a natural bodily product would not be the same as drinking.

The fact is that the uneducated can be forgiven for their ignorance. But how can it be excused when one of the first people who replied to my query walked out of the mosque and stepped into a car that costs more than 45 lakhs? Yet another person had an ID card hanging from his neck sporting the name of a well-known multinational. His title? Senior Finance Manager!

Educated and appearance-wise smart people too, it appears can be quite boorish by nature. It's sad but true. We expect readers to help educate that spitting is not a religiously accepted behaviour. It is only acceptable in parliament when verbal abuse no longer works!

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Book review
Ke Kotha Koy

Unlike many of my peers, I've never been a huge fan of Humayun Ahmed. I mean, he did write a couple of really good books, but never quite managed to reach upto my list of favorites. Anyway, recently, I've come across one of his newly-released novels and I am greatly moved by it.

Ke Kotha Koy” is the story of an autistic child. Humayun Ahmed was inspired to write this novel from reading 'The Spiral Staircase' by Karen Armstrong. Although Armstrong's book is an autobiographical piece, she mentions the story of an autistic child she had to baby-sit. This intrigued Ahmed greatly and after further research on autism, “Ke Kotha Koy” was born.

The story starts with introducing the main character of the book, the fresh graduate from university named Motin a struggling, yet talented writer with a strange sense of humour. He is unemployed, but like most of Ahmed's unemployed characters, doesn't quite mind the fact that he's unemployed and happily accepts it. He tries to make most out of every situation and lives alone with a low-rent quarter. I wouldn't call anything intellectual, but he is certainly very creative which makes his character an enjoyable and interesting read.

Through Motin, readers are eventually introduced to the 'curious joint' of the novel, Komol who is an autistic child. Komol has been brought up in a wealthy family and lives lavishly, professes in higher mathematics and only deals with reason. What keeps the reader interested is how an awkward, yet promising friendship builds about between the odds of Motin ad Komol. The book focuses further on Motin's life and his relationships with others apart from Komol, but readers get an insight into the complexities of autism through Komol and his dealings with his surroundings.

Although, the novel is said to be concentrated on autism, but I personally found it to deal with other social issues as well.

People connected to Motin represent such social controversies and barriers that give the readers a painful and realistic perspective of them, and Ahmed describes them beautifully. However, the free-minded narrations of such controversies make this novel a particular above-16 read.

I would personally give Ahmed's “Ke Kotha Koy” a three-stars ranking. It is available at most local bookstores for Tk. 325. rs.readers@gmail.com

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

By the Sword

What better way to kick off the four-week fantasy fest than by reviewing my very favourite author? She may not have Tolkien's fan following, but hot dang, the woman can write! Say hello to the magnificent Mercedes Lackey.

This week, we look at By the Sword, a book in the Valdemar series. Before I get into this book, a brief intro about the premises of the series. Valdemar is a vast medieval kingdom ruled by Heralds, who are a very noble breed of people with a strict moral code and psychic abilities like Mindspeech (telepathy), Fetching (telekinesis) and so on. Each Herald has a Companion, an intelligent horse-like creature with limited psychic powers. The last trilogy I reviewed was the Herald Mage trilogy, which introduced Valdemar's border conflicts with the kingdom of Karse.

This book takes place more than half a millennium later, and starts off at a kingdom close to Valdemar. Kerowyn, a young noblewoman, is preparing a huge feast for her brother's wedding when a bunch of bandits storm the keep, kill her father, wound all the men, and kidnap the bride. The gutsy heroine, who conveniently happens to be the grand-daughter of a powerful mage, rides off to her grandma, picks up a magic sword, and goes and gets her sister-in-law back.

The problem with taking such a move in a society like this one is that people don't know what to do with you afterwards. You're a hero, but you're also a misfit, because nice young ladies don't go killing bandits and saving the day; that's a man's job. Realising that she doesn't want to conform to people's notion of being a nice young lady, Kero takes off for her grandmother's place, trains in the art of fighting, and then becomes a mercenary, and life is never the same again.

The coolest thing about the story is how it evolves and develops with the characters. At the beginning, Kero is 16 years old, so you're reading it from the perspective of a hot-headed teenager. As she grows and matures, her world expands to include the harsh realities of a mercenary's life, issues like survival, greed, and regional politics. Lackey weaves a complete spell around her readers with a believable storyline, characters that grow on you, and circumstances that leave you flipping pages till the very end. Do you seriously need another reason to read it?

Sabrina F Ahmad


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