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Of wars and hope

Exam related jitters are something I have never known, that is, until recently. I was never the kind to enter an exam hall crying my eyes out -believe me, there are people who do that. I went in with a laugh. Hey, can't be too bad. Just like any other mock test.

Everyone has a thing they do when they give exams. The pious ones - and some non-pious ones, too - say prayers. You can hear whispered incantations of rabbi zidni ilma and kulhuallah. I would be lying if I said that I don't pray. It's just that, when you know you are pretty much a goner [even if you act like it's no big deal, like me], you try to do whatever you can for some patience, some confidence, some sudden surge of not-going-down-without-a-fight mentality. Although, I think you'll find my ways a bit, shall we say, 'unconventional'. Hey, everything goes.

I don't know how I developed this unusual ritual. It was sort of spontaneous I guess. Of course, I said the conventional prayer prescribed to me by my 96 year old grandfather [he is still going strong. I'm pretty hopeful about his century], but after that came my pre-exam pep talk to myself.

It's stupid really, now that I think about it. I memorised Kazi Nazrul Islam's famous poem Bidrohi. I don't know about you, but portions of it make me feel like…whipping out a sword and chopping someone's head off. I know that doesn't sound right but I can't describe it in a better way [damn, knew I should have taken English Literature]. If you haven't read it yet, read it. You probably won't get half the words there, but then again, you don't get half the words of a Death Metal song but that doesn't stop you from listening to Cannibal Corpse, Deicide or Vader does it? If the poem doesn't inflate you, you either need to study Bangla a little more seriously or you just don't like poetry.

I'm a big Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fan. I'm not as crazy as the people in Mugglenet or the guys who run the Elvish language dictionary [good people though. And where would we Potter fans be without Mugglenet?], but crazy enough to run my sister and my best friend insane. So, enter LOTR. There was this trailer of The Return of the King [third movie of Lord of the Rings] that really stuck to my head. Every time I sat waiting for my paper this corny line would start playing in my head: this is your test, every path you've trod, through wilderness through war, has lead to this road. I aint done no trodding through any wilderness or war. The closest I had gotten to a war was when I got caught in a peaceful-turned-violent [as always] demonstration in Dhaka. But like I said, everything goes.

There are more things to it, things that come up just at that moment. Songs like Lose Yourself by Eminem, quotes from commercial movies like The Matrix [“I believe this night holds for each and every one of us, the very meaning of our lives”], books and megalomaniacs like Napoleon [“impossible is a word that exists in the dictionary of fools”]. At the end of it all, I felt like a bulldozer, able to take on the Great Wall of China or the wall from King Kong. I was ready. And they have done me a lot of good. Never felt bad about an exam. Never cheated [well, I did double check the shapes of my oscillation graphs with that of my girlfriend while the examiner wasn't looking, but kids, it's a very bad idea. We both got it wrong].

But lately, my sky-high confidence has been crumbling. My straight A reputation from the O'levels is under severe strains. I doubt myself; I'm no longer in control. Fear - I'm afraid. I'm worried. The reason, you ask. You'd be nervous too if people around you seemed to think they were going to fail just because they lost a couple of marks. My classmates get 95 out of 100 in their mock tests and they say “damn”. I would have understood if it was one or two geeks. But no, everywhere I look, people are damn serious about their studies. Discussions about laws of physics or chemical reactions are quite common during lunch breaks. A small town kid like me is lost in the high-speed race to finish the syllabus and complete the A'levels as soon as possible.

Studying seriously has never been my kind of thing. I study in between fooling around and I have done pretty well for myself. But now, no matter how much I try - actually I don't try much, but at least I try. I never really tried to study before - I don't seem to be able to catch up. These kids know every point, every reaction; they remember every nook and cranny of the book.

By the time you read this, if indeed this gets published, my results will be out. My exams could have been a whole lot better - every exam can be a lot better but discussing them seemed to bring out some black holes. And I'm afraid of my results. Many 'what if'-s are clouding my mind; what do I tell my parents if I do too badly; was I riding too high on my previous success?

And you know what I realised? I don't give a damn. There are many people with worse luck than me out there. It's not like I'll starve to death and it's not like I'll fail. This city has a tendency to drain the life out of you. I keep forgetting who I am, what my goal is. And I'll pull back. I always do. I'm not going to give cliché advices like “you can shine no matter how many times people call you an idiot”. Advices like that generally don't help people; at least, they didn't help me. I'm just here to tell the people like me who like the back seat more than the front - have faith, have patience, have hope [Estel as they say in Elvish]. And remember, “Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive”. It's from Van Wilder: Party Liaison. I gave it as my quote when I got the Daily Star award. My dad wanted to kill me.

By Estel


Nother day in the middle of nowhere!' Henry thought. While he was alive, he was used to hearing everyone say, 'God is kind to everyone.' But then, less than four days after his death he had to start working for Him as the 'wish-keeper'. As soon as he had taken up his post, he caught sight of the long queue of thirty something boys and girls. “How come so many of them are here?” He started dusting the place, out of sheer habit, even though it was not really necessary.

The queue is drawing near. Their first stop would be in front of Henry's. Then they go on to other areas, which deal with other parts of their registration. Henry caught sight of the first person in the queue, a beautiful girl, with intelligent eyes and long dark brown hair. He took up the big, heavy black-bound book. The girl had a questioning look in her eyes. Without ado Henry stood in front of her and looked into her eyes as was customary. She caught on quick and assumed a neutral expression, and said. “I really wanted to be a vet.” She stopped. Henry nodded and motioned her to pass him. Just after she went past she whirled around and came back.

“I wanted to go and spend some days with my dad. Today's his birthday.”

Henry looked in her eyes and saw that the neutral expression was gone, replaced by sadness.

“Your name is Janine.”

“Right”, she replied.

Henry turned around and went on with his duties. He did not know why but he sensed great potential in the next person. He had this queer feeling of that boy being at once meritorious and humble.

“You are…” he looked up in that black book, “Jackson.”

The boy nodded and went on, his unfulfilled wish in his dreamy eyes.

“I had always dreamt of making animated films.” Then with a brief pause he continued, “And I promised my little sister to bring her to visit my college campus. But I never did.”

Henry took a deep breath before he approached the third person. It was getting harder to keep the tears away. In the book he found the next person's name to be Ramesh. Henry's eyes blurred with tears as soon as he caught sight of him, the son of his best friend. The boy, whom he had watched growing up in front of his own eyes, was always proclaiming to be a superhero, and had once told Henry before getting into college that he wanted to be a Math professor. But then he was standing in front of him with a grin, “Didn't you always have a problem with math?” Henry smiled for the first time that day.

Forty minutes later when Henry was finished with his work, he sighed. He opened that black book and went through the new entries. Right then he realized he badly sought to fulfill his own wish, to fulfill the wish of these boys and girls.

- Rising Stars, a great part of which consists of students ranging from school to college is deeply saddened by the loss at Virginia Tech University. Our heart goes out to all the families of the departed students and professors.

By Hitoishi Chakma



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