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Making a summer statement

Having stepped well into the days of the scorching sun and humid weather this article might be coming a bit too late for any sort of new beginning of the season but the following tips could be taken as some reminders of certain basic, crucial and certain not-so-crucial factors. Since summer time certainly does not give one the liberty to go fishing in Dhanmondi lake wearing a tank top (as some would hope), let us look at the more realistic possibilities in clothing.

The drastic change in weather certainly calls for a change in wardrobe, for the sake of one's health at least if not looks. With the adios being said to spring and winter we have had to see the last of those trendy khoddor fabrics as well, being left with only cotton as a comfortable choice for casual day-time wear. Other than that one should always keep in mind that whatever is worn is pleasing and soothing to the eye, and in this heat the parameters for what is soothing are unfortunately quite narrowed down. Pastel colours like baby pink, light blue, pale yellow and of course white are the best choice in colours, while it is wise to keep designs subtle and intricate preferably in light shades rather than bright contrasts. In this weather, the minimum stress that the observer's eye is subjected to because of the attire, the more appreciated the latter is likely to be.

One of my favourite summer shortcuts (which is basically the winter replacement for jeans and black shawl) is white dupatta and shalwar with thread work done on them, universal pair that can be worn with any uniform coloured chikan kameez, for a simple serene look. The best thing to do is I guess, pay a visit to Chadni Chawk the section for thaan material because they have a huge variety from where you can easily choose the cloth that best fits the season and the mood.

For those who are a fan of westerns, it's slightly sad since jeans, for its material and fit, are quite an inappropriate choice for summer (although most of us couldn't care less…jeans are jeans right?) well yeah but if the heat does get somewhat out of control one can always go for those chic skirts that are out. Thing with skirts is that there is a very fine line between what is trendy and what is tacky since some look like petticoats while others look like frocks, while a minority are actually the type that's really wearable. The easiest way to stay on the safe side of the line is to carefully choose the cut and if you're looking for a good cut they are basically the ones that remain fitting and only flare out well below the waist. So it's very important that skirts are tried on before purchase to prevent any sort of tantrum later when you're getting ready for an outing. 'Trends' has quite an exceptional collection of skirts and then there are our all time pioneers of Jatra, Aarong. With skirts the bets way to go is I guess the sleeveless fatuas, mainly since fatuas and half sleeves just don't go while full sleeves could kill in this heat.

As for hair, short crops are certainly the ultimate solution, but there are those who are not exactly fans of short crop, for them 'up' is where the hair goes simply for the necessity of it. Those with straight hair can try high ponytails with a strand of hair going around the rubber band and fixed with a clip. For the curlier more uncontrollable hair crocodile clips are the only way out, basically by piling the hair on top of the head; go for the messed up look if it suits your personality. Accessories; improvising while keeping it simple is a good idea e.g. sparkling stone studs as earrings, single bracelet or just three or four matching glass bangles etc. Basically, anything that does not make the wearer seem weighed down or is incompatible with the sort of outfit that is being worn. Makeup (basically foundation and rouge) is just not the thing for summer days. It might change one's features to make it look more attractive but nonetheless a layer of foundation is likely to make the observer feel sorry for the wearer's skin, and thus make eyebrows twitch instead of raising them.(Not to mention the scenario when sweat threatens to break out through the seemingly invincible layer!). Daily usage of scrub and face-wash should be enough to keep the skin looking naturally healthy, the heat helps to give a natural blush, while just a bit of thin kajal around the eyes should help complete a fresh look.

At the end of the day what one wears is of course up to her and should be according to absolutely personal choices and tastes. Above are just a few guidelines of what would help one look 'comfortably good' (i.e. feeling comfortable while looking good) on a summer's day. Basically the idea is to not overdo anything and ensure that the overall outlook is not painful to the onlooker's eye.

By Midnight Maiden


Temptations outside the window

'And I will expect you to not look to your left or right. You look straight ahead, or you look at your paper, but if I catch you doing something you shouldn't be doing, then only God can save you from my wrath.'

The invigilator rapped her steel ruler on her desk for emphasis. Everyone had got her point.

It was raining outside, a midsummer day, the last of the final exams. After that, summer vacation (but only for the students, the invigilator reminded herself). Then the report cards would come, students would break down and cry, or cheer and the teachers would smile (fake smile plastered on their tired faces). The parents would take their children away, either home to a thrashing or to a fancy restaurant. What would the teachers do? Still come to school, still wake up at eight and take the long commute to the shining glass and brick edifice that would imprison them for weeks.

The invigilator stamped the school seal on a sheet of paper. She didn't need to, it already had a seal. But she did it. She found pleasure in besmearing it, staining it with her doing. It gave vent to whatever was bothering her inside.

The students, to her luck, were a good lot. Human biology class, only about forty kids, most of them serious. She liked the looks of them. No one here would dare to stuff entire answers down their shirts, or write down pointers on the palms of their hand. Even if they did, they wouldn't get away from her. She was as fierce as she looked. Once, a boy had tried to cheat. He had practically his entire school textbook stuffed down his sock. He was suspended from exams the next day.

She recalled the boy's shining, teary face, and smiled. She derived pleasure from being mean and hurtful, because she knew as well as everyone else that there really was no room for being nice in this world. It's a rat race, she thought, watching one earnest-looking girl turn over her paper and discreetly look over to her other side to see if the next person was ahead of her. If you can't beat them, then you ought to die.

The rain was letting up. Those sitting next to the window were beginning to fidget, and for good reason. The eleven o'clock morning sun was about to come out. The invigilator checked her watch. There was another hour left until freedom. She rapped her desk again, to quiet down the mutterings of discomfort, just as easily her school silenced hers. The muttering stopped, but the twitching and fidgeting didn't, and it wouldn't, either. People would keep on twitching and fidgeting, past school and university and internships, past marriage and children and old age. What to do? You just have to bear with it.

She looked out the window, head turned slightly towards the class (so that they'd know she had her eyes on them). The rain had completely let up. The roads were still slick, the pedestrians still holding up their umbrellas, the sky still clinging to its gray clouds. It was a swirl of murky browns and blacks. No color, no life. Just automated, robotic existence. She looked at the only tree left standing by the side of the road. It seemed tired, too, like it wanted to die, but the fierce desire of the municipality to stick to their 'beautification' plans was keeping it alive. It was like living off life supporta painful, drawn out existence.

She didn't know why, but the tree kept her mesmerized for some time. There seemed to be something red dancing amidst its leaves. She looked closer. It looked like a piece of the sunset sky, and it was caught in the leaves. She left her desk and stood by the window. Then she saw it. A little girl, a street urchin, was holding a cheap red balloon, and shaking a branch of the tree, the raindrops sprinkling down on her dense curls. She was laughing, and smiling, and looking around at everyone. And that glimmer in her eyesthe invigilator didn't know what that was for. Why was the girl so happy? What did she have to live for?

It seemed fate had been listening to her. Just that moment, the beggar from down the street shuffled over to the girl on his one leg, and asked, 'What are you doing?'

The girl smiled and shook her balloon at the old man. 'Look, uncle. See how the raindrops shine in the light? Like bits of gold and silver? Isn't it pretty?' and she shook her branch at the old man and laughed, and scampered away.

The invigilator was startled when someone tapped her on the shoulder. It was that earnest-looking girl. She was holding out her paper to her. Everyone else had already submitted theirs and left. Through the open glass doors there were sounds of hooting and cheer. Even the earnest-looking girl was smiling.

'Miss, can I leave?' she asked.

The invigilator nodded.

The girl gathered up her things. Just as she was about to leave, she turned around and said, 'It's a nice day, isn't it?' Then she walked away.

The invigilator looked away from the window.

She didn't understand why these simple joys were denied to her.

By Shehtaz Huq

I… don't know

Walking down the path, I realize I have been familiar with it all my life. But at the moment, I can remember absolutely nothing about where I am. However, a feeling of nostalgia still remains. Nothing here seems out of place. Everything comes expected; the white light behind my head, the sweet fumes of burning incense and the foggy floor. I somehow know which way to go. It is as if all my life I have been preparing for this, and now I'm making my way to where I know I am destined to be.

I come upon a door, the same door I had once leaned on when a teacher had made me stand on one leg for not doing the homework. It's the same door behind which I had locked myself and for the first time tried pot; behind which door my first wife cheated on me, and my first born hung himself. This door brings back memories. But this is not the same door. As I turn the knob I am reminded of when I had first been sent to the headmistress's office. Sunshine and glee I am met with. A dazzling light met with a ready smile. All my life this smile had gotten me out of trouble. When I had broken the dinner china, I had only to smile and my mother had found someone else to blame. A smile you take photographs of, and store secretly with the intent of reminiscing years later. A heart or two well achieved… that youthful smile that had far run its course. But now, finally there is occasion to smile.

“She's waiting.”

I bow to the radiant maiden. Her rosy cheeks may well have inspired a woeful ballad or two. I know She is waiting. I need not be pointed towards the right direction. I know where to go.

In the distance a large globe, or sewing machine, I'm not sure which, catches my eyes. An old woman is doing something with it. I near the machine, awed at its tremendous beauty. I stand in front of it, dumbfounded, staring at the machine with its wheels spinning, pistons pumping, cogs curving, the whole thing engaging and disengaging. I had never felt so much knowledge in my life before, as I feel now, in the machine's presence.

As I look on, I observe the green and blue sphere rotate. A glass of water falls on the sphere, but nothing happens to it. A bowl of snow is turned upside down over it, causing it no harm. At spots, the old woman would point a magnifying glass and the concentrated region would heat up from the glass's glare, however, with little or no change. When it was shaken, it still made no difference. This thing is durable. It could certainly last. The water spilled over it is also being used to generate electricity. The heat and wind, in fact, all of it, however disastrous, is being used up. This sphere is truly magnificent. It is beautifully lighted, yet parts of it lie in complete darkness. Rotating continuously, the light is shared by every corner, every nook and cranny.

As I looked closer, I can see myself in the spheres shiny surface. Not my reflection. A miniature figurine. At first it was a child, chasing after a stray dog, then it turned to a young man, pursuing a giggling girl, next an older man chasing a sack of gold and finally a stooping old man chasing a dog. Somehow, my attention breaks, and I notice that the old woman is working a treadle at a leisurely and experienced manner. I try to get her attention but fail. I try saying something.

“Hello? Did you make this machine?”

After a pause, the woman turns and nods. I realize who it is. I've known her all my life, a face I have not remembered, or felt the need to remember for a long time. I try my winning smile.

“Mother…”

Receiving no answer, or any sign of interest, I try carrying on with the conversation.

“Will this thing… continue forever?” This time she shakes her head. Tears fill my eyes, as I take another glimpse at the beauty of the machine.

“When?”

This time, she looks me squarely in the face, beaming, looking like she really did. We look at each other, an uncomfortable silence brewing up. Awkwardly I repeat, with a sheepish grin, “When?”

She doesn't say anything. I find her somewhere between a shrug and a frown.

By Ahsan KSajid

 
 

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