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The challenge

The 2 five hundred taka notes seemed to dance before my glinting eyes. You have stepped on the rattlesnake, Ronnie, and you are going to regret for your money, I told to myself. I pinned my ears to every word he was saying and a sense of self-confidence surrounded me.

"Your bet is a piece of cake. I'll only take one week to complete it". I threw the words towards Ronnie as the new-girl-in-college came into my view.

Fate opened Her first door for me on the next evening. A heavy downpour from the Heaven above turned a tranquil college campus into a watery mess. Just as I reckoned, the-new-girl-in-college was standing at the front gate, her denim & kameez all drenched from head to hill, looking for a home-bound CNG while she was shivering at the descent of the icy raindrops. I walked towards her, shared my umbrella with her and said,

"Hi, I'm Rupok; and you must be miss..."
"Suhana", she replied confidently.
"Well miss Suhana, since you are not getting any vehicles, mind visiting the nearby coffee shop?" I asked hesitantly.

"Sure, not a bad idea". Her answer evoked a wide grin on my face.

As we walked into the coffee parlour, her cellphone started blaring out noisily. Lookin embarrassed she answered it and then turned to me. "Oh, I'm so sorry Rupok. My father has sent the car to pick me up and its waiting at the college gate," she added guiltily. "Nah, its okey," I replied in a demoralising tone.

The next two days, I helped her with all the notes of Physics and Chemistry that she had missed. Then we used to sit together at the canteen and gossip about almost anything. After all that, I could once more pursuade her to have a mug of coffee with me. The very assent from her rekindled a ray hope in me.

"Two cup of coffee and a plate of french fries," I ordered the waiter. The coffee arrived but before she could even grab the steaming mug, a girl from an adjacent table drew closer to her and blindfolded her eyes with her palms. It turned out she was a distant cousin of Suhana's and coincidentally, there was a turmeric festival of her sister that very day, that very time. I cursed my luck as Suhana apologized to me for not being able to stay any longer. "It's OK," I sighed in utter dismay.

The rest of the week, I tried a few more times of visiting the coffee shop with her but something or the other interrupted us.

I lost the bet: to have a cup of coffee with the-new-girl-in-college. A grinning Ronnie took the money from me. However, I won a far more stupendous challenge, I told to myself as I set my gaze on the Valentines day card she had sent me.

By Navid

Barbers and Barbarism

Think about the feelings related to intense anxiety. It creates a knot in your stomach that is more complicated than the Gordian knot. You feel as if someone has lit a fire inside your lungs and the flames are slowly licking their way upwards. You feel tenser than a hunter with an itchy bottom does. Nervous breakdown is only moments away.

Feelings such as these are brought about by rare situations. One could be when you make a proposal of endless love to someone. You wonder whether you will hear an ecstatic 'YES' or feel a shoe on your head. Another occasion can be when there is an axe murderer poised behind you. You wonder whether you will hear the axe whizzing through the air before you feel it on your head. Similar to that is the time when you enter a barbershop, especially a new one. The feeling of dread can be overwhelming.

I do not know how it is for women but for men the feeling of helplessness is usually the same for all. The sights and sounds that assail a person have a common theme--that of impending doom. Little snippets of hair litter the path/corridor/steps/road leading to the door of the barbershop. It is time to silently kiss my hair goodbye. So much for the sights. The sounds I hear before entering are that of sharp metal claws rubbing against each other. Along with that comes the sound of slaps, bangs and thuds. These are the type of sounds heard when a person is beaten. It is time to raise one quizzical eyebrow and step through the doors.

Once inside I see that the floor is littered with larger snippets of hair. There are people sitting on different chairs with different amounts of hair remaining on their skullcap. Mirrors on opposing walls create images reaching out across infinity. Before I can come up with a new physics theory to defy those of Einstein's, the usher ushers me to a seat. A cloth is quickly whipped out and wrapped around me. A quick knot is tied around my throat to cut off the air and possibly also to prevent hair falling on me.

The barber comes towards me twisting and cracking his fingers in a decidedly evil manner. He grabs hold of my hair and spends a long time pummeling my plumage. After about fifteen seconds of slaps, bangs, thuds and neck-twists, he lets go to stop my screaming. THAT, he explained, was a message. Message? What kind of scary message was he trying to convey? Then I realized that he meant 'massage', not 'message'. The bangs on my head seemed to have affected my hearing. It made me wonder whether the word 'barber' has anything to do with 'barbarian'.

Now came the dreaded moment. The barber asked what kind of cut I would prefer. Looking over my wavy hair, he asked if I would like a Hritik hairdo. I figured, why not? If that attempt fails, I could always shave my head and look like Hritiks father.

With my heart lodged somewhere in my throat, I set about to be transformed. To keep my mind off the snap of scissors, I look around to see what the others are doing. Seems all the other customers are also doing the same. When they are not doing that, they are busy wrinkling their foreheads in a desperate attempt to see what the top of their head looks like. Children happen to be a hairdresser's nightmare. They constantly twist and turn like a sacrificial goat on Eid. What they need is an electric chair that they use to execute convicts on death row. They would not be able top move so much with straps securing the heads, arms, waist and legs.

I looked to the left to see a baby whose hair could only be cut when he fell asleep. After a few snips the baby would wake up and cry like a, well, like a baby. Then he would fall asleep and the haircutting process would be repeated.

On my left sat a boy my age who was having an "S" cut out on the back of his head. Behind me I could see a man stripping of his shirt and asking to be shaved all over.

All this fidgeting got on the nerves of my hairdresser. He gripped my head in a vice and finished the job. Before I stepped out he suggested next time I sit in an electric chair.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny


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