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To catch an angel

THE pattern of my story is that of all living, growing things, man is an animal that walks spiritually as well as physically on earth. And to walk is to push the world behind you- to hazard all you are. Each of us, like the crab builds a shell of his dream or habit, then hears the call of challenge from far beyond. If man does not answer by bursting through his shell, then his home becomes his own prison, and later his tomb.

All through my life, I have learnt how different I am from others. I am human- mortal but blind. Though I cannot enjoy the pleasures of the exotic world, which is thought to be considered nothing but small by many others; enjoying these little pleasures were once my wants but later faded
into nothing but a mere dream.

I can now clearly recall some these memories. It taught me what a cruel, harsh place world was to me. I was about thirteen years of age and I was not completely sightless then. Nearby our house was an orchard which was caked with apple trees. I once went there with my brother- rudely greeted by a couple of children. They were picking apples. I, who was a lonesome person, tried to go and interact with the fellow children. My appearance to them seemed to disturb them, or my defect I suppose as they started throwing apples at me. It was a game as if they were a stormy sea and I, nothing but a mere boat tossing helplessly in the cruel waves.

My blindness seemed to have taken its toll after a couple of years later because my world seemed eclipsed then and I was left with sadness and humiliation deep within me. Who am I? I, not even knowing my true meaning went on with life. I wanted to know my true potential in this cursed dollhouse-this earth; where the Almighty choose our fate for us.

My parents, concerning my education got me admitted to a school for the blind. I got good education and friends of my own kind but there was only one problem-I still couldn't break away from my shell.

Years later, technology and science made my dark world far different-my world was filled with light. Doctors said they could give me the gift of sight. Tears accumulated my eyes-tears of happiness and joy. So I went through a long and painful surgery.

I opened my eyes and looked around. I couldn't help but cry. I could see!!! I hugged my wrinkled-skinned parents, who, all those years didn't let go of my hand. Life couldn't just get better. I now finally broke out of my shell-I am now a complete human being.

In my country of the blind, the people heard the songs of the birds and thought they were angels. The music which has led me up the slope and out of my own dark valley is a different strain. It called, and is still calling me, toward the achievement of my own humanity. From where I now stand, on the middle slope, the familiar landscapes fall away beneath and behind, but the summit, if there is one, lies far ahead and above. And from somewhere up ahead the music still calls, inviting me to discover the secret of what a human being really is and challenging me to become one. And to seek to possess this is to try to catch the last of all the angels.

By Mayeesha Shafiq

Gas for sale

I like people who can sell things that don't belong to them. I like people who have such ingenuity and such cunning business skills. I usually spot a unique talent when I see it put to use, even if done discreetly or unscrupulously. You are probably wondering what I am getting at, so I'll just spill the beans before they are sold. I admire the employees of Titas Gas with an admiration like no other. Selling off and misusing our country's resources and securing extravagance is the highest show of patriotism ever. I salute the 'gastric' patriots of Titas Gas Company.

Now, at no point should anyone be allowed to question the integrity and intention of the company itself. Titas Gas T & D Co. Ltd was established way back in 1964, deriving its name from 'Titas' gas field which was discovered near the Titas River. The Company owns and operates 735 Km of Transmission pipelines and 7585 Km of Distribution & Service lines. It's revenue is T.24000 million annually, supplying gas to some 9,73,419 customers. The company states on its website that it saves the country near about 22000 million in fuel imports. This is all very commendable and respectful but there's always a dark side and thus there are no exceptions in this case as well.

The staff of Titas Gas, in my view, are the most corrupt, gobbling up some Tk.10,000 crore, the amount that 68 staff members have amassed, in a matter of years. There are 15 more who are yet to submit their wealth statements, and after approximations, additions and deductions from overall revenue and the claimed savings it does to the country's balance of trade, it is safe to assume that the country is left as the loser.

Gas is one of our most precious and important resource, and yet these people put that fact behind them and carried on with their blind corruption. From assistant sales manager, deputy manager, receptionist, welder, technician to the meter readers, almost all dipped their toes in corruption. Selling gas and amassing wealth is something anyone would like to do. I was applauding them until I found out that this gas was our resource which cannot be renewed at the snap of a finger.

What kind of punishment these money hungry deserve, I would not be able to comprehend. But I would like to sell any gas I can, if these people are interested. On a more serious note, today we are peddling off our country's resources for money and yes it is us, because we handed the fields over to them and neither one of us nor the vested quarters have taken any initiative to make sure our resources are finally handed into clean and responsible hands. The apparent culprits aren't the only ones to blame, but so are the ones who lured the so called officials and the people up in their cozy offices, who turned blind eyes and only counted the profits. I can now only wait and watch whether the real culprits are punished. Teach a man to fish and he will have food forever and he would thank his teacher. I say, let's find the one who taught, influenced or encouraged these people to steal and hand him or her a stiffer punished. Till next time, anyone interested in purchasing gas can feel free to contact me.

(Sarcasm Intended)

By Osama Rahman

Piece of paper

IF only it could be that as simple as that- Jason thought to himself as he pictured his mom consoling him, patting him on the back, “Oh it's ok dear. It's not that bad! You can always do better next time!”“Huh!” he thought to himself, “If only there could be a next time! I would have made the full of it!” He picked his face up from the piece of paper that he was buried into this long, refusing to believe anything that it said. Looking up, he gazed upon the heavens. It looked awfully calm- clear as crystal. As if even the sky pitied him today. Lovebirds roaming around him in the park, hand in hand, made him even more miserable. “Wonder why they all seemed to be so happy!” If only he could be in their shoes now…

Jason got up from the park bench, gingerly lifting himself like he was hurt, badly. He looked aimlessly around still, his head totally blank of any destinations. Home was the last place he wanted to go now. Figuring out excuses for being late- which he was an expert in executing, seemed to him like a vague idea. All that running inside his mind now was how he let everyone down and how his parents (read-mom) were going was going to literally skin him alive after hearing the news. It was indeed horrible. Spitting out the truth without beating around the bushes- came to him as the only solution now, possibly for the first time in his life. However, he wanted the 'moment' to be as late as possible. Starting for home, he had his head held down, counting every block in the pavement that he stepped on. Occasionally he would stop suddenly, hold the paper in front of him and examine it top to bottom for the umpteenth time. Very well knowing that reading and re-reading the words several times won't change anything, he didn't mind cursing the paper each time he did. It was ironic how this single piece of paper was going to change his whole life!

The main door was already open. Probably his mom had forgotten to lock it since he left or it was just that plain 'destiny' again. He planned on how to say it- he would march straight into his mother, hand her the page, and tell the truth. He got inside, and the door closed behind him with a click. “Is that you Jason?” asked his mother from somewhere inside the house. “Umm, yeah. It's me” he was choking already. “Dad not home yet?” he asked, just to lighten the mood and pick up a conversation, in the middle of which he would blurt out everything. “Nope! He'll be late today? Why?” came the reply. “Just asking”-but he knew that this is going to make matters worse. He got into the living room where his mom was sitting in a chair, switching channels in the television. She looked at him- and went back to the TV again. “Anything bothering you?” she interrogated. “Oh my god she knows!!” Jason thought. His heart had already skipped several beats just in the previous second. It was time… He went close to the table his mom was sitting in front of, and quietly slipped the paper onto it, upside down. “Nuh, nothing much. Hey mom, I'm gonna hit the shower now- tough match it was today!” and finally before hastily closing the door behind him so that his mother had no chance to stop him, he let himself in- “Oh and by the way, I flunked my O'z!”

By Pratik

The Glass Palace

I‘ve been seeing the books in the hands of the book vendors at every other traffic intersection. At any random discussion about South Asian authors, his name invariably pops up. The Pro Vice Chancellor at my university leaned across the table during dinner once, peered at me over his glasses and said 'You have got to read his work', and I immediately decided I didn't want to. You see, the Pro VC is a scarily intellectual person, and I was convinced anything he would recommend would turn out to be as dry as dust.

And just when I figured out I could get away without reading the books, I hear Amitav Ghosh was on his way to Bangladesh, and he'd be giving a speech at our university, and could I please attend? I was stuck. Now I had to read something he wrote.

Which is how I found myself opening the first pages of The Glass Palace with something approaching dread. Turns out, my fears were unfounded.

The story is essentially about the British Raj in Burma. It begins with the downfall of the Burmese monarchy at the hands of the British invaders. The story is told in two arcs; the first follows the adventures of a young orphaned Indian boy, Rajkumar, who happened to be working at a snack shop when the Palace was invaded, and the second tells the story of the Royal family as they go into exile. As lives and fortunes are changed by the events that take place, we see how the ambitious young Rajkumar rises from rags to riches by throwing in his lot with the timber trade. On the other hand, neglected by their new keepers, the erstwhile Imperials are doomed to end their days in squalor.

The arcs connect when Rajkumar visits India on a mission to find Dolly, one of the Queen's handmaidens, whom he had met when he was still a raggedly urchin and she was still a confused little girl. The story then leaps over several years to show the decline of the Raj and the many viewpoints of the people who lived under the banner of colonialism for generations. We have Dolly's friend Uma, who is an activist, her nephew Arjun, who is in the British Army, Rajkumar and his family who are somewhat imperilled by their identity as part Burmese, part Indian. With the impending Second World War and Gandhi's increasingly popular idealism in the backdrop, the narrative speeds up towards a tumultuous end, and lives and ideologies are changed along the way.

What I liked about this book is that it is very straightforward. There's none of the tendency towards poetry or magical realism, absurdism or extended symbolism, so that I'm not left wondering if a certain action or event or statement ought to be taken at face value, or if it has deeper implications. The novel reads pretty much like the author's lectures: chatty, informative, and matter-of-fact. The complaint I would have to make, though, is that sometimes it is an uneven read. There's just too much going on at times facts, figures, and events clash with the main storyline and it becomes a little busy in some places, when he veers off the narrative to give you a very encyclopaedia-like history or description of the setting.

Nevertheless, the book makes a great read. Aside from the fascinating personal histories of the characters, it offers a wealth of unexpected facts and informational titbits, so go grab your copy now!

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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