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The Indolent Lot

YOU can appreciate how hard it is to move your bottom around after you lie down for a while. Once you enter that sedentary life of watching the tube all day and not caring if the house caught fire, you forget to care about anything at all. This lying around doing nothing or sitting lazily and contemplating to lie down for a bit is probably a work that many are very good at. They are the indolent lot and only a quarter of the world's population does not fall in this category because they are too busy to bother!

A lot of people love it to be lazy bears to the fact that then they can pass doing much about anything at all. But in order to get on with the life no one can ignore doing at least something from time to time (get themselves to the loo for example). That is when they discover a shortcut to almost any given situation.

A Requiem for Popcorn
There were times when each and every one of us, before jumping into the couch to watch a five hour long movie, felt that popping up popcorns for that occasion was surely not the vocation there was in our mind. Preparing popcorns in fact is a lot convoluted than any of the ordinary folks would find. Putting the popcorn pack wrong side up in the microwave is the least of the problem here. So as many I too, have ditched the popcorn and turned to another stuff that comes packed and ready to be swallowed and sometimes chewed.

Ever wondered what that raw instant noodles fresh out of its plastic bag tastes like? It tastes good! It tastes just like chanachur without the spices (Which means it is a lot healthier). On the flip side the only problem with this food is that when you start chewing the noodles, the rumbling noise in your head sometimes makes it hard to catch all the dialogues from the movie.

Bring Out the Big Gun
All the cousins are at your place. Everyone gets psyched up to play monopoly because no one has played it for a long time, and you know that no one will bother to help you pack all the stuff up after the game is finished. So when you have a choice of playing hide and seek or a game of monopoly where you would surely have to take an hour after the game to organize all the bank notes and what not, my guess is you will be choosing neither. These are the times when you bring out the big guns.

Rip out a page, draw a target of some sort on it and then prop it up against your pillow. After that go and buy an 'air sport gun' those that you find everywhere these days that shoot tiny pellets. Then shoot away on that propped up target of yours and start counting points. The pillow will prevent the pellets from ricocheting, and after the game all you have to do is pick up the tattered paper and consign it to the wastepaper basket.

Keeping Your Room Tiptop

Rooms have an inclination to get messy all by themselves but parents can never conceive that and frankly the lazy lot is too lazy to go in any arguments about that with their parents. Instead they do this:

Arrange everything in your room for once then keep it locked up. Sleep on the drawing room couch, study on the dining table and take your after noon beauty nap on the rug at your front door with your dog. You two will start to bond and life will get a lot peaceful.

Fishing out Fish Bones
Whenever it comes to eating fish, people from across the world can share horrible memories and can go on blathering about it for weeks. If there was ever a convention on it all the people in the world would turn up after all, the panic you feel when it stings deep inside your throat can only be felt if you get stuck in a cage with a Boa Constrictor or a politician. The way to get around it is, there is not any! And unfortunately there will not be any until the fish go endangered and governments put a sanction on eating fish.

You must by now understand that there is an art to being lazy. You cannot be lazy just in one day because it takes a lot of lying around and not doing anything. It also requires persistence, leadership skills and a made up diploma in law. Now that you have gained some insight into the world of the indolent lot you must think that they have got the upper hand in life. Sure we do!

Hitoishi Chakma

The battles we fight

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle".

I can say with conviction that there is not a single person in this world who has not, at one point or the other, wanted to someone else, perhaps anybody else than his own self or someone in particular, but someone else nonetheless. What almost always remain under lock and key, however, are perhaps the unique problems and hurdles each of us go through, perhaps truer than ever for those who are classified as role models. A particular girl is the perfect sportswoman one can ever think of. She excels in every sport starting from volleyball to basketball to handball. She plays like her life depends on the game, and the people around her try to copy her and aspire to be as good a sportswoman. She has dozens of photographs where she's flashing her million-dollar smile and holding up glittery trophies. Very few know the secret hidden behind that smile.

She has a sibling who suffers from a particular disorder and who will never fully be able to function as an individual. Worse yet, her sibling may die within the next few years as is usually the case with patients of that disorder. It is her sibling's face that she remembers when she's playing a game, and it is her pain and desperation that she's trying to overcome by playing so hard. Sports is her solace, not her source of pleasure, but the people around her hardly seem to notice anything amiss.

Then there is the ideal good student. He gets distinctions by the dozen, and is either highly admired or completely looked down on. He does so well perhaps because there's a deep-rooted fear working from deep within. He's afraid of letting his parents down even though they've never forced him in any way. He's afraid of the murmurs behind his back- 'Academics was the only thing he was good at- but now he isn't performing up to the par even in that'. He has everything to lose, but nothing much too gain. The stakes are too high and this is what keeps him going- he has to excel even by neglecting his own health if he has to.

There is the nice guy hiding behind the facade of the mean guy, because he's afraid of not conforming- he knows he won't be accepted if he's his real self because then he won't be funny anymore. There is the overly dressed and always surrounded snobbish girl who knows that one day her beauty will fade and her charms will be lost and this is what propels her to the extremities of spending hours at the beauty parlour every week and spending thousands on the most trivial of accessories.There is the ridiculously good orator who is known for his magnificent words but not for the bouts of stage fright that he had to fight before every performance in his early days nor for his fear of failure of living up to the expectations of the crowd, and most importantly, of himself. Almost everyone has a mask- an innate defense system- put on seldom by some for temporary relief and put on so often by others that it becomes a part of their existence. It's just that some people are very good actors- so good that you can't even catch them at their trade- and some aren't. So the next time you want to be someone else, try to see beyond the glitzy package-if you're lucky the person might truly be content, but if you're unlucky you might just see the hollow, empty eyes . Perhaps then you'll realize that maybe, just maybe, you're better off as yourself after all.

By Anika Tabassum


THE walls are white, the floors a stretch of sparkling linoleum that smell of disinfectant. The orange juice that my older sister spilled a moment back has been wiped off. So now the room smells of orange juice and disinfectant. Not an altogether pleasant smell.

My mother stands at the kitchen sink, washing dishes in a small pool of dishwasher bubbles. Her rubber gloves make a squeaky sound as she rinses and dries. She wears an apron, has her hair tied back from her face, and every few minutes she stops to look into the living room on the other side of the kitchen counter where my sister is watching television. She will occasionally ask what my sister is watching. If she is satisfied with the reply, then my mother will resume washing the dishes. Otherwise, she will demand that my sister change channels.

I am sitting in the living room, too. My crayons are spread across the carpet. I am coloring in my coloring book. My mother does not come to check up on me.

This continues until my mother puts the last of the dishes away. Then she comes up to us and says, 'and what are you kids doing?'

'Watching TV,' my sister replies, and changes the channel.

'Coloring,' I tell my mother.

My mother bends to inspect my work. She sees the bright dollops of color and shakes her head disapprovingly. 'Dear, why did you color outside of the lines?'

I look at her blankly.

'You know,' she continues, 'it's not normal to color outside the lines. Normal people color inside the lines. They also know that trees aren't blue. But you colored your tree blue.'


'Trees are green, dear,' my mother says firmly, 'green, not blue. Everyone knows that.'

And Inot because I want to, but because my mother wants me tocolor over the blue and make my tree look (reasonably) green.

Now it is my sister's turn. My mother goes over and sits down next to her. My sister obliges by changing the channel.

'What were you watching?'

'This show.'

'On what?'

My sister hesitates, but she doesn't lie. 'Street magic,' she replies.

'Street magic? What have I told you about watching these shows?' my mother rises to her feet, her face reddening. 'You are not to watch anything that exposes you to these bad influences. Watch good, decent shows. Watch things that will help you get along at school. What good will street magic do to you? Will it help you learn algebra?'

'No, but it's fun'

'Television is not for fun.' My mother grabs the remote from my sister's hands and turns off the television. 'This world is not for fun. Now go to your room and do your homework.’

'But I've already done my homework! Besides, it's the weekend!'

'Just do as you're told.'

My sister gets up and grouches off.

My mother comes over to me again. By this time I have started on a new picture. It's a city scene, with a line of shops and a road and cars. This time I have taken care to color inside the lines, to color the streetlight yellow and the buildings white. The street is gray, the cars blue and black. This pleases my mother, who says, 'See? Now you're learning to color things the way they are.'

I ought to be pleased, but I'm not. Still, I say nothing.

'Now run along and wash your hands. It's time for lunch.'

I gather up my coloring things and start for the stairs. Two minutes later, I am splayed on the bottom stair, the crayons all over the place.

My mother rushes out of the kitchen. 'What happened?' she asks, nearly hysterical.

'Nothing. I just tripped.'

'Nothing?' my mother conjures up a first aid box from nowhere. 'Nothing? Can't you learn to be more careful?' she soaks cotton in antiseptic and cleans the tiny cut across my knee. 'What if this turns into an infection? What would you do then?'

'It's just a tiny cut…'

'Horrible things can happen from tiny cuts!' she tapes on a Band-Aid, and helps me to my feet. 'Can you walk?'

'Yes, mother.'

'Good. Because you're not going to the playground today.'

'What?' sudden tears spring to my eyes. 'Why not?'

'Because you cut yourself. And now if you go in the dust and amongst all those other kids, God knows what's going to happen to you. If this cut turns into an infection' my mother shakes her head firmly. 'No, you're staying home today.'

I sulk off to my room. Once more I see whitewashed walls, and a floor that smells of disinfectant. All my toys are put away in boxes. My coloring pencils and brushes are arranged in neat little piles on my desk. Storybooks are kept away in the bookshelf. Not a speck of dust in the room. Not a thing out of place.

I sit on the bed, careful not to wrinkle the bed sheet. It's a beautiful day outside. Sunny and bright. I can hear the kids next door jumping on their trampoline.

I look at the ceiling, then at the little patch of green trees you can see through my window. Then I look back down on my knee, at the Mickey Mouse Band-Aid.

I grab a hold of it and rip it off. My skin stings. Just a little. But guess what?

It's time to live a little dangerously.

By Shehtaz Huq

Book review

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

SOMETIMES silence will proclaim more about this novel that any sort of discourse, and conversely, one could rattle off into incessant dialogue of the whys and wherefores in minute detail. Doing one doesn't undermine the other and doing both means that something, somewhere about the book has resonated. It's all rather indescribable, really.

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a tale within a tale. Or rather, a tale running alongside another tale. Or rather, two tales setting off in opposite directions on a circular track.

On one hand you have the nameless narrator, living his life as a Calcutec in the ever-popular realm of Neo-Tokyo. Observant and insightful, he accepts all things around them without further question because of being reprogrammed in the past. More obtusely, the other narrative involves an equally nameless raconteur who has just entered a walled town known as the “End of the World”. Wrest of his shadow and his vision, he finds employment as a “dream-reader” tasked to decipher the strange thoughts emanating from unicorn skulls.

As the events ebb and flow, the question begins to form: will these two tales run past each other or will they culminate in a collision?

Despite a distinct air of eccentricity (unicorn skulls?), the story itself is an iridescent plot that segues a variety of styles in a way that defies logic and explanation. It gently suggests concepts that are vaguely recognisable, but then become tempered by the author into a unique movement of their own. You can call it many things, identifying the individual parts, but where this novel succeeds beautifully is as a holistic experience. You could safely say that it's positively Murakamiesque.

In essence, it's quite a gripping book, with any confusion urging you to read on and resultantly, becoming engrossed in two equally fascinating worlds. Delving through one man's life with fears of an ongoing tech-war, a strange past and an ominous future, and then switching gears to a simpler but no less mesmerising tale of being torn between clawing curiosity and covetous freedom, you'll discover a surrealism like no other. Quite frankly, it's as weird as hell; yet, you can't help but be drawn in.

While I can't really comment about the original work, the translation has enough personality that one feels that the intentions of the author have been professed with accuracy. The style is clean and uncluttered, with sharp descriptions and clever writing that manages to avoid a callous abuse of adjectives yet paints vivid pictures in your mind.

Whether or not it makes sense or perhaps moulds itself into an understanding endemic to each person reading it, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World stands as a work of provocative, surreal proportions. It's insane, it's imaginative and it's probably unlike anything you'll have ever read, or will be daring to read. Go on then, take the plunge.

By Azfarul Islam



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