What I'm talking about is, of course, nothing else than… Pens. Wonderful little objects, they are. Full of liquid inside them called ink, which comes in various colours and different shapes of containers. In fact, there is possibly an endless sort of variation to them. But, we have our own popular sorts. You'll find a lot of brands to be extensively in use by everyone, and many shunned for their… design, colour, aaaand… stupidity, in general, I guess. Given below is a list of some of the better ones out there.
Econo: This was a pen that was severely and very much the 'in' thing, back when the older teenagers of now where mere toddlers then. I grew up watching these things being used to cinders. In one case, literally, when I was experimenting what happens this weird white plastic thingy was put to flames. The result was not nice. The smell makes you think you live in a dumpster, and the fumes just burn your eyes. Back then, they used to cost about 3 to 5 taka. Probably. If I'm not mistaken, the price isn't much different now. But, I have not been in touch with the market for quite a while, so, heed this not for sure certainty. These come in the general black, blue and red colour. Possibly, a green existed.
Matador: This is like a remastered version of the last one mentioned. Least of my favourite sort, the shaft of this one is slightly transparent, or merely transparent looking, and is a singular colour, perfectly circular in shape. The obnoxious thing about this, in my opinion, is its apparent stickiness, about which I have yet to find out whether it's just me, or if it's just the pen. It comes in varying colours and shades. Not the ink, no. As far as I've seen, I've only seen black. Blue and red possibly exists. Green is a probability. No. The colour that I'm talking about is the vessel. Ranging from light pink to light yellow, the Matador (8 taka, only. Get yours today!!!) is as ugly a pen as any pen can get. You'll buy a red coloured one, hoping that you can finally cross out those annoying mistakes from your students' exam paper, but you'll go home to find out it's only merely regular black. Irritants, at their very best. Oh, and using them gives me the willies. The last thing to give me a willies was… an unspeakable act of monstrosity. You have been warned.
Cello Gripper: This one is my favourite, by far. The shaft is a triangularly shaped transparent plastic, with rubbery material (matching ink colour) for better grippage, with cool dentations. When the ink runs out, you can throw the old cartridge away, and simply add a new one for your convenience. One reason why this was my favourite, was that you could do colour combinations. Add a blue cartridge to a black CG, or a black to a blue, and you'd have one cool looking pen, the envy of your peers. Yes, indeed. Sadly, the blue inked one was out of market for a significant amount of time, which did nothing to gain popularity, rather it propelled the gel-cartridged pen, “Montex” to fame. But, CG's back, as far as I saw. So, perhaps we'll see more of this beaut in action, very soon. 12 taka only.
Montex Hy-Speed: One wonders why they're called Hy-Speed. Perhaps, it enables the user to write really fast. But, not really. Never happened to me. Anyways. This piece of equipment isn't bad, as far as your dear reviewer is concerned. It's a more simplified version of the Gripper, in terms of appearance, with the same transparent shaft, but this time circular, within which you can see how much ink you have left. I don't know why these are called Gel-Pens, but I know that there is a (possibly) gel like substance at the back of the ink to keep it from… (because there's a removable back-cap) leaking? I'm not entirely certain, however I'm pretty sure that these things are not refillable, possibly it's only drawback. The ink dries up quickly enough, which removes the possibility of smudges and what not. Between the Montex and the Gripper, it'd be a close battle if one was to decide which the better was. However, if you're a fan of ballpoint pens, then your weapon of choice is the Gripper. If you're inclined towards the GelPens, chose the Montex. These, too, are 12 taka only, I think. Colours- Black, blue, red, green, olive, grey, and possibly white.
Parker: These are very elegant, and posh-looking, albeit significantly cheaper than your real posh pens. At taka 45, they're quite handy to have and very good for signatures. They are, also, I think, refillable. Comes in black, blue, red and green. Other than being very good looking, this doesn't have any particular features. Go for this if you want real style at cheap prices. Price- 50 taka or more.
Miscellaneous: In this world of arts and crafts, there are just too many pens to properly tell about them. There are pens which talk, calculating pens, advise-giving pens, that cool exploding pen from James Bond, the pen that loves you, the pen that wants to kill you, the pen that can unmake you, the pen that can change the trousers time wears… However, about those, we have not been able to get sufficient and accurate enough information to advertise. In that regard, we must end this tale of tales. Remember, the pens ARE mightier than the swords. Of course… Only those swords that are plastic, and one inched in size, made for children to have fun with. Er. Never fight somebody with a pen, when they have a sword. Okay?
Quest for a story
YOU do realize that you haven't written anything for us in the last two months…'
'Err…yes sorry about that. Its hard to concentrate on articles when you have your A levels the next day..'
'Right. And the readers are deeply concerned about your results. I'm sure some of them will even send you postcards. The postcards will quite possibly be addressed to the RS. But how will you get them if you don't work here anymore? See where I'm getting at?'
'Umm…yeah...not a subtle point you're making there.'
'Good, good. It's good to see young minds using the old noggin every once in a while. So, write me a story in the next 24 hours, and we'll keep the postcards here for you. How does that sound?'
'Yes, ma'am. That sounds fair'
What's a story? How exactly do you write 'a story'? You can write ON something. You can write ABOUT something. You can even write AS something. I remember writing an autobiography of an owl when I was in class seven. Sure, these things are easy. But they all depend on you knowing what exactly that something is. I haven't been given the freedom to write on anything I want since I was in class one. And now that I have been given the freedom to write about anything I want, I'm stumped. This is what happens when you're so out of practice you don't even remember how to practice.
I went back home, forgot about the whole thing, played some games and went to sleep. Of course, when I woke up the next day I hadn't written any more of a story than I had when I left the office. It usually pays to actually think about something before you try to do it. That little useful habit, unfortunately, was not in my quaint and short list of virtues. So, I did the only thing that'd make me think. I took a rickshaw ride. That always clears my head up. It doesn't matter where I'm riding to, as long as I see a substantial portion of Dhanmondi while I'm at it.
The city has stories. Ten minutes in the street of Dhaka will give you the beginning, the ending, the plot, the cliff-hanger, the hero, the villain, and maybe even a damsel or two.
The ride wasn't smooth. I would be crazy to expect a rickshaw ride to be smooth. They're usually quite the lumbar pain inducer. I passed Pizza Corner, and noticed a couple coming out, only to be greeted by a bevy of street children. They will follow you to the ends of the earth if you promise them two bucks. I had tried. A little kid walked with me to Dhanmondi 27. Of course then I had to pay him a little extra. That's resilience for you.
The city is always so full of life. Even when you're stuck in a traffic jam, with the smoke being forced up your nostrils. Everybody is either busy doing something, or watching somebody else do something. That latter might be termed as standing idly, but it does require some amount of concentration. The fishmongers sell their koi mach and taki mach, made shiny with chemicals to give us the illusion of freshness. The grocers sell their brightly coloured vegetables, made bright with chemicals to give us the illusion of freshness. The fuchka wallas and the jhal muri wallas are busy selling their stuff to school children to satiate their after school hunger for about a minute or so. The school children add extra life to the streets. Sure, they make a lot of noise, jam up the roads, and disrupt the ecosystem in general. But without them there would be no rush hours. There would be perpetual harmony in the streets, where the only source of noise would be the jingles of the rickshaw bells and the barrage of profanities that follow.
I reached Road 27,and told the rickshaw ala to take a u-turn. It was strange how this particular day had to be the most eventless day I had ever seen. I remember once seeing an elephant parked in front of La Bamba. Apparently, it was the latest form of chadabaji. Its funny how nobody argues with a man on an elephant.
The not-so-intoxicating hustle and bustle seemed to increase as we approached noon. Soon I'd be up to my knees in school children and their over-concerned parents. The cars would appear out of nowhere, and, after the little futures of the country had been delivered to their respective destinations, disappear into nowhere again. I have always wondered how a country like Bangladesh can manage the overwhelming populace of car that it manages. We do not have a single working traffic signal right up till Uttara, and that's not even inside the city. The rush hours in Dhaka actually define 'rush hour' to a fairly accurate degree. You rush, and you take hours to reach the café across the street. No matter where you live, you are affected by the vehicular onslaught.
Back to planet Dhanmondi though. Not a single story! This was a first to be honest. A round trip of the streets and not a single story! Nobody crashed, no punks with Celicas, no RAB escorts. Why, I didn't even seen the usual drug addict rolling around making everybody smell the weed! And so, my quest for the elusive story continues....
By The Man with a Plan
A couple of years ago, back in the days when I still watched television, there was this ludicrous trailer out for some tacky Bollywood movie about a purple car named Tarzan, of all things, that had a life of its own. A psycho car.... There was no way the makers of that 2-bit movie actually came up with the concept, so the question was, where did they find the inspiration for such a thing? Who could possibly be nuts enough to dream up a sentient car with deadly intentions? Who indeed but Stephen King?
The story, told in three parts, centres around Arnie Cunningham, the token high-school loser, who, on impulse buys a dilapidated 1958 Plymouth from an old war veteran called Roland LeBay, ignoring the pleadings by his only friend Dennis Guilder. It turns out to be a bad buy in more than one sense of the word when the car, whom Arnie lovingly refers to as 'Christine' turns out to have a few tricks up its....err, bonnet, and a couple of skeletons in its closet.
The first and final parts of the narrative is rendered in the first person, from the point of view of Dennis, with the middle part being narrated in the third person, while Dennis is in the hospital, and thus out of commission We see how Arnie goes from a pimple-faced pushover to a handsome, arrogant, and angry young man with an unhealthy obsession for his car. If that in itself isn't a bit weird, things get really messy when people who crossed Arnie start dying gruesome deaths, all car-related. Yet, despite Arnie's strong motives for murder, and the trail that keeps pointing back to Christine, there's never any prosecutable evidence that either was involved in any of the deaths. While the police are puzzling over the mystery, Arnie's parents, his girlfriend Leigh, and Dennis, united in their deep distrust of Christine, all watch with growing dismay as the Arnie they all knew and loved slowly transforms into someone completely alien to them.
Now, King definitely deserves kudos for being a very innovative author. The initial idea behind each of his stories is usually refreshing in a bizarre way, and he has a very strong narrative voice. His characters too, are gritty and believable. The best part about the story, and indeed, most of King's story is the sense of nostalgia he manages to create, fleshing it out with little details about the snacks the kids enjoyed, or the music they listened to...it's like living through Bryan Adams' Summer of '69.
Having said that, having read some of the best works by King, I can safely say this was not one of them. As was the problem with Rose Madder, King doesn't seem to know where to stop. He spoils a perfectly ingenious plot with one crazy car scene too many, and then adds to the overkill by going on and on about Christine's history, and LeBay and his sordid past. Nevertheless, this book makes a perfect time-pass, and with a movie adaptation to its name, it's got to be worth a read, right?
By Sabrina F Ahmad
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