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Smoking away life

Years ago, back when the dinosaurs roamed on this earth, I, as a child saw my grandfather put a cigarette between his teeth, and then thump his pockets, looking for matches. When he finally found what he was looking for, he lit the cigarette, inhaled, and let out steams of smoke through his nostrils, and mouth. To me he looked like a senile dragon, which inhaled smoke, and actually enjoyed it. “When I grow up?? I want to smoke like dada!” I remember saying to my mom. Looking back now, I wouldn't even touch those grisly sticks of Satan, even if I were given a million dollars!

This may seem comical when I say that I haven't smoked, not even once, in my whole life. Although the fact that the government of Bangladesh has imposed a fine to anyone smoking in public places, cigarettes are smoked by people of all classes and all age groups! Starting from rickshaw pullers usual treat, the “biri”, and the middle class officers puffing on Marlboro light to the men in black suits drawing in their Havanas cigarettes or tobacco or whatever you call it, has turned into the IN thing. Smoking has become a thing which is, well, just COOL! Teens enjoy showing off to others that they have grown up by just pulling out a cigarette and popping it in his mouth! Whether I am not cool or not, but I don't understand how can one be COOL by smelling like a chimney! I remember a friend of mine once said: “Smokers are losers!” and frankly speaking, what is to be gained by smoking?

The roots of cigarettes can be traced back in history books. The history of smoking can be dated to as early as 5000 BC, and has been recorded in many different cultures across the world. Early smoking evolved in association with religious ceremonies; as offerings to deities, in cleansing rituals or to allow shamans and priests to alter their minds for purposes of divination or spiritual enlightenment. Many ancient civilizations, such as the Babylonians, Indians and Chinese, burnt incense as a part of religious rituals, as did the Israelites and the later Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches. In Ancient Greece, smoke was used as healing practice and the Oracle of Delphi made prophecies while intoxicated by inhaling natural gases from a natural bore hole. Tobacco is an agricultural product, recognized as an addictive drug, processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. The word nicotiana was named in honor of Jean Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who in 1559 sent it as a medicine to the court of Catherine de Medici. Although once used in traditional medicines, a recent surveys shows that tobacco smoke is the second largest cause of death worldwide, and is reported to have been responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th century.

Butan has stepped out to set an example by making tobacco sales illegal. Though many countries are trying to take a leaf from Bhutan's book, the rate of tobacco consumption is increasing at an alarming rate. In the developing world, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4% per year. And the sad part is that the number of tobacco consumers are increasing day by day. Researchers discovered that cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence produces significant health problems among young people, including cough and phlegm production, an increase in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness, an unfavorable lipid profile and potential retardation in the rate of lung growth and the level of maximum lung function. Most importantly, this is when an addiction forms which often persists into adulthood.

The electronic media is also responsible for the increase in publicity of tobacco. I mean, whenever I turn the TV on, I see commercials of superstars, being flocked by the most gorgeous women, just because they smoke a specific brand of Marlboro cigarettes or chew a particular Baba Pan Masala, which is not only harmful for the teeth and gums, but also contains high proportions of nicotine. If this was not enough, some lounge and restaurants in Dhaka supply their customers with sheesha which is a flavored (chocolate, cherry and strawberry, I don't know if there are more) and perfumed form of our traditional hookah, which once upon a time, signified grandeur and high social status!

Other forms of tobacco which is consumed everyday are: Chewing tobacco, or Jorda, which is used in beetle leaves. (Make sure your grandmother reads this part!) Snuff, which is taken through the nostrils. Guul, which is consumed by placing it under the upper lip for extended periods of time.

So what do we gain by smoking besides bad breath, reducing the athletic performance, increased risk of illness and stinking like a skunk? There are no physical reasons to start smoking. The body doesn't need tobacco the way it needs food, water, sleep, and exercise. In fact, many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are actually poisons that can kill in high enough doses. The body is smart. It goes on the defense when it's being poisoned. For this reason, many people find that it takes several tries to get started smoking: First-time smokers often feel pain or burning in the throat and lungs, and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few times they try tobacco. It is also the primary cause of lungs cancer and asthma!

A great man once said that it is ok to smoke, as long as your friend pays for it. But the truth is that a poison is a poison, no matter who is paying for it. Staying smoke free will give you a whole lot more of everything more energy, better performance, better looks, more money in your pocket, and, in the long run, more life to live! Life is precious, running after something which costs only Tk. 5 is not worth risking it.

By The Dark Lord
Special thanks to F.S.

Unfound Gratitude

Clark is getting ready to graduate from his university. He is a valedictorian and today he will deliver his speech in front of all his professors and fellow students. As he was getting ready to deliver his speech he took some time to look back at his earlier life, just before he joined college, just before he and his father who loved him so much parted ways.

He was always a very ambitious person. His father was not a very well off person and was a farmer. He owned a farm outside the suburb and made enough living to support his wife and his son. Even when Clark was very young, he always wished he could live in the city along with all his rich friends from the city. He was aware of the fact that his father is a simple farmer, but he hated being a farmer. He always thought that his fate would make him a bigger person. He had the dream of being a famous lawyer one day and wanted to join law school. But studying law was very expensive and there weren't any scholarships around. He finished his college with very good grades and wanted his father to at least pay the starting year for his university. The rest, he thought, he could manage by doing internships under his professors.

Clark's knew that the startup cost for studying law was huge and something his father would not be able to provide for. The expense would also have to cover his living. He knew one way to manage that money is to sell off his father's old farm. This, his old man will never do. But he argued, he is the only son, and being a lawyer would make him rich enough to support his family and more. But this farm has been in his father's family for generations and he would never ever let it go. He still went on to insist to his father. What followed was a heated argument, followed by Clark storming out of the house, promising never to return. He also promised that one day he would become a lawyer out of his own money and show his father what he is capable of.

Today that day had come. He is finally a lawyer. He has already earned a very good contract with the biggest law firm in the city. In the last 6 years, he had not had any connections or communications with either his father or his mother. It hurt him, for he knew how much they loved him, their only son. But he was ambitious and adamant, and would know to sacrifice their parental love for the cost of success. He had invited his parents to the graduation ceremony, but as he looked down from the podium, they were not to be there. It was yet time for him to start the speech, so he thought a little bit more about how he started off in this law school.

He looked around for help and support from his friends. He would need at least some amount to pay off the initial semester fees. He applied and was accepted in the biggest law school, and he had to pay to start his first year. None of his friends reached out their hand for help. Some of them were rich enough to give him some money, but it seemed that when it came to money and help, they were not to be found. He was sad and dejected, knowing that he couldn't go back to his family as a failure. He started working part-time in a garage.

The owner of the garage was his father's old time friend Mr. Tennyson. He knew about Clark's plight and wanted to help him as much as possible. He didn't want to ask him for help, even though he was very well off, that would not be very diligent. However, one day, after working for many weeks, his boss called him and said that he was impressed by his honesty and wanted to give him some money to help him join school. He took the kindness promising to pay him off. But he refused to take money back, saying that he was simply returning the debt which his father had once given him when he was in trouble. Clark was ecstatic and he joined school.

In his speech, Clark addressed himself as a self-made man and said that he would not have come this far if family love would have gold him back. But nevertheless he thanked his father. Still disturbed that his father and mother had not come to see him on such an honorable day, he decided to travel back to his old firm.

It's been 6 long years and many things have changed. He couldn't recognize his old house. In there was a new house, and when he looked, his parents didn't live there. He asked for his parent's new address and found out that it was the address of this old farm. He started for it. In side the farm, beside the barn was a newly built frail hut. As he entered there, he found out that there were a lot of people there. As he inquired, he was shocked to know that his father had died last night of heart attack. All this time he waited to meet him, he couldn't make it till the end. He felt a pang of remorse and also anger, for not being able to show him that he has finally kept his promise. He went out to his mother and she embraced him after such a long time.

After everybody was gone, Clark asked his mother why they had let go of their old home, and she told him that they couldn't make ends meet so his father had to sell it off. Yet again he was angered a bit as he could have helped them, but as prude his father was, he wouldn't come to him. He started to go through his belongings.

As he was going through his old man's things, he came across a file containing school documents and reports from his toddler years at school to college. His father had carefully managed to store every success he had in his school to his college. He was amazed that his father was so proud of him and his achievements, even when he was a toddler. Going through the file, suddenly, a piece of paper fell through. It was a deed. It was a deed of their old firm. Their old home was sold off to Mr. Tennyson, the owner of the garage he worked for a few weeks. Then finally he understood what his father had done. His father did not want to sell off the farm, so he sold off the house to provide for his son's education, The son who had left him in a fit of rage. That son, who had called himself a self made man in front of everybody, denying that much of his success today and of yesterday, was much indebted to all the sacrifices his parents, specially his father had made. Today, he was a rich successful lawyer, but a failed son, a poor son who could not get the blessing of the only man who made him what he was today.

By Monty Python

Book review

The Amber Spyglass

Armageddon, the Second Coming, the Final Battle...call it what you may, several authors, artists and filmmakers have been fascinated by the theme of an ultimate showdown, the battle to end all battles. Philip Pullman seems to be no different, as is clearly evident in the final book in his Dark Materials trilogy.

A brief skinny for the uninitiated: The Dark Materials trilogy borrows from the parallel universe theory to bring us a story that spans across many worlds. In the first book, Northern Lights, we meet Lyra Belaqua, who lives in Oxford in a world where people's souls manifest themselves in the form of animal-shaped daemons, which are their inseparable companions. We join Lyra, her daemon Pantalaimon, and her marvellous alethiometer (a truth-telling device), on a perilous quest to save her friend Roger, who has been taken by the fearsome Gobblers, who are reputed to kidnap children and take them to the forbidding fortress of Bolvanger in the North, where unspeakable things are done to the children. Even as Lyra rushes to her friend's rescue, we learn that she is no ordinary child, and will play an important role in events of cosmic proportions.

In the second book The Subtle Knife, Lyra meets Will Parry, a boy from another world, who is hiding from the authorities after having accidentally killed someone who had been harassing his mentally unstable mother. The two team up, and Will comes into possession of a knife that is said to be able to cut through the fabric that separates the worlds. Even as Will is trying to understand the ramifications of possessing such an object, events all around the two children come into a boil, ready for some final confrontation.

When the final book opens, Lyra lies in a drugged sleep inside a cavern, struggling to awaken, and being plagued by horrible nightmares. In another world, Will is desperately trying to rescue his friend. It becomes a race, as in other realms, there are forces that are trying to kill Lyra, or to take the knife from Will. Also awaiting the sleeping Lyra is a quest that could be the riskiest undertaking ever attempted. The stage is set for some serious action, so grab the book for a slice of the entertainment.

Once again, if you feel strongly about Christianity, or religions in general, I would not advise this book because Pullman engages in some serious church-bashing, and borrows freely from mythology and religious texts to create his canvas. Whether one supports his views or not, the series deserves kudos for style and daring.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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