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(Part III)

Once (again) upon a time, there was a student entering a new school. Surprisingly, new girl (NG) was not suffering from the nervous disorder that comes from changing schools; but then again, this could be because she was tired enough of her old school to realize that where she was going was way better than where she had been; so she entered, completed all the routine procedures and headed to the library in her free period.

40 minutes later. NG enters classroom and is charged by an equally simple, if unknown and previously unnoticed girl (SG) charging her with questions. "Where were you? I've been looking for you." NG is pleasantly surprised. NG and SG began talking. Most friendships began with good, stimulating conversation between two people of evenly matched calibres. So do theirs.

SG introduces NG to her whole circle of friends, draws her into conversation whenever she feels awkward and talks disarmingly of her ideas- so ordinary yet so different in the courage to pursue her dreams. They match each other in their disregard to shorten the length of their school uniforms to appear more 'fashionable' and their unwillingness to deck themselves with make-up and basically follow any of those invisible rules of teenage fashion. They are, in other words, what many other students would term, 'uncool', simply because they set their own rules.

One day, SG straightens her hair. Or does she rebond it? Anyway, she does one of those things that people do to make themselves more glamorous. NG watches but does not say anything- she is merely a little hurt by what she clearly thinks is an invisible violation of the code they had previously adhered to.

3 years pass. Both girls are shifted to different sections. NG is no longer the new girl and SG is no longer the simple girl. NG has made a bunch of other friends with those who have accepted her for who she is- the plain Jane if there ever was one. SG has morphed into the sort of gorgeous woman that advertisement agencies hunt for. With her beauty and new-found popularity, the once-simple-girl finds it increasingly easier to forge new friendships and get her whims more easily fulfilled. She moves with ease among the cooler circles, with the people who have already accepted her in their group.

Needless to say, they do not talk much. Why would they? Things change when one person changes and the other does not. The once-new-girl does not want to embarrass the once-simple-girl in front of her newest friends, so she talks to her as less as possible and converses only when the once-simple-girl talks to her. The once-new-girl does not hold any grudges against the once-simple-girl, who was, after all, her first friend, but she does not see her friend in the once-simple-now-gorgeous-girl either. She does not know if SG feels anything like the regret she feels about a friendship lost in the nooks of time.She tries to tell herself that she still has many more friends to worry about that one friend. In her mind, though, NG still hears echoes of 'Where were you? I've been looking for you'- the words that SG might not even remember uttering. Or does she?

By Anika Tabassum

Carrying the Red Passport

In retrospect I think it was my best friend's attempt at explaining my one day absence from school that fuelled rumors in my high school in the UK that I was in fact a princess from Bangladesh. I distinctly remember Sophie helpfully piping in that I was in London on the day in question, attending a tea party at Buckingham palace. The further revelation that I had a chauffeur and a maid placed me on the pedestal of royalty. The questions, amazement and intrigue that followed were not entirely appreciated.

My lifestyle was considered fascinating. I was born with the opportunity to travel around the world and lose myself in diverse cultures. There was only one problem. To this day, I cannot confine myself to the norms of a particular culture and feel like I truly belong.

When my family moved to Bangladesh from the UK in 2005 the culture shock we collectively faced was huge. My younger brother bore it the worst but a surprisingly few people understood his trauma. Given our background, he was expected to efficiently adjust into his new environment. No matter how hard we tried, however, he was unable to stop comparing the two countries and understand their differences.

Although older and more experienced, I had the same mindset. On my first day of school in Bangladesh I was frustrated and bewildered to the point where I did not care about the large number of faces that stared at me as I began a passionate rant in the middle of a Mathematics class.

Conversations were always easy to start as my then British accent stimulated curiosity. To carry a conversation through after the enchanting the listener with my recollections of living in Sri Lanka, Moscow and Manchester, however, was unbearable. The other person usually proceeded to describe Bangladesh and her beauties, in turn reducing me to a tourist. Looking back, my feelings were paradoxical. While I wanted to learn more about this new country, I also wanted to hold onto the illusion that I at least knew the ways of my own country by default.

Sophie's visit to Bangladesh changed everything. For the first time I was relied upon to initiate someone into a new culture. I was no longer the learning tourist but an individual aware of her surroundings. At the same time I noticed in Sophie an eagerness to be informed. She asked me about Bangladesh in terms of education, politics and communications without hesitation or the embarrassment of being judged for not knowing. This role reversal widened my perspective and helped me open up to the people who I now consider to be some of my closest friends.

The whole process has recently started again since I moved to Brandeis University in the US from The Netherlands. Except this time, I know my mistake. When I did not know what the popular phrase “B.S it” meant, I asked. I have been told that Hummus is a condiment made out of seasoned chickpeas. My roommate and my neighbor have explained the political situation in America. I am learning and although there is no end to learning, I am motivated by those rare moments of my life during which I lost my self consciousness and allowed myself to belong.

I do feel sorry, nevertheless, for the poor soul who asks me where I am from.

“I am originally from Bangladesh”, comes my reply

“But you have a bit of a British accent. Did you used to live in England?”.

“I have lived there, but my family is in The Netherlands now. My father is a diplomat”.

By Nashrah Rahman

Laff Lines?

Say again?
A group of junior-level executives were participating in a management training program. The seminar leader pounded home his point about the need to make decisions and take
action on these decisions.
"For instance," he said, "if you had five frogs on a log and three of them decided to jump, how many frogs would you have left on the log?"
The answers from the group were unanimous: "Two."
"Wrong," replied the speaker, "there would still be five because there is a difference between deciding to jump and jumping."

The game
"There's an asteroid heading toward the earth and we're all going to die. There is! Scientists are saying there's a 1 in 45,000 chance of an asteroid hitting the earth in 2036.
Now an asteroid is a giant rock. It's headed toward the earth. We should send up a giant piece of paper. We couldn't send scissors; that would be impractical." -Craig Ferguson

Show me the money
"Here's a sign that people in California have too much money. Have you heard about this? People are now doing yoga with their dog. Yoga for dogs. Who's this for? Dogs that want to stick their necks out the car window a little further?"
-Jay Leno

A husband reading a newspaper says to his wife, "You know, honey, I think there might be some real merit to what this article says, that the intelligence of a father often proves
a stumbling block to the son."
"Well, thank heaven," said the wife, "at least our James has nothing standing in his way."

Battle of will
An 80 year old man went to the doctor for a checkup and the doctor was amazed at what good shape the guy was in. The doctor asked, "To what do you attribute your good health?"
The old timer said, "I'm a golfer and that's why I'm in such good shape. I'm up well before daylight and out golfing up and down the fairways."
The doctor said, "Well, I'm sure that helps, but there's got to be more to it. How old was your father when he died?"
The old timer said, "Who said my father's dead?"
The doctor said, "You mean you're 80 years old and your father is still alive? How old is he?"
The old timer said, "He's 100 yrs old and, in fact, he golfed with me this morning. That's why he's still alive, he's a golfer."
The doctor said, "Well, that's great, but I'm sure there's more to it. How about your grandfather? How old was he when he died?"
The old timer said, "Who said my grandpa's dead?"
The doctor said, "You mean you're 80 years old and your grandfather's still living! How old is he?"
The old timer said, "He's 118 yrs old."
The doctor was getting frustrated at this point and said, "I guess he went golfing with you this morning too?"
The old timer said, "No...Grandpa couldn't go this morning because he got married."
The doctor said in amazement, "Got married! Why would a 118-year-old guy want to get married?"
The old timer shot back, "Who said he wanted to?"

Book Review

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by John Irving

Maine authors have this penchant for writing great haunting books. Take Stephen King, he wrote enough about haunting stuff to last one a liftetime… and engender in a person an unprecedented hatred for clowns. But King aside, another great Maine author John Irving writes about things not to do with clowns.

In this book, Irving writes through the eyes of one John Wheelwright, a teacher at a school in Canada who grew up in a small town in New Hampshire. John Wheelwright recounts his childhood growing up and tells the readers how his friendship with a certain Owen Meany throughout his childhood changed and greatly influenced his life. John actually credits his unflinching belief in God to the events he witnessed with Owen Meany.

Now, the title mentions Meany, so we can't really ignore him. Owen is a small, short stocky little individual, small enough that while other kids grew up he remained quite diminutive. Along with his unusual size is Meany's voice, which is high pitched and resembles a perpetual scream. The story in the book revolves around the numerous adventures and experiences John and Owen had while going to a private boy's boarding school, playing basball and shaping tombstones. Oh yeah, Owen Meany's family owns a quarry, and they make tombstones.

John and Owen have always been the best of friends, and Owen has always been in love with John's mom. Both the boys are fascinated by her, her mysterious singing classes and her silence about the identity of John's father. All she mentions is that they met on the train. Over time Tabitha (John's mom) marries again. But the story takes a lurch when in a baseball match the tiny Owen hits a ball so hard it flies through the air and hits Tabitha, ending her life. Even through all this the boys remain friends.

The setting of the book shuttles between modern times and the 50s and the 60s. John's childhood was part of a tumultuous time in history, and the start and end of the Vietnam War adds a whole new angle to the story. As the boys grow up and go to college, their lives become more and more complicated as Owen's own family problems surface. Setting things even more difficult is Owen's own rigid belief in God and the subsequent visions he has sometimes. Visions which he claims will come true at some point.

Irving is a master at weaving believable, albeit weird plots. With Owen Meany he creates a character as haunting as it is powerful and he doesn't stop there as the narrator John Wheelwright gives the book that personal feel. Over the course of the book you really start feeling all the anxieties and pain that all the characters face as the world around them changes in ways they can't control.

The Vietnam War has been fodder for a lot of good American literature, but Irving's masterpiece puts the war in a whole different and more personal perspective. His writing style, his slow, languid pace that is reminiscent of life itself gives a realistic feeling to the book that very few others contain.

The book has been acted out in the movie Simon Birch, although it can't be said the movie did true justice to it. It's one of those stories that need the imagination of words that only books can fuel. I found my copy in Nilkhet and if you're looking for a good read, this book's it.

By Tareq Adnan



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