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A Lot Like Christmas

“Oh the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful and since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….”
(Vaughn Monroe)

“Dude, I hate that song, stop humming it…”

“What? Christmas spirit and everything, come on man!”

“Yeah, well it doesn't snow here. And, we happen to be outside, without a blazing fire to make it all right?”

“Details, who needs them? It's almost Christmas! Shouldn't there be mistletoe or something?”

“Okay, I don't get it, how come you're so excited? I mean, I'm the one who's having the turkey?”

“Turkey? Really? Can I come over?”

“Sometimes I wonder why I even hang out with you…”

“No really, turkey? Like those big chickens?”

*Sigh*

It was four in the afternoon. A day before the day his parents went crazy trying to uphold traditions that he couldn't connect to. It was hard to imagine a corpulent red suited man going down chimneys in Dhaka. Reindeers would probably end up in some butcher's shop. But that was just like Melvin.

Jingly music, he almost jumped up thinking he'd committed Claus-ic blasphemy. And then he noticed the phone. With a new ring tone he didn't recognize. Beside him Zaid cracked up.

“Ha. Ha. Where'd you get this?”

“Amazing thing, the internet,” Zaid said, between snuffles.

It was an SMS.

“Mok at 4. B thr n tym.”

Translation: He was late.

“Run Run Rudolph, Santa's gonna make it to town,
Santa, make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down…”
(Chuck Berry)

Traffic jam… Melvin was sweating in the CNG, Zaid beside him was plugged into headphones that blared Berry's riffs. Melvin wondered how the dude managed to listen to music that loud.

“We are so failing math…”

“What?”

“You have a debilitating hair disease right?”

“Yeah.”

“I thought so too.”

It was the little things that made life better.

It took them almost an hour to get to the coaching place on time. Everybody else was already done with one unit and the teacher glared fire at them. At Zaid more like, who was still living in Riffland through his head phones.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn't call your parents right now?”

The accent always, almost, made Melvin laugh, but this was serious. Enough calls had already been made. And Melvin knew there was only one thing to do. Well, if it came to confessions later on, he could at least say he was desperate.

“Ah sir. Tomorrow's Christmas and um, it's a bit busy at home and Zaid was supposed to pick me up. I'm sorry we're late.”

“Kalke Christmas? Taito. Acha acha, thik ache. If you start now, you can still manage to finish before 7 I think,”

Santa won't mind. At least Melvin hoped not.

“And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,”
(Johnny Mathis)

“You know, I really hoped you guys wouldn't have had classes this week. Can't you take at least tomorrow off?”

Mom; on the phone; right after the mock; calling to ask him if he would be home in time for the big dinner. He'd had trouble explaining to Zaid that big dinner did not mean turkey and sweet cream pie. It meant everything Bangali except they said grace before they dug in.

“I don't know, I'll try. And I'll be home on time, seeya,”

The mock had gone well, integration and cosine graphs didn't seem as hard as they normally did; although he did pretend the exam went just like every other one - bad. In case Zaid said something like the Christmas spirit helped him out.

It had been hard for Melvin fitting in, ever since he was a kid. He was always different from the multitudes because he didn't have what they did and they didn't have what he did. Celebrations, holidays all seemed somehow out of place all the time. But people like Zaid had managed to make things easier for him. Although he'd never admit it, Zaid cracking jokes about it made it easier to get on with. Sure, Christmas wasn't as special as they made it out on TV, but it never usually is. You need snow for that; and no classes with impending exams in January.

“Hey, Zaid, you've never been given a Christmas present have you?”

“Why do you ask?” a little hint of hope in his voice.

“Yeah, don't get your hopes up,”

“Ah…”

Yeah, it was so much easier to deal with life, and a boring Christmas, if you could do it with a smile.

“It'll be the perfect ending of a perfect day
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop”
(Glen Campbell)

“That's a good song,”

“Yeah, see, I told you. So what if it's old?”

Zaid was trying to sell him some old pop tune. And surprisingly, even though the tune was achingly clichéd, Melvin liked it.

One of the few things to look forward to in life was rickshaw rides with music to tune out the traffic. They were doing that now. The problem was you never want the music to end and you never want to reach home. But Melvin's stop was here.

“Seeya man,”

“Uh hey Melvin, you didn't mind me cracking jokes did you?” asked Zaid with a tentative look on his face.

“Don't worry. Come Ramadan, I'll do worse.” Melvin replied.

“Haha, we'll see. Save me a bit of turkey.”

“Yeah, right.”

Five stories up and he was home. His mom had hung some flowers on the apartment door, improvisation because mistletoe wasn't native to Dhanmondi.

“You're late!”

“I had a mock. Exams in Jan remember?”

“Well you could have taken two days, it wouldn't have hurt.” Mom, always trying to find that great Christmas cheer…

He went straight to his room, where his mother had cleaned up a bit after him. A cold shower (he knew it would turn up a cold in the morning through a sneezy nose) and a change of clothes and he was ready for the family gathering.

After which would come a night full of studying, tomorrow was another Christmas promising another mock exam. He noticed the little wrapped present, but he wouldn't open it now. Some things must be done right.

“It's Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing”
(Atlantic Starr)

People started arriving, relatives, cousins, uncles and aunts. Tomorrow morning it would be a trip to the church before Melvin ran for it to meet another late exam. Of course tomorrow there would be no need to explain. And Zaid would probably turn up with a new slew of jokes to keep his spirits up.

“Where's dad?” a difficult question, he could see his mother's smiling face blanch for just a moment.

“He had to work, but he'll come. Don't worry.”

Ah, so much for family togetherness. Melvin's little brother was running around with the new toy car he'd just got. Christmas was still special to him, school was out for elections and for once, the holidays were actually holidays. Melvin envied him.

Jingly music, he almost jumped again. He still hadn't figured out when Zaid had put that on his cell.

SMS: “Whr's my trkey?”

Translation: Zaid keeping things real.

Melvin smiled. Through all the hassle of everyday Dhaka life, it was still Christmas, it was still special. And he at least had a friend to hang out with tomorrow. Maybe Zaid would get a present this year.

All he now had to do was find a big enough drumstick. And some candy cane. To keep things real of course.

By Tareq Adnan
(Da.phat.one@gmail.com)


Because dad said so

THE list of songs and movies on the ones we love seems to go on and on and on and on…….. (I think I should stop now). Friendship Day, to let our friends know how much we value them. Valentines Day, to let the special one know what they mean to us. Mother's Day to remind our moms that we can never pay their debts. And as I have mentioned before, the list is endless, like the Pizza Hut offer in Ramadan (!!??). But we never take the opportunity to thank the person standing beside our moms! The person whom we call Dad!

To some, the species called “Father” lies on top of the food chain. A person who leaves the house in the morning, only to return in the evenings, and tell us that we always neglect our studies. The person who doesn't know the difference between faded jeans, and rags. The person, who with the help of his ally (cell phones) keeps track on us. The person who blasts through our bedroom door, and tells us to switch off the pc, and go to bed!

Although he sometimes seems really unfair, but one factor that we can deny is: he cares for us! Yes he seems really unfair, excessive, a barrier between our fun lives. But since when have we teens started to realize what's good for us? A father's wish comes true when his child grows up. Mr. Islam, a father of two says, “I always try to spend some time with my eldest son, because he is really stressed out after class. And I try to make him realize that he can shift his burden on my shoulders, and discuss his life with me, like a friend.” But the children think otherwise. “My dad always tries to interfere with my personal life. Why does he care if I am sad or not? Why doesn't he mind his own business?” Imagine the pain that might be inflicted into the father's heart, if he heard what his son had just said!

Yes, it seems our mothers care for us more than anyone else. But we must also remember that we men always had difficulty stringing words together to form sentences, especially when we show our emotions. No matter how much a father loves his children, he can never express his feelings. The best he can say is: “Go to our study and prepare yourself for your A2 exams!” But like it or not, although he doesn't shed nay tears for you, maybe no one feels worse than him when you are ill, or when you are distressed! Although I am too old to be scolded or taught what is right or wrong, my father still gets mad when I just cross the limit. But he can't recall when was the last time I saw him shouting at me. When I asked the reason behind this, my mother said, “Your dad still doesn't believe that you have grown up. So although when you are standing in front of him, he can't accept the fact that you are not a baby anymore. This is why he never shouts at you.”

Though the same can't be told for all cases, some of the things in life are not to be taken for granted, but as a blessing. And our fathers are one of the many blessings that the Almighty provided us with. So the next time you feel sour for him for not allowing you to attend a concert, keep in mind that although you may think that he is unjust, or overprotective, he is one of the few people whom you saw the first time you opened your eyes!

By The Dark Lord


 

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