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The end is here or there?

ALIEN invasion, asteroid strike, nuclear disaster or wired mutated virus which one do you want as the fate of humanity? There are so many options (theoretically) predicting the ultimate fate of the earth. Scientific calculations, religious theories, vision from dreams or prophecies from the distant past, it seems like everyone is trying to figure it out. What's going to happen at the last hour of this planet?

But what about the ancient people? What did they think about the end? With out the Hubble telescope hovering over the head or with out a plan to establish extraterrestrial human civilization, what did our predecessors do think about the apocalypse?

Starting with the Aztecs, lived in the central Mexico around 15th century, believed in the Legend of the Five Suns. They are the Sun of Precious Stones, the Sun of Darkness, the Sun of Fire, the Sun of Water and the Sun of Movement, in which we are right now. Once a sun dies the world is absorbed in chaos as the gods destroy the world and renew it. And after the final Sun there will be a large earthquake that will tear the earth apart.

Let's come to our continent. As Indian mythology, when universal chaos descends upon the world, “Vishnu” saves mankind by appearing in a certain form, known as an “Avatar”. Out of the ten avatars that Vishnu will fulfill before the Universe ends, he has taken the form of only nine: a fish, a turtle, a boar, a lion-man, a dwarf, a Brahmin, the epic hero Rama, the famed god Krishna, and Buddha. The tenth form is known as Kalki, the man riding upon a horse. Vishnu will come to Earth as this form in order to destroy it and recreate it.

The most interesting is the Norse one called “Ragnarok”. Before the end of the world, three winters without summers in between will happen in the human world called Midgard and order will be lost forever. Fathers will fight their sons, siblings will commit incest, mothers will seduce their children, and brothers will tear at each other's hearts. Midgard will be consumed with war.

And then wolves will descend up on earth. The wolves will swallow the sun and moon, and the great wolf “Fenris”, son of Loki the trickster god, will run loose and kill the king of Gods Odin, who steps forth to fight him. Odin's son Vidar will avenge Odin by tearing Fenris apart. Many gods as well as all men and women except two, Lif and Lifthrasir, who seek shelter under the branches of the world tree “Yggdrasil”, will die. The sky will fall into a pit of flames and the earth will sink into the sea.

But the story does not end here. After the end of the world, the earth will rise renewed out of the sea and flourish. Grain will grow where no grain was sown; Lif and Lifthrasir will repopulate the new world with their offspring and descendants. A happy ending isn't it?

Finally some Egyptian myth. With floods, droughts, burning desert sun nature was extreme in ancient Egypt. There was no escaping the forces of the natural world, or the rules of universe like life and death. The Egyptians believed in the afterlife and the continuation of mankind forever. They are the only exceptional culture who did not believe in the end of the world.

But they do have some myth like near end of humanity. It goes like this, Ra, the sun God, sent out his eye in the form of the goddess “Hathor” to destroy those who would not worship and believe in his good name. Although he only meant to destroy the evil in mankind, Hathor slaughtered many and was said to "wade in blood." In order to prevent her from destroying the entirety of mankind, Ra tempts her with a flood of barely beer dyed red to resemble blood. She becomes drunk and forgets her thirst for man's blood, saving the world from her deadly rampage.

Predictions have been made; logics and imagination are still running wild. We are still fascinated by the theories, myths and arguments. But are we satisfied with the answer about the end oh humanity? No we are not. The truth is time will tell everything and what we have to do is wait. As Match Box 20 says, “I believe the world is burning to the ground… Oh well I guess we're gonna find out….Let's see how far we've come”.

By Zabir Hasan

The stuff of talk

BLAB, yodel, gossip, lecture, yell, bitch, cuss, the Bangla populace loves to exercise its tongues, more so than do dogs. We talk so much that we rarely ever manage to walk at the same time. We at the RS think that jaywalking may have been invented because of our inherent habit of talking without looking out for that hatchback swerving towards on the tarmac.

We Bengalis seem to not function without the pointless yammering, but meaningless jabber is not so straight-laced. What about the different kinds of jabber, you ask? Ah, this is where we come in.

The Titter Prattlers
They're all over My Space and Facebook, flooding television shows and lives with their raccoon makeup and straight-edge hair and LOLs. In reel life, they are the likes of MTV VJ's and Ntv music show hosts. In real life, they sit at the back of the class and lace their conversation with giggling all day long. On MSN Messenger, they will most probably be the ones who punctuate every other word with emoticons. In fact, if they could carry out a conversation wholly in emoticons there would be a break out of Bollywood style dancing in the streets of Dhaka.

The Political
Stays up one night, well; actually, don't spend the night on MSN one of these days. Go to the living and chances are your old man will be there watching some talk show about the state of the country resembling something like Gomorrah before the brimstone and fire. And you'll hear these old, 'knowing' men tell you what's wrong with the system, the economy and your grandma's aching tooth.

These speakers are the politicals. They spend too much time reading into the news and coming up their own theories about why we are doomed. Listening to them for long will cause an innate desire to kill a plush toy.

The Family's Little Genius
There is always one in every big family. And because Bangladeshi families tend to be extended versions of the human sub species we all have uncles and aunts and cousins we vaguely remember. And among one of them will the One. No not Jet Li. The chances are the One hasn't even seen The One.

But anyway, this little phenomenon of a human being is the guy every parent in your family wishes they had fathered or mothered. The little twerp of an angel has good grades, good looks, speaks in sickeningly honeyed tones that appeal to the middle aged parent in a two year old kid and when he talks, people listen. He could tell you that the end was nigh and people would applaud and ask him if he wanted cheese with the crackers. The crackers you wanted. And that was your cheese you'd been saving. Damn.

The Nervous Twitch
Careful around these types. They tend to be people who rarely see the sun; although that might be because of those almightily +12 powered glasses. Trying to talk to one is like asking a wall if it minded being painted a toxic pink.

They talk in the sense that mountains grow. They are always there, doing things you never notice until that fateful day in August when you noticed the nervous guy from the corner trumped you in every subject. And when they talk, it's usually to ask some question about math that involves a lot of Greek symbols and brackets of every kind. One of them once asked us if we had tanned the sine correctly with the cosine in relation with the logarithm of the integrated differentiated body parts of our radians. We obviously took offence. Our radians are fine, even if we don't know what they are. Yep, there are fine, can't be better.

The Good-Natured Natter
You're in a fish market, holding a smelly cod in your hand, slime oozing through your fingers. You turn around, to haggle here and cuss there, and run smack into the smiling bosom of your old neighbor. She grips you with iron fingers and steers you into the open sun, wholly ignorant of the half-dead fish trying to smack you in the face, and asks you how you're doing. How's school? How's life? What's your mom cooking for dinner?

It takes all of your self-control to grit your teeth and keep that ersatz smile on your face. By the time you've exchanged phone numbers (unwillingly, on your part), the fish reeks, and your shoes will hate you forever.

Meet & Tweet
Imagine Twitter, in 3D. Comments flying off the walls, randomness everywhere, arguments and accolades all merging together to form one long conversation that goes from nowhere to nowhere, and you have your run-of-the-mill Bengali wedding. Love and life and careers are made, and subsequently broken, at these social gatherings that feed the gossip-hungry minds of the gossip mongers. Nine times out of ten, people will return from weddings jaded with knowledge, the wisdom of the ages bearing down heavily on their laden shoulders. And they will know, like they know the back of their hand that Mr. Tareq's daughter has run away with Mrs. Hussain's son, and the world will be a better place for that.

There is more to talk, oh so much more, than the scanty few paradigms we came up with. Rest assured, though. We will be back. Terminator style.

By Tareq Adnan and Shehtaz Huq

Book review

The Light Fantastic

TERRY Pratchett hit comic fantasy goldmine with his Discworld series, which he started off with The Colour of Magic in 1983. The Light Fantastic is a sequel to that story, probably the only book in the series to follow that continuation style, and is set in a Discworld long before we meet the City Watch, or the Patrician, or any of those characters that Pratchett fans around the world have come to love.
A quick skinny for those who haven't read the Colour of Magic: The story introduces the Discworld, and the city of Ankh-Morpokh, wherein lies the Unseen University, the place where wizards go to learn their art. Enter the bumbling Rincewind, a failed wizard who unwittingly becomes a sort of guide to the idealistic shutter-bug tourist Twoflower. Fleeing Ankh-Morpokh after a terrible fire, the two embark on a strange journey across the Discworld, not knowing that this journey is actually a game played by the gods.

The story ends with a cliffhanger that has Twoflower and Rincewind hurtling through certain death, and The Light Fantastic opens with that situation being miraculously reversed. A great change passes over the Discworld, and it quickly becomes apparent that the Octavio, also known as the Book of Eight Spells, is keeping Rincewind alive because the Eighth Spell is stored inside his head. As per an ancient prophecy, the Eight Spells must be recited together at the same time to prevent the end of the Discworld. The prophecy also states that whoever owns the eight spells holds immense power in his hands, so that the seven orders of mages from the Unseen University embark on a journey to find Rincewind and the final spell. Even as the hunt is underway, the Great Turtle A'Tuin, upon whose back stand the four elephants bearing the Discworld, is swimming on a collision course with a red star. The story splits into three narratives, one involving Rincewind and his friends surviving an incredible adventure, another involving a coup at the University, and the third dealing with the doomsday fanaticism that grips the Discworld as it stares Apocalypse in the face.

To a Pratchett veteran, the narrative has a crude quality to it that gives it away as Pratchett's early work. The sardonic, and utterly zany humour that makes the series so enjoyable lacks the maturity of the later novels, but Pratchett's wild imagination and witty wordplay make it an enjoyable read anyway. Not being as omnicient as many Granny Weatherwax or the Patrician or as badass as Vimes or Carrot, Rincewind with his cowardice and insecurities is instantly relatable and likeable, and this book will certainly keep the chuckles coming.



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