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Hopes and dreams

We Bangladeshis are a curious nation. Dragged down by poverty, we are generous in our hospitality; battered down by natural disasters, we are like a dogged boxer refusing to stay down; quick to anger with a forgetful memory, and possessing an innate happiness with an undercurrent of frustration, we are perhaps the most peculiar of nations. But ordinary is something we are not.

So it comes as no surprise when the Bangladesh cricket team rises up again and again to answer its critics whenever it comes under fire. From David Hookes to Ponting, Bangladesh has a penchant for making people eat their own words. And it is for that reason, when Virender Sehwag, as the acting captain of India, stunned local and international media personnel at the press conference before their first test in the recently past series, people anticipated a fight. He claimed Bangladesh is an “ordinary side” that Bangladesh cannot take 20 Indian wickets and said even Sri Lanka struggled to do so. He also said Bangladesh was only a surprise in ODIs and not a threat in test matches. Shakib was very calm and cool at the Bangladeshi press conference, not taking the baits lowered by the media to reply to Sehwag's comment.

What happened at the test match? Did Bangladesh take 20 wickets? We would love to give an emphatic yes. But unfortunately India declared. But their first innings total 243/10 and that, too, thanks to Tendulkar. After Shakib and Shahadat's five-wicket hauls threatened to throw Sehwag's comments right back at his face, Bangladesh rejoiced. Could Bangladesh have won the test? Yes, if they had a 100 run lead after their first innings, instead of a 1 run trail. Then again, could they have won at Multan or Fatullah? What about the second test? After Tamim Iqbal's magnificent hundred and a record breaking partnership, Bangladesh was 219/1, having started a trail of 311. The dreamers started to dream again. Then reality kicked in as the rest collapsed in the following 97 runs. They escaped innings defeat by a hair's breadth.

So what's the point of being a romantic? What is the point of dreaming if we're going to fall short in the end? Why should Shakib stand tall and not despair at the BCB president's comments? Because this is how things are in international cricket. You learn and improve. Many might say Bangladesh have overused that sentence. But remember Bangladesh's five-year losing streak in the ODIs? We used that sentence a lot then. And now look at us in the ODIs. We are a legitimate threat. We are capable of beating the best. And the improvement was gradual. At first, individual performances shined out. Then slowly the team game got better. That is why there is yet reason to hope. One may call it over-optimism, but if you stuck through the five-year losing streak, you have to be a believer that things can change. It just needs time. Shakib and the rest knowing where the problem lies, i.e. “we may have relaxed”, is a good indication. And the fact that the individual performances are getting better in tests are perhaps echoes of the circle of cricket.

Finally a quote from Shawshank Redemption, “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.” Cliche, maybe; silly, perhaps. But it was said by Stephen King, and you can't accuse him of being silly. So there you have it.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique


Calyx

The last shriveled petal quietly detached itself as my hand chanced to brush against it. I noticed because it was the last. It is an interesting preoccupation that we have with firsts, lasts and only-s. It's what keeps us from noticing when the last-but-one petal falls off, or the petals before it that we never bothered to count but collectively identified as “some” or “many” or “few”. It's what makes us preserve a rose calyx like any other for two and a half years.

You would think that, after two and a half years, something as nondescript as a dead flower stalk would blend in with its surroundings, wherever that may be. Not stick out with the stubborn incongruity of a shiny black stiletto on an otherwise empty shoe rack. And you would think that, after two and a half years, your mind would stop referring to said flower stalk as a 'rose calyx' just because it 'appeals to the romantic in me'. But minds and first Rose Calyxes are irksome like that.

The stem is shorter now; the place where he'd held it snapped off by someone the day they almost threw it away too soon. The fallen petal: It stopped being white before the stem broke and looks like any dead flower petal, a brittle, crinkled, sandy brown. An empty stalk, the sepals curled like fingers tenaciously clutching at nothing. No hint of a connection to the plant kingdom: no green, no beauty; just a hard, dry, fossilized thing, as brown as the earth it should've long since been a part of.

And it would have, too, you know. It would have lived, died and decayed a flower had not human hands intervened. Breaking it off the parent plant, trimming enough leaves, shaving off enough thorns to attach a price tag to it, reducing it to a marketable commodity. Transferring it to another pair of hands, naïve hands that share it with another; placing it, this time, on a rosy pedestal of the illusions of children trying to be grown-ups and grown-ups trying to be children. Human hands tend to do that: distort perspective, interfere with nature.

It is what my hands are doing right now. And that is wrong.

So I pick the Rose Calyx up from the little ceramic bowl I've always kept it in. Not between my fingers lest it crumbles to dead dust, but in my cupped palm, like a delicate, newborn being. And tip it over the wastepaper basket.

But the Calyx does not fall. No, those fossil fingers curl around my own, engaging them in a silent tussle of wills and wont's. It's the result of those human hands: a dead flower that refuses to die.

This is ridiculous. I have better things to do than to wrestle with a flower stalk. Fine, be a fossil! Don't live! I return it to the ceramic bowl and the Calyx looks so exasperatingly smug; it's enough to make anyone want to crush it to a powder. But there is an undercurrent of relief at the turn of events that we seem to share. How strange.

So I leave it be; and shall just have to make do with hoping that someone else has sense to dispose of the infuriating thing.

By Autumn's Daughter


iPod, iPad and The Black Hole

So, it's finally out. After months of unnecessary (but brilliantly done publicity) anticipation and flood of rumours, Apple has recently released its queen product - a tablet we "lovingly" call iPad. Jokes about the tablet's hygiene issues have already flooded the web, and although fans have air-conditioned themselves to iWant the iPad, the so-called "next generation technology" is far from being awesome.

Let's face it. Apple is a cut-throat, money sucking corporation. It's not meant for people who use computers, but for those who swim on money. Carrying a pretty looking white trash worth two machines with better functionality is probably a fascinating financial style statement to many. Sure, the $500 base price is much lower than what many tech journalists predicted, but ultimately it's not a replacement for netbooks (what Steve Jobs called "not being better at anything") but rather, just an iPod Touch with a bigger screen and a few small bonuses.

Firstly, it runs on iPhoneOS 3.2, and if we know anything about the iPhoneOS, is that it does not support true multitasking. We all do it - even while browsing most of us have a little music running in the background. Apple apologists might claim that the tablet is for browsing only, thanks to it having WiFi and 3G, but here's the kicker, it does not have Flash. An internet device that does not have Flash. Wow, genius!

Oh, you want to chat? How, exactly? We can't imagine typing would be very easy on the screen anymore than typing on your trusty cell phone would be. You want to Skype? Nope, doesn't come with a camera up front either. You can get a keyboard, of course, but it's not like you get one in the box. iPad doesn't support USB either. Get ready to buy another overpriced Apple accessory for that.

The iPad comes with a new Apple software, iBooks, for all your reading needs. But as anyone who reads for a prolonged period of time on the LCD screen will tell you, your eyes get really tired really fast. Granted, the pictures of an open book in the iPad display will look really cool! But that's only in Apple-controlled indoor conditions. Think about how it may look in direct sunlight! Alternatives such as Amazon's Kindle (which uses eInk Display) are still better at reading books. Plus, weeks of reading time and free 3G internet on Kindle beats iPads 10 hours and AT&T price plan any day.

The video capabilities aren't so hot, either. It can run Youtube vids, sure (through HTML5 technology as opposed to Flash), but 10" isn't very great for watching anything more than maybe half an hour. And really, unless you are propping it up against something, you need to hold the 10" device in your hand... while watching a video! It doesn't have HDMI either, and the aspect ratio is a boring 4:3. You're better off with a local eSys LCD screen!

If Steve Jobs is asking for us to replace our trusty $300 laptops with iPads, we have to call shenanigans on that. It doesn't have the specs (1GHz processor, 16GB non-expandable SD) to appeal to power users. It's too expensive to act as a secondary device. Hell, it's not even better than any existing device. We might have said something different if the rumours were true and it bought a new push in the content marketplace. Instead, we just got a cool toy. A cool toy we have to prop against our knees while lying in the couch or cling between our thighs. Err, awkward? Note from Emil: I couldn't have said all these better myself, even if I was born critiquing the doctor.

By El Vista and Holy Babble


 

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