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We're All in This Together

I take it off the wall. Cool, plastic, I balance the frame against my hip and with my free hand pluck the paraphernalia off the surface of my dry erase board. The fridge magnets, holding up my exam schedule for the coming month. The business card from my art teacher of many moons ago that I never had the heart to throw out, the edges yellowed, the six-digit phone number that I know if I call no one will answer. I remove the board marker from its slot and hold the damp paper towel to the hand-scrawled dates in their individual boxes, little notes scrawled in a hurry floating unconcerned over the numerals. A touch, a sweep of the wrist, and I cut a broad swath through the month of March.

My answer to a calendar, a habit five years in the making, of dry erase boards and their markers and little dusters, those rectangles of white plastic that have come to occupy my room regardless of which side of the Atlantic I happen to be residing in. The uncapping, on the first of every month, of my red marker and the two minutes spent filling in the blanks, now so accustomed that the flat of my hand no longer smear the ink across the board. In these two minutes I deconstruct those tests and meetings and movie dates that constituted another thirty, thirty-one days of my life and start a new chapter. Turn a new page, every thirty, thirty-one days.

Only this month it's a two-fold turn of the page. April, and the sky is shrouded with rain clouds. Once barren boughs now wreathed in green, the air taut with the promise of rain. I wipe down the board with my damp towel and uncap my red marker and soon enough, this board is no black canvas. The numerals float in their boxes, the sweep of the 2's and the slightly lopsided 1's and the zero that always leans to its right. And there it is, April 14th, outlined in red, bearing no relevance.

It is a Wednesday; I think of the creative writing club meeting I have no intention of attending. An English test the following Thursday, which entails at least an hour of sitting in my room curled up with my copy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, perusing the play for existentialism and the theatre of the absurd. The AP test schedule tells me that I have less than three weeks before certain death is upon me. A faint tremor of panic travels down my spine, as I return the marker to its slot and tuck the business card in its corner and reattach the board magnets. “How am I going to get all this done?” I wonder, and I stand up to hang the board from its two nails, standing back as always to admire my handiwork, reaching out an ink-stained finger to line up the edges.

I look at April, outlined in my familiar scrawl, those dates picked out and circled and annotated. A movie I have been looking forward to watching, 3:10 to Yuma, on the 16th. For now, that is the highlight of my week. A movie on network television, a quiet two hours on a Friday night with a pint of Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip fudge ice cream slowly melting in the almost-summer heat. Nothing special.

By now, too many miles away from home, from the cheerful bursts of yellow and orange and the excited babble of friends as they make plans, rickshaw rides and paanta bhaat ilish maach, melas at this school and that field, it matters less. And the less it matters, the less it matters.

By Shehtaz Huq


Chilling in the Heat

'I am the embodiment of power and awesomeness! Kneel down before my might you pitiful weaklings'. Your unsettling laughter echoes in the cold, dank labyrinth of your eight year old head. The immense beam of raw heat and power that you beckon at your will beats down upon the poor single-minded creatures as they strive endlessly for the resolute task of striving for their community. However, now that you are making your way on the road with the power of our own grand star beating down on your poor soul, you start to think that focusing the sun's ray with a magnifying glass on the poor ants on your porch when you were small wasn't a very decent idea. Where as you had the constraint of time in the form of a few hours to devote to the torture of harmless critters, the Sun has the entire day to project itself as an unmerciful and cruel, yet necessary element at this time of the year. Whether the calendar admits to it or not, summer has come down in full fury to boil, melt or possibly disintegrate you. The only way you can survive the heat so that you can read another one of those awesome Thursday's supplement papers is to be and stay cool, and here are a few points on how to do just that.

Although wearing your birthday suit all the time seems like a tempting way to survive the heat, regrettably our society does not allow it. So unless we are at home, we are forced to make do with clothes. As some people fail to comprehend the obvious, you look cool in the summer by wearing clothes that keep you cool. Shorts and t-shirts are some of the apparent choices. Colours play a major factor as dark colours absorb heat and light ones deflect it. Wearing some funky light coloured clothes is the way to stay comfortable as well as look awesome in the summer heat.

If shorts aren't the most efficient way to keep cool for some men, then there is a way you can achieve your goal and keep up with the more traditional style. Wear a lungi. Once you feel the draft down in Chittagong (Mexico in the case of Americans), you will know that deep down inside of you no article of clothing can ever make you feel so cool.

Keep frosty with a hint of mint. Sucking on a mint candy or chewing a minty chewing gum actually makes you feel cool and even refreshed. Well look at the bright side even if you are sweating and panting after a few mentoses it will at least get rid of the bad breath, and according to the advertisement, possibly even help you think smarter.

If your teacher tells you to stop panting like a dog after recess, tell her to learn yoga. Yes, yoga actually teaches that if you breathe in with your tongue sticking out in the shape of a tube, and breathe out with the nose while keeping chin on your chest, your body starts getting cooler. Follow the procedure 5-10 times and you will start becoming impervious to the heat.

A rather ingenious way of keeping cool takes a bit of preparation, but as a reward keeps you pretty cool while saving you from the added A/C cost. Put a couple of 1-3 litre bottles in the deep freezer over night. When the water from the bottle turns to ice, place them in front of a table fan and direct the air towards yourself. You don't need to be Einstein to realise that the technique is the basics of the A/C thus a very effecting way to cool yourself.

The cucumber effect is also pretty brilliant. Whenever you're bogged down boiling in traffic, cut a slice of cool cucumber and stick it in the middle of your forehead. Passersby might get a laugh out of it, but you are the one who is feeling cooler.

For those of you who have heard about the radiant Dr. Lovelove, you won't be surprised to know that he never sweats, even in the hottest of days. How? Well all he does is think cool. Thinking cool actually does make one feel a lot less hot. Just think of Ice Age and you'll get the laugh and cool at the same time.

The heat can actually become a very dangerous element for those who are not wary. Heat strokes do kill people, so use common sense to keep yourself from meeting your maker.

By M. Fayaad Islam


Moments like these

So you know how it goes. You meet people in the library. Socialising in the library with anyone you meet has become an enjoyable break from the monotone of studying for the never-ending hurricane of assignments, exams and quizzes. You see a known face and run to talk. Why?

Well, conversation is a break alright, but it's also a chance to speak Bangla; because really, even though you often talk to yourself (admit it!) and your parents in Bangla, you miss speaking it on an everyday, every hour basis. It is like one of those white-hot desires that stab you once-in-a-while, while you're doing something as normal as watching BBC news while you're simultaneously eating, planning the rest of the day at the back of your mind, and trying to brush off the bug hovering on the table.

So after several minutes have passed by, you wonder if you're actually holding up the person you're talking to, and ask, “Are you going back home?” And the person you've asked talks about going back home in summer.

You want to say that wasn't what you meant when you asked, you meant home here and now, but then something makes you stop at the last moment, something unknown stirring inside you like one of those impending fevers. It's one of those invisible powers stopping you, and you listen to the words and the yet half-framed dreams of “what-to-do-once-back-in-desh-for-a-much-needed-vacation” flow. And you let your question be distorted into a different answer, you let it flow to imperfection, you who must oh-but-always have the perfect accurate answer to every question. You don't know why you do, but you do. Some people stare up from their books and glare at you meaningfully for snapping them out of their study cocoons but you don't care. You whisper in Bangla, gloating in the glory of speaking what no one else around can understand, a code.

It is only when you go back to work after those stolen ten minutes of half-whispers in your native language that you realize why you automatically stopped. Because you still don't refer to your dorm and your soon-to-be-rented-after-the-dorm-lease-is-over apartment as home, not yet anyway, so how can you expect someone else of the same part of the world to? Because home is still some place seven seas away, and it is only in half-meaningful conversations like this that you acknowledge it, in the unsaid. But then you are part of a people specialising in the unsaid.

By Anika Tabassum


 

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