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Let there be…cable connection

“Hey, did you watch last night's episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.? The season finale?”

“Huh? What's that? A movie? And what season? Movies have seasons too, like fruits?”

Unbelievable though it might sound, this is a retort this writer had to shoot back at a classmate of hers not many years ago. And this is just another typical scene that used to occur in her bedraggled school life. There is a reason I used to hate every moment I spent in that over-stuffed classroom. The reason? The absence of cable connection in my home, of course.

While other girls in front of me used to pursue their endless discussions of who went out with whom in what episode of various sitcoms, I had nothing else to do but sit silent and bite my nails. Sometimes it seemed as if they were speaking in Martian. And all the while, I had to endure all those wide-eyed stares thrown in my direction. Soon, I would be deemed the dumbest girl in existence and thrown out of their circles. So many reasons to be treated as an outcast, and I had to be one because of something that was not of my doing.

Excluding all the people who regularly used to watch Star World, I couldn't even blend in with the Hindi serials addicts. Ignoring all the Hindi songs sung in antakshari by every other girl and Hindi jokes shared by them might be possible, but you know what was hardest? When the class parties were organised and they used to bring Hindi tracks to dance with. Standing aside watching everyone dancing with flawless steps to Kajra Re but having no clue about what to do yourself because you have never watched MTV or Star Plus in your entire life is SO not a pleasant experience.

Since I couldn't state the obvious reasons, I used different approaches to force my parents into bringing in cable. I used to tell them about lacking knowledge of current affairs (due to the absence of CNN, BBC), about their unreasonableness concerning this whole thing. Screaming sessions would ensue. But disregarding all of my tantrums and logics, my dad would stand with this awfully strict look on his face and rumble, “Not before exams.” Exams would come and go, yet there was always just another one to stop me from watching satellite channels.

I had my own channel too (BTV, that is), but who in their right state of mind would want to share my experiences of watching Shabnoor's dancing through the whole of Mollabarir Bou? Or my immense knowledge about our country's agriculture garnered from Maati O Manush? Not to mention the late night “Talk Shows” or the music sessions in Dolon Chaapa.

And then, the long-awaited moment came. With both my brother and my certificate exams being over, at long last, our parents thought we had earned our right to finally surf through different channels.

But… the time came soon enough when the remote control was taken from my hand and my dad started surfing through ESPN and Ten Sports in the middle of a mind-blowing episode of Criminal Minds.

“Dad! I was watching that! You can't do that! I have waited for seventeen years! Seventeen years to watch all these things which people have watched ten years before me!”

“Well, I have waited for fifty years. Beat that. Now shove aside and make space for me, there's an important match between Arsenal and Chelsea I need to catch.”

C'est la vie, I guess.

By Shamsil B. M. Kamal

Change Your Mind

We stand shoulder to shoulder, nib to nib, crowded in one corner of his existence. Shoved into the back we spend most of days in relative darkness. When the daylight spills through the slits in the Venetian blinds we sometimes catch glimpses of a branch, a wayward leaf, grass turning brown as Arctic frost sweeps across the plains and brings with it bitter frost. It has been a while since I felt the breeze, but by now my foot has turned cold and my nib is numb.

The others languish as I do. Their ink has either run dry, their plastic grips untouched for who knows how long, and for months we are neglected. Our days are scant glimpses of the outside world, occasionally a sidelong look at the television screen that flickers to life every night at nine. We catch snippets of news, see segments of cooking shows, and then the pictures on the screen fade away and the lights are turned off and we are once more steeped in darkness.

It had not always been this way. Life had, for as long as I remember, been in constant motion. I had spent afternoons nestled in the warm pink of a pencil bag, bumping shoulders with a pet rock and the half-used eraser. There were afternoons when I rolled around the faux wooden table, scraping varnish with my nib. I had penned letters, applications, essays to this college and that. I had exchanged hands between the one that owns me and the people referred to as 'Mom' and 'Dad.' Weathered fingers held me in their grasp and dragged me across the surface of parchment and printing paper. Sometimes I was even uncapped to leave mementos on birthday and thank you cards. “Hope to see you next summer” or “I could not have done this without your support,” and then there had been signatures with a flourish at the end of the message. Authoritative flourishes too, I might add, and in those moments I had felt an absurd amount of pride. “I'm responsible for this,” I wanted to tell the others. “I'm the one they reach for when they know nothing else will do.”

I had been important. I had not lived in the shadows. I had not cowered in the shade, subsisting on glimpses of tree branches and cooking programs, jammed shoulder to shoulder with other, less worthy ones. I had been important, and now I am nobody.

What remains of me? My blood is still coursing through my vein, running a deep blue. When I bleed out onto paper I am an authoritative shade of navy, more exciting than dull black. I am neither gel nor ball point but an easy medium, but somehow I am not good enough.

Summer melts into autumn and the branches shed their leaves. The Venetian blinds are now closed for the vast majority of the time. The particleboard prison of my days feels no different from one day to another anymore. It is all the same, the monotonous existence of me and the others crammed into the pen holder with me. We while away the hours, stuck in place, only ever being jostled out of our reverie when a duster comes gliding above our heads. We have started to crave those moments, pathetic beings that we are.

He is back. He came with suitcases jam-packed with remnants of his college life. But he does not reach for us. The past that we shared, the many pages that we exhausted, the many late nights we stayed up as he gripped his head in frustration and I sat benignly by all that has been reduced to nothing. I matter even less to him than I do to his parents. The truth cuts coldly across my plastic skin. The ink dries. Defeated, my nib relaxes its tenacious grip on living. I am disposed of.

By Shehtaz Huq

Bone Island

We are constantly being reminded of the things we should avoid saying to people who are overweight. What about us over-skinny people? Nobody thinks about us. Even though it's lonely here on “Bone Island” there are tons of misconceptions and myths about us. And to the residents of “Fat Farm” we know how you people feel.

To the majority of people out there skinny people are portrayed as either anorexic, sick or unhealthy. If that's not the case people think we got thin by either starving ourselves or making ourselves throw up. Seriously not all skinny people are cast members of “Gossip Girl” or “90210”. Some of us actually worked hard to loose the extra pounds, i.e we ate right and exercised. Others, including yours truly, are just gifted with a speedy metabolism.

Another misconception that get on our nerves is the fact that almost all skinny people, especially between the ages of 16-25 are considered major drug addicts. Just because illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or whatever you kids are doing these days, usually have a slimming effect does not mean we are all drug addicts. Note to the Police: Stop giving us the stink eye every time you see us.

People think you can say anything to skinny people without hurting their feelings. Every time we go to parties or family gatherings we are bombarded with questions or comments such as “Boy, you need to get yourself some more of that cake” or “It's better to gain a few extra pounds, just in case you get sick”. There's a saying that people can be stupid and sincere at the same time and that's exactly what these people are. But what if you walked up to an overweight person and said “Boy, you really need to stop eating all that cake” or “It's better to loose a few pounds, just in case you want to get married”. But all of a sudden, when said to an obese person, these comments are considered rude. What, obese people have more emotions than us skinny people just because they have more room in their bodies?

Another common misconception is that skinny people are weak. Just because we do not weigh as much as a monster truck does not mean we are frail. We are bony so naturally our blows would hurt more than that of our overweight counterparts. Plus we have the speed advantage and it's no myth that thin people are faster than the “heavier” ones. That is why the majority of sports are played by skinny people, but look on the bright side you guys have Sumo wrestling.

By Alvi Ahmed





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