The Cold: An Acknowledgement
I slept in my parent's room yesterday. Yup, my PARENTS' room. Do you have any idea what that means? It means I didn't get to sneak on my laptop and do things that are banned during the normal hours of the day. It means I didn't get to eat late night snacks that my mom hides in 'secret' stashes. It means I didn't get to watch after-midnight TV for Pete's sake. These things are important when you're forbidden to do them 'cause your O' Levels are this May! I never sleep in my parents' room if I can help it, ever. No sane O' Level candidate gives up these things easily (read: unless they are threatened with serious damage to life or awesomeness). It's like our worst nightmare. And we have our worst nightmares in our parents' rooms. I mean I'm SIXTEEN. And my mom's room is friggin' dark because she can't sleep until every single possible source of light is extinguished in that room.
I was lying between two cover hogs that have a tendency to perform strange acrobatics in their sleep. They used to sleep with me before I finally achieved my lifelong dream of having my own room. One of them started off on the open side of the bed, transferred to the wall side in their sleep and kicked me out, making me fall 3 feet onto the floor. Another time, one of them was sleeping with their head on the pillow. I distinctly remember it. When I woke up, with a horrifyingly painful yell, their foot was in a restful vegetative state. Maybe it got tired after kicking me with all its strength. There are reasons why I prefer not to sleep in my parents' room. And the reason I was forced to sleep in one?
It sounds like some sort of horror movie.
Screen shows a bare tree in the middle of a field in black and white.
When they all thought it was over.
Screen cuts to a family inside a house. Through a window a blizzard is visible.
Man: What's happening? Is it snowing?
Screen shows a white mist blowing through the countryside creeping into town.
It came to haunt them again.
Yeah, thank God, I don't write trailers. As my mom never fails to remind me, I'm good at nothing. As a result, I do not participate in anything that would prove that point. Which is why I was surprised to find a very lost me standing in the Shilpokala Academy the next day with a bunch of friends asking the bhaiyah to buy me a board so that I could participate in the art competition. I never participate in these 'things'. My friends call me Jack. Well, they don't but they should. I'm the Jack-of-all-trades and Master of none. So what was I doing in the middle of an open balcony on a dirty carpet trying to think of a dream to draw about?
Well, it had something to do with the little weather gadget that shined happily on my laptop screen. A little sun was spreading light across its corner of desktop space and optimistically displaying its tolerable temperature. It was like the end of a feel-good horror movie, you know where the family moves on and another family replaces them on the haunting waiting list? “It's okay;” the deceitful sun seemed to whisper, “the nightmare is over. No more sleeping in your parents' room. It will be warmer today.” 'It LIES!' My mind and instinct jointly cried. But I ignored the feeling and, decked in just a cardigan, ventured out to the Academy to fulfil college ECA requirements. That is why, one and a half hours later, I was shivering and vasoconstricting; my mind filled with ideas for a dream world. A beautiful world where the sun shined and mountains were made of cotton shawls. Where weather gadgets crashed and burned. I mean seriously, do the computer companies just make these up. “Today's horoscope is… Sunny at 30 degrees Celsius.” Or maybe their evil malfunctioning robots tamper with the sensors and whatnot before they are shipped. I mean can't they take some time off 'pum-pum-pum-pum'-ing and fix the thing so that we don't go out inadequately dressed and FREEZE?
Bears had the right idea: hibernation. When it's cold, sleep; when it isn't, eat.
By Sifana Sohail
The Rise Of The Shivering Weaklings
It's funny the way funny things tend to happen in life. You dress yourself up on a wintry morning - jackets and monkey caps and all - and set out for your uncle's place. You marvel at the iciness of the water, the chilliness of the biting wind and keep nodding your head sadly at the thought of people in the streets suffering from cold. Then you reach your uncle's place and there he is - half-naked, wearing nothing but a lungi, roaming around casually like it's a sunny summer day and he's in desperate need of a sunbath. He takes one good look at you and bursts out laughing his head off, “Hey hey, you look like an Eskimo. Must be snowing outside, gyahaha!” You, however, take one good look at the brutal fog outside and stare back at him with disbelief, confusion and the billion-dollar question playing over and over again inside your head, “Who's the idiot here, really?”
People like this said uncle; they are the queer specimens of our proud nation. Supermen (and women) who sneer at your shivering homage to the holy season 'winter' and boast, “Heh, Bangali'r abar thanda lage naki?!” This writer once came across a dude who went as far as slapping himself on the chest and shouting, “Cold? Fooh fooh. I have hut blood!”
I'm pretty sure he meant hot. Maybe.
Now these 'hut' people, as they so ardently call themselves, came up with the theory that feeling cold in winter is apparently, in its entirety, a matter of the mind. If one simply imagines oneself warm, he/she will feel warm. With due respect, this process does not work (three hours of screaming “I ain't cold” like a lunatic, coupled with background music “Feelin' hot hot hot”, and still NOTHING. That's a personal record). And of course, nobody should be ridiculed just because he/she can't simply will themselves warm. “Bleh, weakling. You do not have enough Chakra control,” my nephew told me. I hung him from our topmost cloth-hangar by the collar. Bratty Naruto-obsessed midget.
Anyway, whatever the case, we harbour no ill feelings towards this, um, 'unique' breed of people. They are our national assets, these hot men and women. Which is probably why they sometimes get too carried away with their super-powers and mock us poor normal people. “Socks? Hahaha. Gloves? Hahaha. Mufflers? Hahaha. You look like a freaking football!” What gives?! It is COLD outside. Wake up people, wearing warm clothes in winter is normal, not wearing them is weird. Feeling cold in 17 degree C. is normal, running around naked is uncool. And no, only a flimsy shawl or threadbare sweater doesn't count, that's still naked, given the current states of weather. We will not be ridiculed by the 'abnormal' likes of you. We will stand up to your bullying, hold our heads high and march around like fat penguins in our hooded jackets and cardigans. And when a really, really cold wind will blow, we will be free to squeal, “Oooh, cold!” while you'll be left with your teeth chattering yet forced to plaster a fake grin on your faces because you're oh so 'hut'. Muhaha, how's that for revenge?
Seriously, wear those sweaters. It's cold outside.
There are a few things that will make me salivate. Chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven, would count. So would the thrilling feeling of stepping out into a New England morning and beholding a vista without a fleck of snow on the grass. And then there is the utter, indescribable joy of browsing the aisles at Barnes & Noble to find the only remaining copy of Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth, a book that I had come across once in a café a year ago and was forced to abandon after only a hundred pages. A year of pining, and now the book is in my possession, available to review and reread and love.
There is much to love about Jhumpa Lahiri's fiction. For those readers who enjoy South Asian writing that doesn't entirely deal with spices, or saris, or weaving batik tablecloths, Lahiri is delightfully satisfying - undoubtedly one of my favourite authors, hands down, no questions asked. And Unaccustomed Earth did not disappoint. A collection of short stories similar to her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Interpreter of Maladies 'Unaccustomed Earth' is a patchwork of eight tales, unique yet seamless in their themes of belonging and identity and self-discovery. Straddling traditional upbringing with the Western need for individuality, and the great divide between first generation and second, Lahiri's third novel does what The Namesake did for me almost six years ago made me aware of the aching distance that must be traversed, but sometimes cannot be overcome, when families and individuals face the daunting task of transplanting their lives from one continent and charting a new beginning an ocean away. Having lived through and living through the experience myself, Lahiri's characters are charmingly familiar to me, their tragedies unsettling yet wholly characteristic of their ordeal.
No doubt there is a plethora of novels out there dealing with Diaspora, with the pains of immigration and the unique task of embracing foreign lands and alien cultures, but Lahiri's grasp of her Bengali culture and her Western upbringing resonate ridiculously well with me. I am at once home with the daal-bhaat of her Bengali characters, and the unmoored existence of their American children, and even if one has never known what it is to be an immigrant her fiction does the job of eloquently crafting lives and characters that are relatable. From a conflicted Bengali woman expecting her half-American child, to a thirty-something Ivy League-educated professor returning to her parents' homeland to enter a loveless marriage, to a young man trekking up the coasts of New England to escape his cancer-ridden mother's death and his father's cloying second wife, the stories of Unaccustomed Earth resonate without being heavy-handed. For prose that is evocative without trying too hard, ordeals that are quietly stated without dwelling on sentimentality, and characters that are entirely believable, turn to Unaccustomed Earth. You will not be disappointed.
By Shehtaz Huq
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