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The Beaches

Sometimes, when I have time, especially when it's late, late enough to be undisturbed, I will go to a vacant parking lot and sit on the closed trunk of a car. I will buy myself a snack perhaps, or if my throat is feeling particularly dry, I will take a half litre bottle of Coke with me. Sometimes I'll do both, if I have a few extra bucks to spare, and I'll take a book that I've taken from the library and I'll read it. It's dark sometimes, not scary dark, but the nice kind of dark like when you're tired and about to sleep and you're just looking for it to engulf you so that you can get lost in it, that kind of dark. It's very nice, just sitting there and reading. I have to take a flashlight to aim into my book, but it's worth it. As I read, I hinge on getting lost in the world of the book, of the fictional universe that the writer has so eloquently created, but I don't, in the end, because I'm thinking of you.

When it's too sunny and the parking lot's too busy, I will go walking. It's hot and humid and unbearable, but I enjoy it somehow. Miles I'll walk, depending on how much free time I have. I see amazing things when I'm on the road, things I usually miss when I'm on motorised transport. Once, this old woman stopped me and started talking to me about Palestine and of the apparent injustices that were going on there. I asked her why she was telling me all this. I was scared, naturally; people aren't the safest company to be in, most of the time. She said she could see hunger in my eyes, and pain in my stride. I didn't know what to say to her and she walked away, muttering to herself.

Another time, it was in July, the heat was obnoxiously relentless, but I continued to walk, wiping the sweat from my brow and flicking it into the sunlight for it to become immediate vapour. This little boy, he looked about seven, with hair long, curving and twisting to his waist, and a voice that was very deep, the reason for which I could tell that he was not a girl, came towards me. He suddenly grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I tried to jerk my hand away, but he now had both his hands clasped across my palm and fingers, interlacing haphazardly within. I was about to use my other hand to shove him away when he let go, and smiling, he thanked me and said that he needed that. He apologised and then he left.

Such random things I see on the street. Beggars and billionaires shackled to the level of the road. Gravity always wins, in the end. Beautiful occurrences, with the heat that takes the mind to places that make you feel like you're thinking too hard. Things that distract me almost, from the thought of you.

But it's when it's raining, I feel myself come dead, and this subtle rejuvenation, this feeling of almost freedom, is the closest I've ever felt to being unhinged. I sound pretentious, but as the wind is so cold it makes my breath wispy icicles, and the sun is overtaken by Poseidon in the air, I crave the purest form of isolation. I head for the beach, where tiny sandstorms brew, and grey clouds dress up as Azrael, and the masses are huddled up in their own warmth inside brick walls and talk to each other about TV shows. I walk from one beach on the north to the other on the east, prescription-free glasses to shield my eyes and a second-hand jumper cradling my fledgling torso. I will go on and on, wrapped in the air so moist. My feet remain bare, my dad's old shoes hanging on to the human hook of my middle and index fingers, and I will take my time with each step and let my toes sink into the cool sand. They tickle me between the toes and steal whatever warmth I have left in me.

I grow tired eventually. The soles of my feet start to ache to the continuous harsh grazing of the sand and my bones grow weary of the breeze. So I will subtly tread into the water, my fingernails like ice, and as the level rises, my torso gets drenched and eventually, my shoulders follow, and I almost don't remember you. The beach's torment drives itself through and for a second, I think I feel myself kissed clean, but it goes away and the ocean calms down and throws me back into the vacant desert of the petrichor. I return home wet, turn on my computer and tell people I'm happy.

By S. N. Rasul

Body language

From the time when men didn't have any coherent verbal media to express themselves, their body was the tool through which they could hold conversations. Thus, an entire new language was created - body language. But body languages aren't the same in every place of this world. Just like the way verbal languages differ in different countries, body languages are different too. Very different, in fact.

In our country, respect is shown by being meek in our body language. This is true for most other Asian countries too; we seem to be built of very rigid materials inside. How many times have you heard from your parent “Chokh nama, beyaddob kothakar!”? But in Europe and Northern America, this practice is encouraged vigorously. Eye contact is a must if you want to show that you have the guts to talk at all. However, we really don't have the guts to glare at our parents and see sparks flying out of their eyes as a consequence.

“Raising eyebrows” can mean several things in various countries. While generally it is considered as an expression for showing surprise or suspicion, in Asian countries it is also interpreted as “yes”. While in Philippines, raising your eyebrows means saying “hello”.

Closed eyes are a sign of boredom in America and most other countries (including ours). That's natural, since one would be inclined to think that the listener has probably fallen asleep due to boredom. But in Japan, Thailand and China it apparently means, “I'm listening and concentrating hard.”

You can communicate with ear movements too. In our country, whenever you grasp your earlobes, it means that you're inaudibly saying, “ar jiboneo ei kaam kormuna” (I will never do this thing again). That stands for some parts of India too. For Navajo Indians (that's the other kind of Indians), pulling someone's ears means “you are in my heart”.

Nose tapping is a common practice in Europe and America. Whenever you tap your nose, it means that you have something confidential. You are in the know, as it were. In our country this particular body language is completely disregarded. Most of the people of our country would be clueless about its significance. Tapping one's nose here would probably be a crude way of drawing attention to your huge nostrils.

Lips and mouth
Now, since it is through your mouth you speak, obviously they are handy assets to convey your unspoken words to the audience. But there's a practice in Mexico that would be really out of place here: to beckon a waiter, the people there make kissing noises. No, don't try it in any of the restaurants here, more so if you happen to be a female.

Some people in Latin Americas are too lazy to point with their fingers - so they use their lips instead. How they manage to point out directions with their lips, though, is still a source of confusion to this writer.

The V-sign
This mystery is doomed to remain unsolved forever. In our country the v-sign might mean “victory” or “peace”, depending on the situation. In Japan and Korea, along with a few other countries, however, it is a common sign that is used when “intending to portray an acceptable level of cuteness when posing for photographs.” Mostly, this body language has come to prominence due to the influence of Western movies. In USA it also means peace, but Dan Brown messed our minds up with the theory he offered in Da Vinci Code. So the real meaning of the V-symbol is still mostly vague.

Also, there are several other hand gestures popular in many parts of this world - in Russia, clapping is a sign of greeting someone. The “OK” signal, made by joining the thumb and forefinger symbolises “okay” and “good” in most countries, but exceptions are seen. In Japan, it means money, while it is considered as “zero” in some parts of Europe. It's a downright insult in Greece, Brazil, Turkey, Russia and several other countries.

Body language is an essential part in all types of conversations irrespective of the part of the world you find yourself in. But be sure about the appropriate usage because you don't want to end up pulling someone's ear in the wrong place now, do you?

By Shamsil Kamal
Source: Internet, Newspapers


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