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Sing for the Moment

His bandmates jumped around the stage in a frenzied high as school going teens head banged before them in musical ecstasy. He stood as still as a boulder in a tempest, face turned heavenwards, eyes closed, long hair flowing to his shoulders. The only things that moved were his fingers over the strings. As he effortlessly and nonchalantly played Petrucci's solo from Pull Me Under still holding that pose of divine communion - it seemed to those assembled that he was one of the eternal Guitar Gods; the effect was perhaps accentuated by the symbol the early rock'n'rollers had, perhaps unknowingly, adopted from Christianity. Jesus Christ had cool hair.

They were playing at a gaye holud, one of those silly gigs that bands have to take on just to keep up with expenses. Parents don't take kindly to paying 400 taka per jamming session. She had been watching him thoughtfully for a while and when they took a break, she came over and said, “You play well. My brother's a guitarist. So, I can tell you are itching to play something faster. I have a deal for you …” Then she whispered something so low that he barely caught all of it. When she was done, he nodded in agreement and had a quiet chat with his band members. Five minutes later she wiggled her eyebrows at him from across the room and the band happily launched into a cover of Metallica's King Nothing, with the gaggle of girls surrounding the groom joining in at the punch line, “Where's your crown?!” That's when the groom realised his turban was missing.

She came over afterwards, red from all the shouting and laughing, to say thank you. The band graciously said it was their pleasure. As she turned around to leave, she quietly added an aside to him, “I like your hair.”

For the rest of the night he didn't have eyes for anything else.

The compartment was jam packed with people. They were all heading for Cox's Bazaar. Some kids had decided to take a trip and invited a few mutual friends, who in turn invited others, and it had snowballed into a 50 strong group. He wrestled his guitar case up on the luggage rack and found himself a seat, only to realise that the girl sitting next to him was her. Apparently she was a friend of a friend of a friend. Go figure. They chatted animatedly the whole journey. Those of their friends that noticed said not a word. There would be a time to tease. Now was the time to look the other way and smirk.

The train seemed to get to its destination way too fast.
The bonfire was burning merrily. He and the few others who had brought along their guitars played crowd requests. They did a pretty decent job of Rise Against's Swing Life Away and Eagles' Hotel California, with everybody joining in. But things eventually switched to the inevitable Artcell and Aurthohin, with raucous voices drowning out the sound of the waves. “Play something different,” she demanded after a while, with her head to one side, her chin up, her smile a silent challenge. He considered her a moment, then started strumming out a rhythm. Softly, he began to sing. It was a quiet song, but somehow, it hushed everyone. Even the sea seemed quiet.

“Ami tomaro shonge bedhechi amaro praan
Shurero badhone
Tumi jano na
Ami tomare peyechi ojana shadhone”

When he finished, the crackling of the wood sounded unnaturally loud. Then someone wolf-whistled and everyone started laughing for some reason as they both started going red.

That night, on the moonlit beach, in the dancing shadows of the fire, they had their first kiss.

The honeymoon period was wearing off and things were starting to get a little frayed at the edges. Neither of their families were overly conservative, but even the best of them sometimes frown on pairings of different religious backgrounds. All the hiding and sneaking around was taking its toll.

It had been a relatively small thing. They were sitting near Shahbag, having fuchka, when she wrinkled her nose and said, “Did you smoke?”

He had said with a hint of resentment, “Waiting's a boring task and you were late by an hour.” “I told you, I had to go around a friend's place before I could get here to put off suspicion. You know how my mother is. And there was a jam,” she'd replied exasperatedly. “Yeah, well. Could've at least given me a call,” the resentment was more pronounced now. “Will you get off my case? We haven't seen each other for three weeks and you want to pick a fight?” He had shot back something with equal heat and from there things had swerved out of control before she left fuming, walking furiously towards the bus counters.

He had paid for the fuchka and lit up again, out of sheer spite. As he moved towards the bus stands, he suddenly heard screams and yells of, “DHOR, DHOR!!” With an irrational, unknown dread, he had sprinted to the crossroads. Her anger had perhaps blinded her and she hadn't looked properly before walking across. Or it may have been that the bus was moving too fast. Either way, it hadn't mattered. By the time he had squeezed through the crowd, he had felt an odd sort of detachment from the whole scene. Surely this was unreal. Surely it was a dream!

That was his last ever cigarette.

The band finished to thunderous applause and cheer. The unmoving guitarist finally stirred as if awaking and suddenly the crowd went quiet. He moved forward slowly, put one foot on the monitor, bent his head and, running a finger up the fretboard, picked up a high, slow tune. Those whose parents were fanatic about Rabindrashongeet recognised the melody. And quietly, a woman's voice filled the hall.
“Baajilo kaharo bina
Modhur shure
Baajilo kaharo bina”
As she walked out from behind the curtains, the guitarist looked at her and smiled.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique
Title taken from Eminem/Aerosmith song: Sing for the moment. The songs within the piece are, respectively, "Ami tomaro shonge" and "Baajilo kaharo beena", both by Rabindranath.


A Dance with Dragons

“Winter is here.”

Six years. Questions of whether or not the wait for George RR Martin's fifth offering in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series was worth it are rife on the Internet. Bloggers who were the equivalent of the Facebook-generation when the last book came out and are now considered to be the sad-old-hippie-generation (blogs… eh) equivalent are currently divided about whether or not A Dance with Dragons was good or bad. This book has been on the top ten list of upcoming fantasy releases (slotting in at number one every time) for the last three to four years. Initially, optimistic publishers thought the book would be out by late 2006. They then revamped the date to sometime in 2007. Then 2008. Then 2009. 2010. And finally, July 12, 2011, the book came out.

If one were to talk about the run up to this book, whole articles could be written. So let's not do that. This book is a parallel to the last book, A Feast for Crows, mainly focusing on the characters that didn't feature in the previous instalments. Like the previous book, geography plays a large part, with the stories mainly focusing in and around the Free Cities and the northern part of Westeros.

We find Daenerys in Mereen, trying to cope with the duties of a conqueror in a conquered city. She has to deal with rebels threatening her rule and promises of war from neighbouring cities; and unruly dragons. At the other end of the Free Cities, in Pentos, we meet Tyrion Lannister, newly run away from Westeros, trying to deal with his new itinerant lifestyle. Across the Narrow Sea we focus on the Wall, with Jon Snow, the 998th Lord Captain Commander. He's caught between three different worlds, wildlings, Night Watch brothers and royalty. In the same North, we meet Reek, a broken, maddened thing, scratching away a life in the dungeons of the Dreadfort, forever in terror. Beyond the Wall is Bran Stark on a terrifying journey through the frozen woods in search of the three eyed crow. Except there are dead things in the woods.

As previously stated, this book is a parallel to the last one. The story, in terms of simple linear advancement, falls short. We see a lot of things happening but the effects of them are restricted to only the characters. In other words, the events unfolding are not so much plot points but rather bridges to help open up new facets of old characters. Jon Snow, through the rigours of rule is forced to grow up, as is Daenerys. Bran gains a very personal perspective of hunger and death while Reek just adds a depth of madness to the desperation that is prevalent in the whole book.

And desperation can be used to sum up the overall ambience of the book. Be it in the settings of Westeros or in the Free Cities, all the characters are on or have been pushed to the edge. Some might complain that once again George RR Martin failed to provide anything remotely resembling the splendour of the first three books but like last time, the point was to show us a world, not just tell us a story. The decisions and the actions of the characters are more important here, along with the exploration of the world that the characters inhabit. We see different types of people, different places and different customs and Martin does this all in the hope of giving us a better insight into the twisted world he has created.

At the end of the day, whether you like this book or not is immaterial. What is relevant is that Martin, contrary to what most people feared, has not yet lost it. We see the terse, candid prose describing things in just enough detail to let us view the world without colouring it in some childish, magical light. Martin's dialogue seems real even through the archaic phrasing. The transition from one character to the next is seamless and the merging of the different storylines near seamless. The only gripe this reviewer has is that Martin still confounds and frustrates the reader through some of his all too real characters.

George RR Martin is still the undisputed king of fantasy stories. And if you're a fantasy reader, this book should be on your list.

By Tareq Adnan


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