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The Bold and The Beautiful

By Sarah Nafisa Shahid

We previously discussed the men of the Secret Class of Eccentrics, but we feel we need to talk about their female counterparts as well. However, there is a slight problem. Women are naturally more stable and can spend their lives being smart and brave without losing their marbles... completely. And most of them manage to look smoking hot while they are at it.

Being the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart is an excellent example of a bold woman with quirky habits like playing the banjo and studying mechanics. Yes, she studied during her leisure time. To answer the call of adventure, she went for the Circumnavigational Flight, i.e. trying to go around the world, and disappeared off the face of the Earth, sealing her place in modern mythology.

Like Earhart, most women of this type know that their talents are an asset to humanity like Wonder Woman who fights bad guys for real with her Lasso of Truth. Temperance Bones on the other hand fights bad guys too but with science. She's slightly cuckoo because she thinks emotions get in the way. She thinks everything, including emotions, can be broken down and neutered with science. Yet, even the infallible Bones often gives in to her human side. Does it make her a robot? No. She's still cool, funny without intending to be and sadly, a TV character. But awesome nevertheless.

Maybe fighting bad guys is a bit too far-fetched, but then again it isn't all that surreal. Joan of Arc fought the English (villains of her time) when she followed a divine call and led the French Army to victory, proving once again that what would generally be termed as schizophrenia in men can lead to awesome feats by women. People were so jealous of her odd ways to success that they finally accused her of being a witch and burned her alive.

That's only because they didn't know a witch called Hermione Granger. This femme fatale not only has the looks to score a Weasley [we see your scoff and raise you a Fleur Delacour] but also the supreme wit to solve Dumbledore's craziest puzzles and leave Death Eaters bawling like babies. Literally. And her creator, J. K. Rowling, is one smart, brave lady who followed her dreams, despite adversity and, erm, possible starvation, and wrote a book sitting in a coffee shop.

And then there are sacrificing women like Marie Curie; she was so dedicated to her work on radioactivity that she carried radioactive isotopes in her pocket which not only earned her two Nobel Prizes, but also led to her death due to excess exposure to radiation. But a real tragic death would be of talented singer Janis Joplin, a Club-27 member who went as far as driving a psychedelically painted Porsche 356 in order to show her diverse choice in all things good. Talking about diverse choices, we can only imagine what Mary Shelley was thinking when she wrote the first sci-fi Frankenstein. This was in a time when all the other writers including her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and friends Lord Byron were busy writing poems.

And finally we have Lisa Simpson. With an IQ of 156, she is the misfit in the Simpson family because she is a born genius, vegetarian, converted Buddhist, and possesses a keen interest in Wicca.

But who would know better about important women than us Bangladeshis, since our prime political leaders are mostly female. Though they do put a crimp in the “women are stable” argument.

An Afternoon Walk

By Mastura Tasnim

You say that you love rain, but you open your umbrella when it rains.
You say that you love the sun, but you find a shadow spot when the sun shines…

I used to take such good care of my dresses, staying away from the sun and rain to protect the fabric. Now I can see the smooth creases and folds of my dress wilting away in the afternoon sun. I can hear my wrinkles sagging even as I watch.

They asked me why I wasn't taking my diary along when I was leaving the home. I told them it wasn't necessary. Or at least I think I did. All the pretty young ladies only laughed and looked concern. I remember my golden years. I was no head-turner; I don't know how he noticed me among the saree-clad beaus, but I couldn't help but notice him. He looked so calm, collected - all my friends fell instantly in love. He chose me.

He was gone though. And I hadn't followed him as promised. Death is frightening, even now, and I shiver when I think of The End. What happens when you die? I had asked my father. “You go to a better place, ma, if you're a good person.” I'll be the first to admit my failings in that regard. Once, enraged by the slap Namira's father delivered, I left the house with the six-year-old in my arms. I cried the entire way to my parents' home, where they scolded me for leaving. I had brought dishonour to my family, and yet, did not feel shame.

A sweet smell prevails before the first drops of summer-rain hits the parched earth. I can smell it now. The old home reeked. I find more comfort in the grass beneath my feet, more shelter underneath the trees.

The river-bank breaks off here just like in many other places. The sun is hiding and it's cold; I just want to sit down, like I used to when Namira's dad came to take pictures of me. I can still see the smile in his eyes; still feel the flush on my cheeks.

Namira has my cheeks - wide, unmarked and brown. After her first day at school, she came home with tears streaking down them. Her father had wiped them clean and made her smile.

I hadn't noticed when I had sat down on the edge of the bank. My bangles clinked a familiar tune as I adjusted my seat. The jamdani I wore was a gift from Namira; she told me it was very expensive and to wear it only occasionally. Jamaibabu can't afford to buy me sarees all the time. He might be the general manager of a bank, but he didn't have money to throw around. He kept my daughter happy, and the biggest gift of all: he gave me Nayan.

The little bundle of happiness that the nurse brought over was given to me first, even before the father. He was busy attending Namira, and I took up the chance to snatch the first glimpse of my grandson. He looked so composed I was afraid he hadn't cried at all, but the nurse assured me otherwise. This one was a strong one, I remembered her say. This one also had the prettiest pair of eyes in the whole wide world. Nayan was a name I gave, and the one decision that Namira and jamaibabu did not have a problem with.

Nayan grew at an alarming pace, almost reluctant to stay a baby, it seemed. I fed him, bathed him, took him to school and taught him his ABCs and showed him how to tie his shoelaces. He always forgot how to loop up the rabbits so I always ended up tying them for him. He smiled. I smiled.

We were walking to school one day, he had his tiny hand out to signal the cars although I told him I could handle that alone. We were getting a bit late, and he was pulling at my anchol, making me fidget every so often. The light turned red on the traffic side, and I pulled him along to cross, right in front of a five ton truck which wiped him, not so cleanly, out of my life. Out of our lives.

I survived. That was my fault. My address changed; Namira and her husband found it convenient not to have me around any future children they might have. The nurses at the home told me I have a grand-daughter now. They have seen her in the car when Namira came. They have seen what I am not allowed to see. “She's as pretty as your daughter, khala. She'll be prettier than you were in your youth.” I hope so. The wrinkles came on too early for my liking.

The first drops of rain are falling, and the sweet smell becomes almost unbearable to the senses. I feel light-headed, like the time when Namira's dad let me have a sip of his scotch. This was so sweet it could've been bitter.

The water churned below, the wind blew in gusts now. The blue jamdani anchol swayed to nature's rhythm as I clambered up. My knees hurt. I stepped down into oblivion.



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