Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home

The Little Emperor Syndrome

By Tasfia R. Anika

Ever dreamt of being the king of the world; sitting majestically on the throne with everyone catering to your each and every need? While for most of us in Bangladesh that dream remains a dream, there are others around the world living it up. So what if they aren't exactly the kings of the world? Ruling over the entire family is a reasonable substitute.

It all began with China's one child policy. The policy not only ensured a controlled population growth but also resulted in the little Emperors and Empresses. You see, their parents now have more money to spend on that single kid, unlike yours, who spread treats among your pesky siblings. Having a single child means aiming to give him/her all the opportunities possible. As a result now there is a generation of spoiled obese children who are constantly demanding the full attention of their parents and grandparents and fulfilment of their each and every desire. It's altering how the Chinese society and family structure functions; the power of the household no longer devolves from the father but the child.

But don't be jealous just yet. You see, too much pampering comes with its consequences. When the all-important child steps into the real world where he is not given the same level of attention, it may lead to depression other psychological problem. Also, those of you who are an only child will know the pressure of carrying the expectations and dreams of both the parents, to succeed academically and in extra-curricular activities.

But this is a problem specific to China, we hear you say. Why should we be bothered? Well, several reasons. Life lesson number one: with great royalty, comes great restriction. Life lesson number two: be grateful for your siblings. You owe your freedom to them.


Johnny Got His Gun
Author: Dalton Trumbo

By Moyukh

You may be the most imaginative person in the world and yet it would be difficult for you to place yourself in Joe Bonham's shoes. What is life like when you have no limbs, can't see, hear or communicate in any way - half your face blown away and you are not even sure if you are, at any particular moment, dreaming or not. Dubbed the Most Original Book of 1939, Johnny Got His Gun follows the story of a young soldier drafted to fight the First World War and his life as a permanent patient in a hospital where he is lying after being hit by an artillery shell.

The book consists of basically what Joe is thinking - so there's no outside perspective of what is actually happening. The highlight of the book is his realisation and his attempts at accepting his situation.

The book has a very pacifist voice, and was even used as a point to stop involvement in wars. It describes Joe's childhood, his parents, the time he went fishing, his short adolescent love life and in the middle of one these jumbles memories he realises he has no arms. They must have had to chop it off. And when he feels top heavy and sinking, he eventually realises he has no legs either. No face, breathing through a tube. And he wonders in astonishment at being still alive - people leave hospitals without arms, legs, sometimes faces gets blown off - but they live. But how could all the worst possibilities happen to him all at once - and he realises that one miniscule probability exists to whom the worst possible can happen.

He tries to keep himself busy, to get a grasp of time, to count the days, weeks and years which pass by with him as a vegetable. With nothing to do but think, he comes to the conclusion that life is too precious to waste fighting someone else's war to the point he gets aggressive in his mind about the benefit of democracy to the man dead or incapacitated like him.

His attempts of communicating succeed one day, thanks to a nurse. Using Morse code which he used as a kid to talk to a childhood friend on rainy days, he finally gets through. He begs the doctors to kill him and after a while he understand that he would rather live, even if as a circus freak enclosed in a glass case to be shown to the world as the horrors of war.

The book is extremely touching, to the point that in one scene Joe drifts between dream and reality and imagines a rat biting away at his side while he can't do anything about it, can't shake it off, can't cry for help, you imagine his plight and just want to get through the part and know that he is alright.

Dalton Trumbo writes in a very uncharacteristic way for his time, a little reminiscent of Hemingway. Short sentences, no punctuation, drifting between reality and dream, sudden shifts of memories - all of these make the book all the more wonderful. It's a very fast read and gets the point across about war. The book is a classic and though not many know of it, the story should be familiar to all fans of Metallica. Their song 'One', was written based on the book, and the music video uses actual footage from the movie. And for someone who likes the song, the book will induce a few smiles as you find the lines taken verbatim. And in case you are wondering, the title of the book is a play on “Johnny get your gun” - a sentence which was used to encourage the young men to join the army.

Chronicles of a Sleepyhead

By Umama Akhtar Turna

I'm somewhere bright and colourful, laughing at an octopus. The octopus gets angry and starts to swim towards me. Just when it is a few inches away, I hear a faint call, “Wake up!” My consciousness flies back to the normal world from the realm of dreams. I manage to fling open an eyelid and meet the gaze of the housemaid. I grab my phone and look at the time. It's 3:25 am. Before anything else happens, I drown back to sleep. A minute or so passes, and someone's calling me again. This time I recognise the voice to be my mom's. “It's Sehri time, wake up!” I'm still stationary on my bed.

After a few minutes of bellowing from all the people in the house, I'm forced to believe I have to wake up now. With as much reluctance as possible, I leave the warm comfort of my bed and stomp out to meet the food on the table. Everyone else is already seated. With eyes barely open, I take my seat, and look out the window. It is coal-dark outside and the windows in the surrounding buildings are all lit up.

As I start eating, slowly my drowsiness wears off and I start to actually taste the food. The rice is a little cold, but there is no time to complain. It's 3:40AM now and everyone is eerily silent. Someone at the table makes a cold remark about the curry being a little bland; I don't look up because I'm busy getting the bones off my fish.

“Ar maatro dosh minute baki,” the familiar voice from the nearest mosque rings out. I feel a rush and try to eat faster, ending up creating awkward noises at the table. After I'm done with eating, I run off to brush my teeth. A while later the last minute warning chimes in from the mosque. With long, forced gulps of water, I end my midnight meal.

As the Azan comes in, everyone is off to do the ablutions, and so am I. I can feel the claws of sleep trying to numb me again. I manage to complete my prayers. I give a quick glance at the open Chemistry book on my table that I had been studying last night. I had put off reading it for this moment. “Who studies after Sehri?” I say to myself. With no further ado, I thump back to bed. It is still dark outside and I feel myself drowning into another comfortable fit of sleep.


home | The Daily Star Home

2012 The Daily Star