The Greatest Show on Earth
By the time you read this the London Olympics will be over. Sixteen days of the world's best athletes competing for national and personal glory and the most memorable thing you took away from it is the 'Queen' jumping out of the helicopter with James Bond (in fairness though, that was very nicely done. Kudos Danny Boyle). Yea yea, the Olympics are boring. We've heard that already. I'm sure most of you who say this haven't gotten past watching the mediocre football on display or haven't yet managed to catch any of the women's beach volleyball matches. You are bound to become a fan. For 'sporty' reasons, of course.
If you really didn't watch the Olympics you missed a treat. There are loads of reasons why you really shouldn't have missed it. Off the top of my head, watching the fastest people on land and water in action is a pretty good reason. Never again will Michael Phelps grace the Olympic pools, but his exploits will forever be remembered. The greatest Olympian ever made swimming exhilarating to watch and you can't help but be in awe of him. 22 medals. Legend. Other than that, there was the usual showboating from Usain Bolt as he became the first person to successfully defend his sprint titles. Like always, there was simply no answer to him and he almost mocked his opponents, glancing casually at the clock as he timed in at 19.32 seconds in the 200m event. Yes, you missed all of that. But hey, at least you saw Lord Voldemort vs Mary Poppins.
The other obvious thing to take away from the Olympics is the pity and self-loathing. You should've seen the games just to feel bad about yourselves. There were 18 year olds out there winning medals left, right and center. Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen won two gold medals this time and she's just 16. What have we been doing with our lives? If anything it should give extra motivation to young athletes around the country to bring home some glory.
And this brings us to another important part; we should really support our athletes more in these games. The generic answer of “We'll never win anything anyways” is not much of an excuse, seeing how we stuck with our cricket team through thick and thin. A little more encouragement and support would go a long way to helping our chances at these games and perhaps one day people will recognize that we are not there to just make up the numbers. That being said, our Olympians performed admirably in Athletics, Artistic Gymnastics and Shooting among others.
Those are just a few of the reasons why you should have watched the Olympics but really, this is about more than just weighing the pros and cons (of which there are a lot, the points system being the most confusing). It's about that amazing hair-raising moment when you see 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius sprinting down the track in his carbon legs, the smile on your face when you applaud Murray for securing gold on home soil and that instance when Mo Farah runs 10 kilometers in 27 minutes to leave everyone speechless and teary-eyed. THAT is why you should have watched the Olympics. But don't worry about regrets. Rio is only four years away.
We are the bright, the filthy, the beautiful. We examined their rules in the glow of discarded haloes and laughed quickly before they snapped between our fingernails. “Youth,” they called, slump-shouldered and heavy-eyed. “Youth, obey.” The speedometer gave a sardonic tilt of its head and flashed past 120 in reply. Our scarlet lips shrieked hollow apologies as we flew away. And we did not hear their old, wise chuckles, or see the patronising twinkles in their eyes. Ramadan was coming, they knew. Our causeless revolutions would soon cave, as morals made a guilty, public homecoming to our souls.
Now the thirty days are here. Fifteen hours from dawn to dusk, but the parched throats and empty stomachs are tolerable, even insignificant. Our true test - and failure - lies in the enforcement of purity. What soap have you for the encrusted grime of urban privilege? Most sincerely do we attempt to scour these minds and mouths of profanity, but the bristles are falling off the scrubbing brushes and our rags are turning to shreds. These weak wills can sieve out sin for only so long. We ask for a compromise. We can deal only with a compromise. Our fasts will be real fasts, clear of depravity and wrong-doing, accompanied, even, by a spotless mind. In return, allow us a return to normalcy while the sun is set.
This writer is only documenting an agreement already being put into practice in reality. As twilight descends on Dhaka, the city, with a quick glance over its shoulder, slinks back into its murky ways. The dams in our heads crumble with a collective, hazy sigh. Teenagers slide bribe-money into their pockets and reverse, with illegal smoothness, out of their parents' garages.
“Dost, rasta khali.”
This is no statement of simple fact. It is an eruption of ecstatic incredulity, the reaction of jaded travellers to an enchanted land. Traffic jams, by divine and government intervention, have been removed, and now we are ready drive to the moon at a moment's notice. Curbed, we make do with everywhere else. Shared cigarettes and uncaged swear words mingle upon lips on rooftops, while downstairs, the reunion of shy, or not-so-shy, sweethearts is facilitated by their friends' iftar parties. Sheesha, re-legalised, clouds the cushioned interiors of packed lounges, where overstuffed stomachs and lazy spines recline in the blissful cover of “Ma, class till ten.” Later, the passion of lovers' telecommunications trails on right until the morning call for prayer.
The infected, however, are not the whole. Scattered amongst the nocturnally wicked souls lie the Ramadan puritans, the worthy contingent of urban youth. These blessed darlings abstain from sin even after the sun goes down. Word reaches us of a few among their number, the boy who prays tarabi after iftar until 10:30 and then goes to sleep, the girl who's grown out of breaking her fast with a kiss. We hear of the stoner who puts away his smoke for the month.
But we are the bright, the filthy, the beautiful. We examined their rules beneath streetlights at dawn, and grudgingly tied our haloes back on. “Youth,” they called, and we turned home, fingernails at our sides. Our scarlet lips faded as the speedometer fell flat and respectability set its thick, yellow gaze on our hearts. We can only wait, now, for the feasts to begin.
This week's piece was something we all would jump to doing if we got the chance. With the streets being empty and all during Eid, the possibilities seem tempting. If only. We have "Crunchy" as the next topic. All submissions need to be sent in to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday noon. Word limit: 350-500 words. Good luck.
By Umama Akhtar Turna
It's the summer of 2013. Dhaka city is buzzing with the premonition of the oncoming war. It's a glorious time. Every young person in the town is getting ready to go into war (or updating Facebook statuses about it). It's a dream come true for thousands of teenagers who have longed all their life to hold a gun. People who hardly got off their computers are now busy buying weapons and ammunition. Girls who always thought their nailpolish was the most important thing in the world are not caring about their nails anymore. The best part is - parents are not stopping anyone. Why would they? To them, it's just a game.
But it's much more than just a game. It is war; the Paintball War of 2013. And a war is a war. There would be paint-splashes in place of blood, polythene and plastic bags in place of coif and hauberk, and most importantly, there would be guns…lots of guns.
The final preparations have been made: city walls have been painted white; hundreds of cheap plastic rifles have been imported from China; diplomatic ties have been secured with Facebook friends. Mothers have been bribed with promises of good grades to pray for their children; fathers have already started boasting about how their child is a better warrior than anyone else's. All that is left to do is to begin.
And so it begins. With especially composed music tracks and fanatical war-cries, guys and gals are stepping out. Every major street in Dhaka starts to get packed with excited people. In their plastic shoes and pockets bulging with extra paintballs, each and every fighter is looking terrifying.
At first, no one feels brave enough to commence the fight. The streets seem awkwardly silent. Everyone is waiting for the others to start. There is false alarm that the whole thing was a false alarm. And then, some over-enthusiastic 14 year old raises his pink gun and shoots. “Pop.” The paintball hits no-one. But it announces the official start of the war, and becomes the famous First-paintball-to-be-shot.
In an instant, the roads and alleys are filled with pops of paintballs and the yells of fighters. “Attack!”s and “Shoot me if you can!”s are echoing off the concrete boundaries. No one knows who will win. But everyone is sure of one thing; this is going to be legendary.