I think my neighbours are aliens
Illustration: Sadia Islam
To be precise, the ones in the apartment downstairs are aliens (not all of my neighbours are aliens; it is well-known throughout the galaxy that three types of intelligent life forms cannot live in the same building). I have very logical reasons to believe so. How logical? Very logical, like oneeek (stretch your hands out as far as you can: that much). I have been observing them for the past three months after all.
Looking back to the day they moved in, I think my first clue was their appearance. They looked perfectly human. Isn't that suspicious? Isn't that exactly what an alien would do to blend in with us? Yeah? I thought so too. As soon as I saw them stepping down from the vehicle, I knew something was off. The 'apparent-wage-earner' of the family was a portly, comely middle-aged man. His wife even more so. They looked honest and jolly. The perfect disguise to fool everyone (but me). The aunty looked lively even with the prospect of toiling the whole day setting up the apartment. What's more, she shrugged it off when the movers reported several broken furniture. What is up with that? No one is that carefree.
Next is my biggest clue. Or clues. Their daughters. Both of them. They are very pretty, and almost my age too; the eldest one is one year my junior, the youngest three. I had been praying to the divine entity to bless me with pretty, nubile, age-appropriate neighbours nearly all my conscious life. I had given up hope; I had decided that hot neighbours are just another urban legend. Then they came. Really, Alien-overlord? You couldn't have come up with something less ideal? Pretty neighbour girls do not exist. Pretty age-appropriate neighbour girls don't exist. You made your most fatal mistake when you decided to put some of your henchwomen in those pretty garbs. Bad move. Even worse move was when the elder one caught my eyes and smiled. But I won't hold it against the Alien-overlord. The girl might be an alien, but her smile is cute...
I kept my watch vigilantly. Perhaps they had detected my suspicions (they have superior technology), so they sent over their own watch. The very next day after they moved in, the daughters came up to our apartment. I couldn't believe my eye as I peeped through the peep-hole. How can they be so bold? (I hastily ruffled up my hair and puffed up my chest and kept my muscles flexed, only to show them that I am an opponent to be feared; not to flirt or do something juvenile; I put on my lazy grin, which I had been working on for a while, and said 'Hey' to them in a deep voice). They had brought food. I mean, who does that in this day and age? This is the era of people not noticing their neighbours until they die unattended and their rotten corpses smell enough. People don't care about other people or who lives upstairs. It is nearly unheard of. (What? You know upstairs neighbour? Contact the Men in Black, dude. You have an alien-neighbour too.)
The next day, my mother baked some cakes for our newest hi-hello-awkward-silence-in-the-elevator acquaintances. I volunteered to take those to them, but only because I wanted to see what their living quarters looked like. What I experienced there gave shape to my notion about their true identity. Aunty knew my name, where I lived and what I studied. I knew that the aliens were trying to play me. But I am not just any man. I played along. I sat on their sofa. I watched news on their TV. I poked at the younger girl's teddy. And I made Internet Explorer their default browser, just to see what they did next. They didn't do anything. I knew it then. There is no internet-conscious human alive that does not know of the pain of Internet Explorer. I had my answer (and the girls' phone numbers, for purely scientific reasons).
They are friendly. The Uncle has his 'diabetes-jogging' with my father, and several other adults from our building. The Aunty gets along famously with the other ladies. She shares food in Shab-e-Barat, or when she makes chutney. This is not how modern society works, man. We are not supposed to know who lives where. We are supposed to nod and grimace politely when we cross paths. Yeah, maybe in an ideal society decades ago. But not in 2012.
I think the aliens downstairs had some pretty old data. These are obsolete now. I matched these facts and came to the conclusion that the kind Uncle, the cheerful Aunty, the beautiful elder sister and the polite younger one are members of a distant alien race.
Or they might be very nice people.
Bag-Packers Guide to the Galaxy
Art: Prithi Khalique
So we are going to space. Humans decided enough is enough and mastered the ability to leave each other alone for a few moments, and finally found the time to send people to space. Took them couple of millenniums to figure things out, but finally they got there. We are going to space to take a look at the rest of the universe, because among other reasons, Earth is contemplating on belching us out. Instead of caring for the planet, we decide we're too good for it anyway and other planets and galaxies have finally become worthy of us. So we pack our bags, tighten our lungis and set out to explore the universe.
What do we really pack for space travel? A box of fresh undies? The hardcover of our favourite book? A meat processor in case we need to turn to cannibalism? A bucket of Earth soil? RS got curious and so we asked people around: 'What would you pack with you for a space travel?' and people answered. Niloy, in a very matter-of-fact tone said he would like to take the internet- all of it. Apparently checking reddit out in the middle of your launch is a good idea. Then there is Nazia, who would take her laptop (to watch the new Dexter episodes, naturally) and a Vertical Bed (to sleep standing up of course) this way you could go to space and come back without ever noticing.
Samanta reckons iPad would be good thing to kill time with, because all the sounds and jerks the spaceship's going to make is going to get dreary in a while, which is where Temple Run comes in. A surprisingly big number of people mentioned tablets and music station, despite no air and all. Shifat claims that the only two things he's taking to space is 'Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy' and a towel because, “Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where he kept his towel, is clearly a man to be reckoned with." We agree on that front.
This writer would like to take her cat, because the cat also needs to see the wonders of the universe and achieve self fulfilment. Sure, that would mean transporting an abysmal amount of catfood, but I reckon if someone can take me to space they gonna have to pay for my cat too. For all we know, apart from all the teddies, books and .mkv files, Bangali's are going to take something else with them to space. Good ol' Bodna - our greatest export and a symbol of national pride.