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None of our business!
By Maliha Bassam

The needle wavers mockingly and after much indecisiveness settles most reluctantly. Brows furrowed, eyes squint at the scale. Do crossing fingers really rescue you from situations such as these? It's more than the last time you checked, like duh it's... EGAD! WHAT'S THAT?
Don't faint. So you have gained some weight. So have I. Lots of it, in fact. Not that I like bellowing the news from the rooftops. But when your body says it all, I suppose there's no need to keep your mouth shut.
While everyone talks about all the emotional cons connected with the teenage years, we don't hear much about the physical... err... problems, now do we? The scenario mentioned above is quite familiar among some of us; mostly girls. Weight is an issue for many young ladies out there. You're lucky if it's not to you but some of us see nothing short of a football when we stand in front of the mirror.
To start with, the media portrays a much exaggerated picture of how a successful twenty-first century woman should be. I mean, just shuffle through the TV channels and you'll know what I mean. Starting from the VJs on MTV to the drama queens in the Hindi serials, every face on TV holds a criminally small waistline. Obviously, with the TV being such an integral part of our lives, these images of perfectly gym toned figures do influence the definitions of our dream bodies. In our minds, we begin to believe that the formula to happiness and success is having a 25" waistline and washboard abs. Quite a self-deprecating idea, if you are a regular shopper at the XXL corner.
Firstly, keep in mind that Britney Spears and the likes constitute a very small percentage of females in the world. Most women in the world are not satisfied with their body-weights so you can stop thinking you belong to the EOS (Exclusive Over-sized Society). Tell the thinnest girl in your class that you wish you had her slender figure and I bet she'd whine, "But no, I've gained SO much weight". My God. I guess the laws of economics apply in more places than we think. Human wants can never really be satisfied.
I am absolutely sure that if you had your own personal gym instructor, the big bucks for expert-performed liposuction, the time to sweat it off in your very own home gym and if your pay was inversely proportional to the size of your waistline, you would look just as anorexic as Calista Flockhart. It is simply unfair to expect non-celebrities such as us to resemble those wax dolls. Yet, such injustice is practiced everyday.
For some reason, being overweight seems to be a crime. I wonder why the Supreme Court hasn't passed a law yet stating that a youngster should be executed for perpetuating the unthinkably heinous crime of being overweight. Remember the kid in kindergarten, the rotund little boy whom everyone would call "Big Bubble"? Well we might have grown in size and may be our vocabulary's expanded but even after all these years, how many of us have outgrown that old compulsion of ours? Kids can be angels but these angels can be mighty cruel sometimes. The instinct to point fingers and guffaw like hyenas at the sight of someone fat is harboured in some of us till quite a "mature" age. What is it psychologists say about such people... suffering from insecurity? Needing to prove superiority? The fact that misery loves company and so making an overweight kid your companion?
Everyone's played the bully at some point in their childhood, May be because some of us have a knack at making others laugh by inventing creative names for overweight kids or simply due to peer pressure. All that's okay when one is eight... well, it's not okay but I suppose it's excusable. But what about eight years later, at the age of sixteen? How excusable is it then?
As I was growing up, I remember noticing how it was always the fattest kid in the class to be chosen last for the basketball teams. How the fat kids would eat alone during break or not even dare to venture out of the classrooms. They would be completely boycotted from the usual social activities other schoolchildren would enjoy. And it makes me angry that even now when our college applications are just a year and a half away; some people crack the most pathetic jokes about their overweight classmates. These insulting remarks only catalyse the victim's process of gaining more weight. Obviously, being constantly teased publicly causes one to feel humiliated and eventually depressed. And that is when food substitutes as a best friend, providing deviation from the feeling of perpetual emptiness that a person in a situation such as this learns to live with.
Excuse my candour but in my opinion, people who derive pleasure from making fun of other people's weight are nothing short of pathetic losers. Nothing gives us the right to make a big deal about someone else's figure_ we weren't created by a different God, nor do we have superpowers making us higher than our fellow human beings. What makes me sad is that nobody stands up to such people and usually observers only laugh along when others are picked on. And even if we belong to the group of people that believes that the victim of such unwanted attention should stand up for him/herself and so it's completely okay to laugh along_ well, we have no reason to feel great. When people who have so many friends are afraid of standing up against overgrown-baby-cum-bullies, how can they, being the "outcasts" that people have made of them, stand up for themselves?
It is because most of us laugh along in response that this form of mental torture still exists and is being inflicted on others on a daily basis. The one who's picking on the fat kid thinks of the act as providing entertainment, basks in self-glory and thus continues ad infinitum.
The point is not to sympathize with the overweight people around us because that would be demeaning them. The point is to treat them as human beings and if we find that too hard a job, just leave them alone.
We might think it's no big deal but it really is. We might think the kids don't care if we make fun of them but they actually do. We might think that it doesn't matter and that what we are doing is just harmless fun_ but that's all self-deluding talk. Our thoughtless comments do harm these people and cause detriment to their self-esteem, shattering their self-confidence, and even though they might not be very open about it, they live with these wounds longer than we can imagine.
If racial discrimination is an offence, so is being biased towards people suffering from obesity or people who are overweight. I think we are all old enough to break away from this odious practice and stop judging people according to the lipid-level in their bodies. And if we are not old enough, I think it's high time we grow up.

Goodbye dear school
By Tahiat-e-Mahboob

As I sat next to Ashraf Sir that Thursday in the teacher's lounge engulfed in a blanket of cold air from the AC frantically solving Business Studies problems, I paused for a second and that was when it finally hit me. Today would be the last day we all met at school. Technically it wasn't the last day of school. It would go on for another week but we wouldn't be coming back. Even if I did, the others wouldn't. And that was when the dread finally gripped me. Oh god! School was really over. It was over for me and for a lot of others who were leaving for university this year. The others who remained would probably quit school and give exams privately.
I finished my work and fished out the contraband from my bag: the camera. We had to take special permission from the administration to bring one and I hadn't. Anyway, I opened it, called my friend Naorose to take a snap of me and Sir. After that I packed my stuff and set out on my mission. I wanted to take pictures with everyone in sight who I knew. I first went and took snaps with the old gang: Shabab (aloo), Mahmudul (Mamu), Ehtesham (Ehte), Roger, Sahar, Nevin, Tahsina. That done I started looking for more people. As I stopped to look at the staircase, I glanced around at the whole building. Mastermind. School. My school. My dream come true in a weird way. It was everything that I wanted in a school. Whitewashed and haphazardly planned, the school had a very distinctive high school look that I used to fantasize about when I read high school books like SVH and Mallory Towers.
Although I had only come to Mastermind to do my A-levels, the seventeen months I spent in it were simply marvelous. I remembered how miserable I was at first because I hadn't known anyone. But all that changed when I became friends with my classmates and the sophomores. I remember how I was thrilled at the prospect of not wearing a uniform. I was thrilled at the sight of a proper common room and canteen. Yes, this certainly fit my dream school portrait. As I got into the habit of waking up everyday at different times and then heading for school, I also learnt a lot of things about Masterminders. They were very different from the all the people I had known in my life for so long. They were more open-minded, less critical and more light-hearted. I liked my teachers too. And even the administration. The words "social life" took a different meaning.
And now it was all to end. There were countless things that would be no more. There would be no outings to Café Mango anymore with Muffin, Fari, Chunky, Jantu Golu, Twinky and god knows how many others. There would be no teasing Sahar, being teased by Ayan and nagging Shabab about reading my palms. I would no longer be kissing the air around Trani's cheeks when me met like the French. There would be no Roger who I could coerce into treating. There wouldn't be any bhikkha sessions where we all would beg everyone for some money so that we could gather enough to go to Mango. There would be no whims which would propel us to go to Iffat's at a stones throw. The mamu and the khalas at the canteen would no longer here me nagging to hurry up. There wouldn't be any world battles with Majid Sir, wars with Ahmede Sir and jokes with Azom Sir.
There would only be memories.
Memories that instantly made me clutch my stomach in laughter, well my eyes up in tears and flare my nostrils. But this was life. I couldn't stop time. It was like trying to keep a fistful of sand grains from pouring down the crevices of my hand and fingers. And I accepted it. But it simply wrenched my heart and made me angry that I had not thought of some ingenious ways to record it all.
I was pulled back out of my reverie by Akbar calling. Then I found Rumana and while Akbar was taking our picture the inevitable happened. Zeenat Miss appeared and whisked away my camera. As usual I followed her into the office and wheedled with her and Nasima Miss as they listed the rules. But as usual being on their good books (So I presume) I got off the hook with my camera. And then the photo shoot started. Pictures of the gang. Picturews with the two misses. Pictures with Fakhruddin Sir and Nira Miss. Pictures with Majid Sir. Pictures with everyone.
By the time we finished, it was almost lunchtime. As usual we couldn't decide where to go. But a great thing did happen. Aliya and Sabin went into the principal's office and I followed. Everyone stood in the courtyard as Aliya and Sabin wheedled our principal Fakhruddin Ahmed to give us money. As sir took out his wallet we held our breaths and then he gave us a thousand bucks! Can you believe it? Just like that! Thrilled we raced out and headed towards the gate to go eat out.
It was going to be our last lunch together as Masterminders. As I turned to head out through the gate and leave, I turned back and looked at my school for one long aching second. I absorbed all the memories and heard a whisper. Goodbye Tahiat. Mastermind was saying goodbye to me. I smiled and released the breath I was holding for that infinitesimal moment. Goodbye Dear School.





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