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Memories of the soul

A few weeks ago, I had just moved to my own apartment in East Bronx. I had found it very thrilling to finally be living on my own. It soon struck me, though, that something was missing. As I looked over a few pictures from my past I realized somehow, that my flat bore a striking resemblance to the house I lived in as a child, way back in Maryland. Unfortunately, my parents had left the house when I had gone off to university. I had never been able to bid it a proper goodbye.

I never realized until now the strange connection I had to it. I felt quite drawn to the house. I think, that might have been the reason why I stand before it now. The house that was once a towering white structure is now dilapidated, peeling and cold.

I was too reluctant to enter the gate. Nevertheless, I gingerly placed a hand on it. All of a sudden my hand received a shock, blinding me with memories from my childhood. I saw myself running, screaming, playing...

I walked slowly across the front lawn. Everywhere I looked brought back memories from my past. I passed the stone leprechaun, my mother's favourite garden decoration. I bear its mark, the one I got when I toppled over and banged my head on it.

As I stepped on the front porch, I felt my heart beating loudly. I felt excited, nervous but at the same time happy. For some reason, I was anticipating something. Sure enough, I feel something light and smooth graze my cold lips, and a memory of my very first boyfriend fades away.

On entering the room, I was greeted by darkness and endless silence. The silence was too loud, even for me. Exhausted, I sit on the staircase. There was a heavy disagreement going on in the living room and I was too tired to sort it out. Abruptly, I stand and walk into the room. The memory of my parents' disagreement over my roadtrip was still fresh, as if it was yesterday.

I needed air and the best place to get it was in my yard. It was too dark for me to see. Placing my hands on the wall, I was guided to my destination. All the way, I was revisited by the haunting memories of my temporary running away from home and my sister's disastrous (divorce). I had my hands on the wall for a long time. My fingers hungered for the feel of it. I felt I needed to know more. If only walls could speak…

The patio was just as it was when I left. However, the flowers in the pot hanging from the ceiling were withered. I sat quietly on the steps. Breathing the air in somehow brings back rushes of memories from the family barbecue, my sister's second wedding, my luau and my post-graduation party.

I walked inside the house and waited silently below the stairs. I could feel it calling even before I had entered it. I had ignored it then, but I couldn't now. The only thing that could put my turbulent spirits to rest was my bedroom.

I walked up the stairs, running the hand on the railing as I went by. The contact sent charges of memory through my hands. I enjoyed them; I was feeding on them. In a few minutes, I stood in front of the hall. My bedroom was at the far end, but I was too scared to go there. So many memories, some good, many bad.

As I took a tentative step towards my room, I was roughly pushed aside by one the ghosts from my memory: myself. She looked happy, laughing raucously, her friends at her side. They raced through the hall, and as the last of them disappeared into the room, she slammed the door shut.

The impact surprised me and I woke with a start, to see myself in front of my door. It was left ajar, and I could see string of light cutting through the darkness. I pushed the door open gently with my foot. Cautiously, I stepped in. Suddenly, I felt a crackle of electricity ripping through my body. I shivered in delight. There was a lot energy in the room. Every fiber of my body rang with the feeling of it. It took so much out of me, I slumped to the cold floor. There was a light pole outside the window, which provided some illumination. I saw posters from my teenage years, on the waits and thought about those precious moments that I had lost. I allowed myself to cry, to feel, to mourn.

A lot of time passed till I wiped my tears away. I looked around and my gaze rested on a picture. I reached over for it. It was me, standing in front of this very house when my family had first moved here. I was three.

I suddenly felt confident and surer of myself. I held the picture tightly in my hand and ran down the stairs. At the door, I looked around for the last time. A smile lit up face, as I closed the door of the house firmly, taking with me every bit of memory that this very house had created.

At last my soul was at peace.

By Sumbal Momen

What's with all the wannabes?

Attention, people! A new species of organism is invading our world. They have Blond hair, wear minimum cloting, and love to dance around and perform on stage. I am told that they are the new-generation of singers, but I am yet to find one who comes even remotely close to being able to sing. Yet despite all that, I am still one of the millions of people who enjoys their performances. You might call it a guilty pleasure but I am sure that none of us can bear to change the channel when Britney is doing one of her shocking acts. As western culture gradually integrates into the world of Bangladeshi teenagers, the likes of Britney Spears and Shakira are gaining immense popularity. That does not necessarily have to be a bad thing but the worst part is that along with this pop culture a whole new culture is emerging- the "wannabe" culture.

The wannabe culture is actually spreading faster than ever before and somehow it almost seems laughable. A lot of the new young singers in Bangladesh want to be a Britney or a Shakira. They try to copy their style of singing, dance moves, clothes, hairstyles, etc. The sad part is that these singers actually have a lot of talent but almost no personality and originality. And it's not just the singers. Even teenagers who are not even remotely interested in singing want to look like their pop idols. People are so influenced by television these days that they want to copy anyone who appeals to them on TV. This includes movie stars, actors in Hindi serials, Indian film stars and of course the singers and dancers in all the music videos. Teenagers want to look like them, dress like them, walk like them and even talk like them. It almost seems as if everyone is trying to copy someone in a pathetic attempt to appear "cool" or "classy", whatever that may be. The worst part is when people try to copy accents and try to adopt certain words in their vocabulary to sound like their foreign idols. Seriously, lose that fake accent- it isn't getting you anywhere!

These days every time I turn on BTV I am appalled by what is shown on TV. Take for example, the bangla movies. They are filled with dance scenes, which show girls in atrocious attire trying to move their "not-so-slim" body with the music. Is that really a part of our culture, or another symptom of the wannabe effect? Isn't it a bit too obvious that they are trying to copy their Indian counterparts? Hindi films and serials have gained immense popularity amongst Bangladeshis in recent years. All of a sudden the "in-thing" is to copy the style of the Indian actresses, their looks, their clothes and jewelry. I have to admit that all of this has left me a little bewildered, especially since my knowledge about Hindi films is very limited. I used to have an old-fashioned notion that only intellectual people or those who have accomplished some remarkable feat could be role models for the younger generation. I could not have been more mistaken! No one wants to be like Muhammad Ali or even Ben Hur anymore. Having a role model never meant that you had to look like them or copy their style of talking or dressing. Can you imagine what would happen if people had started wearing boxer shorts all the time to look like Ali? Nowadays, everyone is so concerned about their image that they think they have to look and act in a certain way to be popular. I suppose it is all about "walking the walk and talking the talk"! Maybe I should go and work on my "not-so-cool" accent. Or better yet, I think I'll dye my hair blonde!

I think I should sign off now before people start throwing rotten tomatoes and sandals at me. I suppose, the point I am trying to make is that, if you are trying to be like someone, whoever that may be, it is a good idea to not lose your own personality. Everyone is unique in his or her own special way and that's a gift, not a curse!

By Ayesha S. Mahmud

Book review
Poetry books for kids

In Bangladesh, there are very few books for the children and those available in the market are not really quality products mostly because of the not-so-attractive writing and illustration. Parents of small children usually prefer high-priced foreign books and the kids really love them. Local writers and publishers, however, are trying to produce some good books that would serve the dual purpose of entertaining little children, and teaching them facts about our country and its culture in their mother tongue. Recently, the renowned publisher of children's books, <i>Shahitya Prakash<i>, has made a unique effort to create quality books for kids. It has published two great bilingual books for children written by Maithilee Mitra entitled "What Kind of Bird I am?" <i>(Aami She Kon Pakhi Bolte Paro Naki<i>) and "What Kind of Animal I am?" (<i>Aami She Kon Pranee Bolte Paro Naki<i>).

As the names suggest, the book "What Kind of Bird I am?" (<i>Aami She Kon Pakhi Bolte Paro Naki<i>) is about eight birds, and the later one "What Kind of Animal I am?" (<i>Aami She Kon Pranee Bolte Paro Naki<i>) is about eight animals. The animals and birds have been described in lively poetry in both Bangla and English language which I think is quite unique. All the Bangla rhymes are edited by renowned writer Hayat Mamud and they are translated by Allan B. Massie. Both the books are decorated with numerous illustrations of birds and animals drawn by Syed Enayet Hossain. These pictures easily attract the little children and encourage them to read.

All the poems in these books appear like riddles. Each poem is about a particular bird or animal and gives some hints, accompanied by a partial picture. From these clues, the reader has to guess the name of the bird or animal. The answer is provided on the next page alongside a whole picture. This approach not only makes the two books enjoyable and fun, it also helps the children to use their brains. They learn about some birds and animals in an entertaining way. These books take them to the wonderful world nature as they gradually know about its inhabitants.

Both books, though written specifically for three to eight-year-old children, can be enjoyed by anyone. The poetry can be read aloud to children who cannot read yet, while they enjoy looking at the brilliant pictures. Beginner readers will also enjoy the simple verses and interesting riddles. If you have small siblings around, beware! You may be given the task of a story-teller and recite those poems aloud (well, I had to read it aloud for my four-year-old cousin, and it's quite a tough job).

The writer's approach of using both English and Bangla may help the young kids to learn both languages. Moreover, the awesome pictures may also enrich their creativity and imagination. Children are sure to love these fun books, and their parents will also. Moreover, with a reasonable price tag, these are literary gifts for the masses. The books are also encouraging writers and publishers to come up with more quality children's books. The publisher and the author should be appreciated for such unique effort.

By Cracker Jack

Advertising exaggerated

I am sure that you tend to switch channels whenever the commercials come on screen. WAIT! That's right… Wait and watch because it may just guarantee you 100% laughter for free…yup for FREE!

As amusing as it can be to watch pretty young girls get impressed by a soda can, backed up by some "shoulder bumping" music and "Bengali" rocking dance steps with crystal clear water flowing everywhere, it's no wonder that men tend to sing on the streets while beautiful girls pass by them! If the city had more space, cleaner lakes and men were financially more stable then they could also manage a few steps here and there with a soda can in their hands! Girls would certainly blush and marry them. Alas…
the world is an unfair place.

Ads can also come in different textures. For instance all those ads on real estates and gigantic shopping malls are so incredibly shiny. Okay, so they are computerized but have you noticed how the roads that lead to these places are so clean, traffic-free and so very shiny. It almost doesn't feel like Dhaka anymore because everything is just so shiny. No seriously, I can't help notice the shine okay?

Oh oh…there was this other one on screen before. This amazing flood of beer ads all over the place. Wait…no I mean "energy drink". I didn't get the chance to try it. I mean I tried to convince my parents that it wasn't alcohol but it's so hard when your parents are so much smarter than you and these drinks tend to cost four times more than other regular sodas.

Turning away from commercials on television, did you notice how posters and 2D ads for coaching centers have little foreign kids posing for them? It's so unfair to the Bengali students who actually study there. I mean there are beautiful Bengali kids too! Then what's up with all the blonde hair and blue-eyed girls? It's so misleading and confusing. One of my friends had a look at it from a distance and thought it was an ad on schools abroad or something! She was crushed to find that no such schools abroad come so cheap.

Anyway, all those people involved in making such ads are probably cursing me right now (if any of them actually bothered reading this) so just take it easy and laugh along. However, for all those who are not involved in making ads, BEWARE because what you see on television should not be tried at home!

By Shayera Moula








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