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Ripa had a morbid tendency for stealing things. In other words, she was a kleptomaniac. She shoplifted quite frequently. She stole a great number of cosmetics, chocolates, and innumerous other merchandises that attracted her blemished eyes, when she roamed at the consumer shopping malls of the city. All of those malls were for exclusively opulent people who were not supposed to steal anything as long as they could buy them quite comfortably with their everlasting wealth. It was not that Ripa couldn't buy the things that she had stolen.

She was a quite opulent girl. But even then she couldn't refrain from stealing those things that she could buy easily without being even slightly impovezish. And it also was not the case that she desperately needed all those things that she had stolen under risk. Sometimes she had stolen things |hat she had nothing to do with. Perhaps, above all she used to enjoy the stealing. She didn't u{e many of the things that she had stolen. She just gathered and stored them in a private locker. What was most thrilling to her was the stealing itself. It was like a bizarre obsession.

Sometimes a conscience inside her civilized heart did try to impose a restraint upon her activities. But eventually, all of its moral hiccups turned out to be ineffectual against the unmitigated rise of the irresistible obsession. She knew that it was wrong. Even then she couldn't stop herself from lifting varieties of items whenever she got an opportunity.

She deeply believed that an obsession had to be blind and completely free from complexity of logic and it did not realize the sacred arguments of morality and reasons. She was nineteen now and she was still uninterruptmdly continuing her stealing-tasks without being caught and without being even slightly repented. Ripa remembered the day when she had stolen for the first time in her life. She was thirteen years of age when she went to a shopping mall with her mother. Her mother was looking for vegetables. Ripa was roaming alone at the opposite part of the shop. Suddenly a vividly colorful box of chocolate that was displayed on a rack caught her eyes. There was no salesman available. Something strange happened inside her.

She started to feel a weird kind of thrill for the very first time. She could have told her mother that she wanted to buy the box, but she didn't. Instead, she came closer to it quietly, she looked around cautiously and within seconds she transferred it into her little handbag. No one noticed the incident. She walked out of the mall holding her mother's hand innocently. After that she had developed an unbound desire for stealing. It seemed to her adventurous and she started to steal 'attractive' things quite frequently. At first she used to feel the thrill and then the habit expanded and established itself in her mind as an unconquerable passion- a passion that didn't have a reasonable meaning. A mania. However, sometimes she felt that {he was doing an immoral crime. But what encouraged her was a guilty urge to do something in secrecy- to do something unusual, different. Ripa was a lonely girl. She had never shared her secret adventures with anybody.

That day Ripa came out of the mall near her residence. It was almost Nine o'clock. The evening was bitterly cold. Ripa could feel the existence of the things in the inner pocket of her jacket that she had stolen from the market a few while ago.

She paced toward their apartment building through the street behind the mall. The street looked desolate. For some reasons s|reetlights had not been lit. There was almost no pedestrian. Two vehicles passed by her. She felt scared. She started to walk faster. A microbus was parked near an apartment building. As she was passing the car, suddenly a huge, hulking man appeared out of nowhere. He swiftly grabbed her from the back and pressed a handkerchief over her face. Ripa lost her senses instantly. The man pushed her inezt body into the back of the car and tied her hands and mouth. The car vanished from the scene.

When Ripa opened her eyes at first she saw nothing but darkness. It was blurry. She felt kind of drowsy. Her hands ached. She realized that she was entirely tied up against a pillar. She couldn't realize what had happened to her. Slowly her vision became clear. It was a claustrophobic room. Many wooden boxes were scattered all over the floor. She noticed a door at the end of the room. After an hour or so the door opened. A man with a robust body entered the room. He came near and stood before her. He was staring at her keenly, as if detecting her with his placid, emotionless eyes. He looked unnatural.

'Who are you? What is this place? Why have you brought me here? Ripa cried out.

The man replied, 'Undoubtedly, you wonder, who I am, and what I am going to do with you. I hope, soon you'll get your answers.'

'Please let me go. …' Ripa said with tears in her eyes.

The man said nothing. He was about to go. Ripa felt lost and terribly terrorized by the whole thing.

'What are you going to do with me? Please answer me… What have I done wrong? Do you want money?' Ripa cried out loud from behind.

The man turned to her. After a cold pause he said, 'No, little girl, I want nothing from you. Perhaps, you won't realize if I tell you why I have brought you here. You know, I have a very strange kind of obsession. I collect human beings… ' after another long pause the man started again, 'I mean, not living human beings. I just collect their bodies. It's a strange kind of passion you know. You have been brought here simply because I want to collect you as well.'

Ripa couldn't believe it. She thought it was a crazy nightmare. She was staring at the psycho who went on talking. He came closer. She could feel his breath now.

'You know, every box in this room contains a human body. And that empty one is made for yours.' the man said in a whisper.

Ripa's eyes followed the direction. She saw an empty, wooden box lying on the floor. The man went on talking- 'I steal people from this city of millions. I collect them here, in this secret empire of mine,'

The man began to laugh maniacally af|er he had uttered these seemingly interesting words. By then Ripa had almost lost her sense. She was hardly looking toward the deranged psychopath standing before her. A maniac- obsessed by a meaningless passion.

By KH. Asef Safa Kabir

Muktijuddho in their eyes..

Friday. 25th February. The venue: Muktijuddho Jadughar.
Scattered around the Jadughar compound, a bunch of sparkling kids, twittering in an euphonious exuberance, their hands trembling a little as they helped themselves out of the lunch box, all awaiting the result giving ceremony of Shahid Sergeant Jahurul Haque Art Contest.

The contest had started around 10 a.m. in the morning, with the contestants participating in two groups- Group A for the Nursery to Fourth Graders, while Group B for the fifth to eighth. The contestants from the former group had to sit in the Jadughar Auditorium, while those from the latter got the compound. By the time the contest had started, there were so many participants that the spectators had to pull back the chairs and squeeze themselves against the wall to provide space for the budding artists.

The Group A contestants were allowed to draw whatever they wanted to, however those in Group B had a particular theme- Muktijuddho In My Eyes. Red-Green caps resembling our National Flag were distributed among the participants, before the contest was formally started.

In the two hours that followed, a hu{hed silence fell over the entire place as the wee prodigies battled with their pencils and paint-brushes, while the rest - the guardians and judges - watched in awe. All the drawings (and the paintings) were d}ly collected at twelve, as the contest came to an end.

The drawings were surrendered to the panel of Judges that included famous artists and poets, Ronobi, Hassan Ahmad, Bmlayet Chowdhury, M. Zaman, Habibul Bashar Ali, and Robiul Hossain.

The next one hour belonged to Khelaghor. Lunch was served to the participant{, and as they f}mbled with the lunch-box actors from Khelaghor performed a brea|h-taking drama, portraying the _ar of Liberation. That took some of the pressure off the contestants.

The prize giving ceremony startel at one thirty, with Dr. Moinul(Haq}e - nephew of Sergeant Jahurul Haque - telling the kids a few remarkable stories about the grea| martyr. The participants, nervous as they were, still listened in awe. The judges kept admitting repeatedly that the contest was a tight one, and no matter who on the prizes, mvery body was a winner.

A hushed silence fell over the place once again, as the prize-winning drawings were brought to stage. Then the whole crowd broke into applause (and sometimes in laughter, upon sighting the size -- or lack of it -- of the prize-winning 'artists') as the winners were called upon, and the prizes were given away. There were eight prizes in each group. (1st. 2nd. 3rd. 4th... and four special prizes.)

Maisha Maliha Siddiqui from Little Angels School and Tasnia Sumi from Dhaka Bodhir School clenched the first positions in Group A and Group B, respectively. The winners received certificates, trophies and books in the form of presents.

Later, certificates were awarded to all the participants. Hence, all the artists left grinning!

Though nothing but a mere Art Contest, the auspicious event at Muktijuddho Jadughar proves beyond the realms of doubt and cynicism, that our beloved country has a bright future ahead.

By Tawsif

Book review

Bubbles unbound

What do you get when you put together blonde hair, a hairdresser job, and a morbid fascination of makeup and gossip? You get Bubbles Yablonsky! But Bubbles isn't your average blonde, and this becomes increasingly obvious as the plot unveils gradually in the novel 'Bubbles Unbound' by Sarah Strohmeyer.

'For most of my life, people in this town have passed me over as just another dumb blonde,' is exactly how Bubbles intzoduces herself to us right at the beginning of the novel. 'My name, Bubbles Yablonsky, doesn't help matters any', is what follows.

However, the tone soon turns excitino as Bubbles, a downtown hairdresser hoping to get her big journalistic break so she can convince her teenage daughter she's not a loser, begins her investigation of a decade old murder. The m}rder of Laura Buchman, whose hair she styled ten years before, and who ended up confiding a lot to Bubbles.

When news of Laura's sudden death filters to Bubbles, being shocked seems like an unlerstatement. A determination to bring about jus|ice to the killmrs of Laura (after being thoroughly convinced that it was NOT a suicide) Bubbles begins on her hilarious…ahem…
interesting journey.

Following failure on endless community college courses and with business at the salon precarious, Bubbles has a stab at journalism; after all a stylist is privy to all the local gossip. She stumbles into the middle of a mystery about a long dead girl and the wealthy socialites of the town and stirs up enough trouble to get stalked, shot at and kidnapped.

After meeting Steve Stiletto, a Mel Gibson look-alike with a dangerous reputation, Bubbles feels like she's in Seventh heaven as Steve continually comes to her rescues, time after time. Harboring a secret crush on this gorgeous photographer, she is devastated at the end, when she discovers from a reliable source, that Steve himself is somehow himself connected to the mis-happenings that have been invading Bubbles's life.

What she doesn't know is that her 'reliable source' has his own reasons for turning Bubbles against Steve…and that Steve might be more intricately connected to her life than she can imagine in her wildest dreams…

By Jennifer Ashraf


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