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An undelivered Speech

I arrived home late from coaching one evening, to find a business-like envelope with my school's seal, and in clear prints, addressed to 'Ms Reesana Sifat Siraj", lying on my study-table. Opening it, I found two invitation cards to our Graduation Party, to be held the subsequent day.

Our school had meticulously planned our attire, the color scheme being black-and-white. Also, our specified escorts being our Mums meant that there would be some inclusion of colours to break the monotony of black-and-white. Bribing me with the instantaneous purchase of a 'Shadakalo' attire, my mum guaranteed her presence at the Party. On the Specified day and time, I set forth with my mum for, the party venue, a well-known restaurant in Dhanmondi.

I had never before seen chimps dressed in suits, gasping for breath and running to their mums every five minutes, to loosen their ties. I had never before seen such proud moms, of every size and colour, furiously clicking away on their cameras, to capture every bit of the Party as they could. I had never known that, having a teacher pin a sash to your attire, being given special front seats and for once, being treated like a 'senior', by juniors could make one feel so majestic.

The function, the program and the food, were really good, unlike the usual school standard. The one thing that somehow subdued the fun and splendor of the party, was the dominance exercised on the function by 'some' people. The entire function was conducted by a set of students, handpicked either for being his/her daughter, the favourite of 'some' teachers or merely for being 'someone's daughter's best friend. I know many at school, would not like my saying so, but with due respect to all, I have to admit, I had been oblivious to the fact that, our school had a lack of teachers and students with good management skills. The one thought that occurred to me during the program (and many times before at school, too) was that, to have your say at school, you had to be related to 'some' people or be a teacher's 'favorite.

I had, over the past eleven years that I have spent in school, been waiting for an opportunity, when I too, could talk about my experiences at school, on behalf of the 'non-related' and 'non-favorites'. Not being one of 'the chosen ones', I had not been offered the floor to speak, and thus, this is the dais I chose to at last relieve myself of all my feelings for you, School, and deliver my 'undelivered' speech, regardless of whether it ever reaches you or not---

Innumerous people have said so to you innumerous times, school, I too, would say the same--With all thy faults I love thee still. To me, you are not just an institution, but had taken the form of a protective parent, guarding me the times when my mum was late to pick me up from your premises; you had been my first-ever inspiration, I had taken up writing with you as my means; you have given me my individuality, wearing the white-and-chocolate colored uniform, anyone could say at a glance, that, I like so many others, belonged to you; you have given me wonderful substitutes to my working mum-- my teachers; you have given me my first taste of friendship.

I am proud of you school, not because you are probably the first English Medium School of its kind or that you've produced some of the finest students, but solely because, you have given me, a second family and home. Like in the hearts of so many, you would reside at a very special part, in my heart, too. We all wish to remember you for the goodness that you have taught us, not for your housing partiality and inequality. I find it difficult to believe that, the school that had given me my primary sense of equality, symbolized by the wearing of our school-uniforms, can, these days, be unconsciously encouraging favoritism and discrimination.

Talking of differentiation, I have this one last complaint against you. You awarded all the would-be-recipients of The Daily Star Awards. Would it have had been a bit too much of a burden, to also award the 'non-awardees', those who failed to acquire the required grades in their O or A Level exams? We are all your students, after all (awardees or not), and not The Daily Star, but, you at least could have had rewarded everyone equally, maybe not as an acknowledgment, but it would certainly have had acted as an incentive towards our future results. My sole request to you --- Please, let this second home of mine remain void of prejudice, so that, in future, your students can regard you as the true picture of justness; give every one of your students an equal opportunity to flourish, so that, in the long run, it is you who would be rewarded.

By Reesana Sifat Siraj

Apartment culture

"Does money grow on trees?"
"But Reema has three jamdani saris!"
"So? Her husband has ten katas of landed property"
"So? does that mean you can't even get me one jamdani sari?"

The couple living in the next flat can rarely go a whole week without arguing. I consider it an authentic blessing from hell that my room happens to be right next to theirs; separated only by a thin slice of malleable cement block. Since it is the hot season, all windows are kept open; hence the roaring of the not so happily married twosome never fails to startle me in the middle of my work. As a defence mechanism I have adopted the habit of keeping my headphones next to me all the time. The volume is set at the top level with a cassette of mixed songs nicely rewinded in my walkman set to play the moment a case of critical next-door-mature-debate arises over whose turn it is to change the baby's diaper!

Talking about music, I have memorised the entire song of Wo lamhe just because the overwhelmed Romeo upstairs couldn't publicize his heart throbbing secrets on BBC. He therefore decided to scotch the eardrums of his neighbours during unknown hours of both broad daylight and dreamy nights. At one point you could hear "Saatya" at 5 in the morning when I'd be praying that his girlfriend would accidentally call him so that useful uncles and aunties around him can sleep in peace again… let alone the cholesterol bopping diabetic patience with two strokes on the sixth floor! Ah, but that too came to an end when torn up photographs came to rest on my bedroom floor on a late humid afternoon. Since, they weren't my photographs, I assume they made their way through the window.

I thanked the dull wind that blew around once in a while and of course the inner instinctual behaviour of every Bengali who loved to check gravity's presence by throwing things out the window every now and then.

I understood that heartbreak always resulted in mimicking Indian Soap Operas, but I was more disappointed because in all the torn up pieces, I could never make out the "beloved's" face! Tragedy runs in the building in mysterious ways, I sighed. Still so, just when I sighed a little too heavily, songs shifted from "As long as you love me" to "Unbreak my heart"

Mr. X from downstairs (name will not be disclosed) complained to the guard that the three year old kids upstairs make a lot of noise when they run around. (We called his wife Mrs. Chilli just because she was such a hot head even with her daughter in law just three weeks after the girl married her workaholic son). My 30-year-old brother and I exchanged questioning glances, trying to remember the last time we ran around like animals in the house. We in return hinted to our "friends" below that it wasn't us but the family that lives above us. That family quite casually mentioned that it was the family living above them. Interestingly, there was NO family above them!! After a week of research, revision and decision, our jolly darwan concluded: "They say, there are ghosts that live around this neighbourhood". Now, don't get me wrong, I believe in spirits but ones that run around during the day as if playing ball just sounds silly.

From the wrestling couple next door to the spice brain below and the lovesick bachelor on another flat, we have come up with different nicknames that define their character. We see them in the elevator and can instantly recall certain rumours that go around behind their backs, but what we can't recall is that they are "family".

They probably have a story and a history that we will never know. Why? Because that's how life has become in the city, we barely take the time to get to know our neighbours. We barely sit over on a weekend on the next doors couch reminiscing our lives together that are so different as individuals but so alike as human beings. Bengalis are highly known as adda wallahs, and they are greatly admired for their sense of humour shared with everyone in the commune.

But all this is diminishing away and especially in the urban areas. No one even smiles at their neighbourhood paan wallah let alone discuss the latest politics with the by passers. Life is becoming too materialistic and too fast-paced. One day we too may end up concentrating completely on profit and success and maybe…maybe one day we too will be labelled as cold-blooded machines.

By Shayera Moula

The culture of
"Ami bangla boltey pari na"

How many of you have started off of your conversations with the above title? Well, those who did can jump onto another article on some other page or just allow yourself some tongue in cheek criticism (I assure 100% constructive criticism guaranteed!). And for the rest who have at ill-fated times come face-to-face with Homo-Sapiens of such breed and felt like teaching them a thing or two-I can totally feel what you went through.

To carry on with a serious note, I'm talking about none other than a bunch of teens who think speaking in Bangla is: "Uncool!" (don't forget that look of disgust on their faces). And, not to mention the accent that comes free with the style. These people have started this not only weird but unpatriotic, self-deprecating and totally "Uncool" trend of carrying this attitude that the Bangla language (both spoken and written) is something below-standard and it's only for those who don't know the real language of this so-called generation-X.

To tell frankly though, I do agree that in this age of globalisation and opening up of markets and the positive growth rates that Bangladesh is showing, English is a sure-shot way of getting to the top. An English-speaking graduate would find it much easier to impress the bosses in the interview and get that dream job. Moreover, a good grasp of English would not only equip our labour force with the language needed to keep up-to-date with changes in technology but also save us from a lot of face-hiding and shame every time one of our cherished cricketers goes up to the dais and speaks in English that even they themselves can't understand.

And, who wouldn't praise the English language for its richness and flexibility and ease of learning. Take me for example, I love the language and find it much easier than Bangla and mostly communicate verbally in English. But, that doesn't mean I can't read a decent Bangla novel or enjoy Bangla culture to the fullest.

And one very wrong notion that most people have regarding this trend is the generalization that all Ems( English Mediums) are like this. And because of a couple of rotten apples, the entire basket is thought to be putrid. Some people frequently pull jokes about this-"Oh…
what on earth are you doing with a Bangla newspaper? You can read in Bangla?Wow…!". With that giggle on their faces it's enough to grill you to your bones.

Most of us can do nothing but digest such witty humour while quietly browsing through the paper. However, its time that we too understand that we need to be more careful about the way we respond to the culture of our own nation and the language that we call our mother tongue. And it's also high time that people realize that all Ems are not at all English speaking brats with no sense off Bangla or patriotism at all. So, let's say no to this "Ami to Bangla Boltey Pari na…." Culture!

By Tanveer Reza Rouf


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