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Lost ties

'Yea yea man, don't wet your pants. I'll be there before you can say Czechoslovakia. And I bet you can't even say that' breathed Yusuf into his cell phone as he struggled to put on his shoes at the same time. 'Okay, and I'll bring my MP3 player along too, don't worry. See you in 10 minutes.' As he slammed his cell phone shut, he grabbed his motorbike keys and rushed to the door. Right then, he bumped into his mother, coming in from grocery shopping.

'Yusuf! Can't you look where you're going?' huffed his mother as she tried to, unsuccessfully, balance her grocery bags. 'And where do you think you are off to in such a flurry?' she asked eyeing the keys in his hands. 'At least help me with these bags!' 'Sure mom' said Yusuf cheerily taking some of the brown paper bags and setting them down on the dining table. 'I was just going to meet some of my friends at that new café - Mirage. I'll be back before dinner, don't worry.' He kissed his mother lightly on the cheek and proceeded to the door. 'Hold on just a minute there, young man. Don't think you can run off so easily. Have you forgotten about my meeting at the women's club today? Or about the fact that you have to baby-sit your little brother for the next few hours?'

Shoot, thought Yusuf as he placed his hand on the doorknob. His mother's monthly meeting had totally slipped his mind. He turned to face his mother. 'But Ma! I really have to go today! And you know I can't take Ryan out with my friends. He'll just destroy my whole evening' whined Yusuf. 'Nonsense. I'm sure your friends won't mind. Besides Ryan's a good boy and it'll be fun for him. You hardly spend any time with him any more' said his mother firmly.

And that was how Yusuf bitterly found himself holding his five year old brother's hand outside the café Mirage. 'Now look here Ryan, I didn't want to bring you here but it doesn't look like either of us had a choice. So I want you to promise me that you'll be on your best behaviour and stay out of my way ok? I don't even want to know you're here' explained Yusuf sternly. 'Okay, bro' Ryan replied giving him one of his infectious wide smiles and a thumbs up. Yusuf rolled his eyes. 'Remind me to cut down on your television viewing after we get home' he said grabbing Ryan's hand tightly.

As they stepped into the cool, air-conditioned interior of the café, Yusuf immediately picked out his gang. As they weaved their way through the circular tables, a bunch of girls squealed and commented on how adorable this new little visitor was. Ryan, used to unbounded attention, especially from the 'fairer' sex, gave them one of his wide toothed grins and a wink. As the girls started giggling on how sweet he was, Yusuf hurried towards his friends, wondering why his brother was always his biggest competitor even when it came to girls, which were his expertise.

'Hey Suf! Wassup man? What took you so long? We were just about to check the hospitals in case you had an accident' asked Ali teasingly, slapping Yusuf's back. 'Yea well, don't ask. You'll never believe what happened. I was on my way just when…' narrated Yusuf, readying himself to tell a story full of injustice, when Sharila spotted Ryan. 'Oh my gosh! Isn't that your little brother? He's is SO adorable!!!' Everyone turned to observe this unexpected visitor and the girls started gushing, pinching and laughing over him. Even the guys couldn't help smiling as they watched Ryan smartly divide his attention between the three girls. 'Uh guys? I think I was saying something here, in case you've forgotten' cried Yusuf trying in vain to draw his peer's attention. 'Hey Suf, make yourself useful and go get us some snacks. We starving here' said Shari reaching over to ruffle Ryan's hair. Yusuf, not knowing what else to do, stood up and strode over to the counter angrily.

'Hey, I didn't know Yusuf had a brother' said Ashik surprised He had recently joined the gang. 'Yea, he doesn't really talk about him' replied Ali knowingly. 'You see Ryan's not really his brother…he's adopted.' 'Really? Wow. How long ago?'

'Oh, I don't know, I think when Ryan was about 11 months old. Yusuf used to be really excited about his little brother before. Nowadays he hardly acknowledges Ryan's there.' 'Why is that?' asked Leila indignantly. Before anyone could reply, Yusuf came back with the food.

After everyone had finished eating, Shari leaned back in his chair and said 'So anyone up for checking out that new amusement park they opened up on Satmasjid road?' 'I heard it's for little kiddies' replied Mubina neatly tossing her empty coke container into the wastebasket. 'Oh, and you're all grown up now are you?' asked Sharila jokingly. 'I say we check it out. If it turns out too lame, we can always head over to Tanim's palace. It's nearby and I heard he's got this new sound surround plasma TV. I dying to see that new flick “Derailed” on it.' Everyone agreed, waited until Yusuf visited the bathroom with Ryan and headed out.

'Whoa. This is the new amusement park??' asked Ali wonderingly as they all stared, several minutes later, at the small aero plane and train rides that kids up to the ages of 7 were enjoying. 'See? I told you it was for kiddies' said Mubina smugly. 'Alright alright so it is. Now let's head over to Tanim's place before it gets dark. Someone check if he's home' cried Leila as they walked to the parking lot. But suddenly their plans were cut short by a loud shriek of joy from Ryan. 'Bhaiya, bhaiya look!! 'Roplanes! And tains!' he cried grabbing his brother's hand and pointing to the rides. 'Me wanna go. Me wanna go!!' Yusuf, embarrassed, glanced at his friends. 'Hey guys think you can wait? Just let Ryan ride of the rides and then we can go.'

His friends looked at each other. 'Sorry man, but we can't' said Ali awkwardly. 'You see it's already getting so late and we really want to stop at Tanim's place. My mom's already on my case for coming home so late every night.' 'Yea Suf. Same here' said Sharila, not looking at Yusuf. 'I have this exam tomorrow and have to head home early. Sorry.'

Yusuf straightened up and observed his 'friends'. Then he looked down and saw his brother's small eager face and soft brown eyes full of longing. He looked back at his friends and said slowly, 'Well if you have to…then go on. I'll see you guys tomorrow'

He picked up his brother and headed towards the ticket counter. As he passed his friends he distinctly heard someone mumble 'Man, I can't believe he's actually gonna sacrifice tonight to hang out with his kid brother. What a pain. Glad I don't have any siblings, that too any adopted ones, to mother.'

Now, as Yusuf watched Ryan screech with happiness as he sailed through the air in a small aero plane, he knew he'd done the right thing. Friends would come and go but as an older brother he had a bigger responsibility to uphold to his small brother. Because whether he was adopted or not, he was his brother and nothing would ever change that.

By Nisma Elias

Unique gift ideas for the 21st century

Poor advice from a personal growth specialist Energizing. Practical. Inspiring. Discover the 9 habits that can change your life! As a personal growth specialist, I like to think I'm hip. I like to think I am avant garde. I like to think I am on the cutting edge despite what everyone else around thinks about me.

I read last year that the growth sector of the future is in healthcare and wellness. So, being the hip, avant garde, cutting edge kind of guy I think I am, I decided I would give very unique and personal healthcare birthday gifts.

For Aunt Marsha, I settled on a facelift. I was so excited, I just couldn't wait to see her face. Either the old one or the new one would do.
"What's this?"
"It's an appointment for a facelift."
"A facelift?
"Yes. Next week."
"An appointment for a facelift? Next week?"
"That's right."
"This can mean one of only two things..."
"What two things, Aunt Marsha?"
"Either you think I am uglier than a bearded manatee with blow torch burns..."
"Oh no, Aunt Marsha. You are as beautiful as a graceful flamingo with blow torch burns."

"...or you foresee me seeking shelter under the witness protection program. What is it you think I saw, and who do you think wants to do me in?"

"Well, when I was ten years old, you saw me scribble all over my brother's baseball cards. I got in a whack of trouble, so I suppose I could be a suspect."

"I somehow doubt I have anything to fear from you, except the threat of receiving another gift. Just what do you think you were thinking?"

"I know you don't need a facelift yet, Aunt Marsha. But someday when you get all old and withered and crumbly and crinkly, a few months from now...BANG!"

When I came to, I remembered a frying pan lunging at me to plant a kiss on my lips.

I looked for a better gift idea For my buddy, I settled on a different gift idea, although still quite unique and personal.
"Hey, these tickets are very hard to come by. You should be thrilled that I secured an appointment for you."

"But I don't need open heart surgery. My heart is ticking along just fine."
"Sure it is right now. But someday you might need open heart surgery, so you might as well take it now and get it over with. That way you'll have it when you need it."

"Open heart surgery isn't something you just take and save for later. You can't place it in a box or in a safe somewhere."

"Whoa, Buddy. Cool your tonsils a moment. I considered getting you a lobotomy, but I worried about wasting my money...you know, in case they didn't find anything. "

Never let it be said that this personal growth specialist doesn't learn from his success. This year, I read that the entertainment industry is the growth sector of the future. So, being the hip, avant garde, cutting edge kind of guy I think I am, I decided I would give hip, avant garde, cutting edge entertainment gifts.

I thought about some of my personal favorites. Unfortunately I could not find in the Yellow Pages any singing Gumby balloon-a-grams. I considered getting Aunt Marsha 1,000 self-destructing, ketchup-filled pink flamingo lawn ornaments with pirate hats, but I was not sure how to place them in the apartment corridor. Toenail clippers always bring me hours of entertainment, but I had no idea which of my family members have toe nails.

In the end, I settled on this column. Hey, it's humor, it's personal growth, it's entertainment. And you have to admit that it is unique. I printed a copy out for each of them. And guess what? I think it was a success. Each one opened up their gift, looked at it, looked up at me, looked back at the gift, looked back up at me and said, "Very funny!"

If you don't want to end up like me, why not get your relatives something from the brickabrack store. They do NOT sell facelifts. After all, people love unique gift ideas, but not quite that unique.

By David Leonhardt


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