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Extra khatir with extra-curricular

Everyone let me let you in a little secret- ECAs are the secret to being rich and successful. Commonly called Extra-curricular activities, these are stuff you are supposed to do in class 11 beside your studies for personal fulfillment and enjoyment. ECAs supposed to make you a well-rounded individual. At least that's what the American Uni's think. However, we bangalis are always clever at Dui-Numberis, so who the hell cares about stuff like “personal fulfillment”. We have to cram ourselves with ECAs or else we will all end up in North South or something! In fact, without ECAs getting into a good university is almost impossible…

So starts the great ECA Rush….
In the rush everyone picks up everything to do. Normally shy people, starts doing dramas. People who never studied science start doing science fairs! And everyone wants to become a rock star…even if your voice and guitar playing skills are comparable to a frog playing the banjo.

Everyone becomes, a robin hood by “collecting money from the rich (we students) and giving it to the poor”. Believe me, I know some people who do 'community service' but they won't even give you the Econ Note if you ask them for it. Tells a lot about our noble Bengali ideals…don't it? Oh yes while we are at community service let us not forget the delightful X-Club (or was it called Y-Club….no maybe it was Z) where you go to a 'conference', eat in Sheraton and get a certificate for noble community service! And how can I forget the budding sportsmen? In class 11-12, kids who never even played LUDO, all of a sudden become rising sport-stars, ready to rock the world! They pick up stuff like football, volleyball and oh yes basketball and join all the school teams, take part in all the matches held and everything. Who cares if they don't win or if they are as bad as me in badminton? Its participation, man! After all if you participate, you get certificate. And everyone knows nothing is worth more than a certificate.

So how does our average teen pace himself? In class 11 the frequency of ECA Activity is still very small. After all teenagers are procrastinators.

They know they have got 9 months left till college apps and so can obviously take it easy. This also means they have the time to genuinely participate in activities. So to an extent they do ECAs. Now we come to class 12, and all of a sudden the sweet 9 months, become the horrible 2 months. What to do now? Of-course even superman cannot do every kind of ECA's available in such a short time. So how can a teenager? And if a teenager can't how is his resume filled with such brilliant and wonderful activities which is going to make any admission officer gawk at your 'diversity'? The answer is of course the good Ol' Nilkhet.

As everyone knows that nowadays certificates are for sale in Nilkhet and it's a damn profitable business too. I heard stuff like that you can get a certificate which claims you won the “National Debate Championship”, “Presidential Award for Bravery and Community Activities” and “Raised 50,000 Tk for dash disaster” Of course, the dash is for the disaster of your choice. After all you can't expect a volcano eruption in Dhaka. However, the certificates are expensive but who cares? Nothing is worth more than a certificate.

But life is full of people we always envy. And among them are some lucky people who do not have to make that long trip to Nilkhet. These people have their good 'ol dad and uncles- who obviously owns big buying houses or something and is the member of one of the billion obscure NGO's in Dhaka. If you are one of them, chill, relax, who needs to work. One phone call will easily make you the “youth leader' of Proshikha or something. But its ok, because nothing in life is worth more than a certificate

If you are feeling down and envying the brilliant ECA list you are friend is showing off to everyone. Chill. I will tell you what he really means.

Whats written down in the Resume: The Truth
Member of Community Service- 3 years Went to club for 30 mins for adda
Fund-raising activity Bought some stuff from school food-fair
Amateur Photography Took a few photos last week
Musician Owns a guitar
Member of basketball team Hanged around the basketball dudes
Dramatist Waved the king's fan
PREFECT Wore the batch and bunked classes

Scandalized, shocked, ridiculed, angry? Yeah I know. That's the point of the article. Of-course you might be the sole saint who are actually passionate about what they do, but look around you. You live in a grand deception of ECA theft. But in Bangladesh, is that really a big deal?

Yours truly,
Rezwan Khan

Grains of time

The cold wave sweeping across the country had bought with it the dew and fog both of which had settled almost amiably over the city that particular night. Shamayan was well aware of it having read about it in the morning papers. “Cold wave kills 12 people” read the headline in bold.

Shamayan himself had no intention of being the next casualty and so he had thoughtfully taken his jacket with him. That added to the black Reebok beanie that he sported along with faded jeans, designer belt and Adidas sandals made him look like a perfect teenage version as portrayed and popularised by the Western brands. Shamayan wasn't really a teenager but then again he wasn't too far down the wrong end of nineteen, come to think of it.

It had been a while and that was one of the reasons that Shamayan was really looking forward to this rendezvous, if you could call it that. He hadn't met Shadab in a while; four years to be politically correct, ever since the time his old buddy had packed his bags and set sail for the brighter prospects of Canada.

They had been in touch, of course, if you could call it that. In these days of MSN and Video Conferencing it was almost impossible to not be in touch. He knew how Shadab was every other day of the week and vice versa.

But were they really friends anymore? As much as it hurt Shamayan to admit it to himself, they were not. He hardly had any inkling as to what was up with Shadab and he was pretty sure Shadab wasn't much better off himself.

Did he miss his best friend?
Honestly, No.

That didn't stop him from pressing for a meeting though. “Shad” as he liked to call him had been in town for almost a week now and they still hadn't met. Would have been almost unthinkable during their high-school years when each had taken each other house as his very own. That alone showed how much they had drifted apart.

Shamayan understood and he realized that it didn't really make him feel as gloomy as he had though it might. Lets get this over with he thought to himself as his feet found his way into the eatery of choice (where else in this God forsaken city!) they had scheduled to meet.

It was pretty dark outside and it took Shamayan a little time to adjust to lighting inside. It was warm and he instinctively unzipped his jacket. That was about the same time he spotted Shadab in the corner. He had changed, not so much that you could not recognize him but just enough so that you would probably have to do a double take to identify him as the boy you chummed with in high school.

The hair was longer and slicked back into position with gel. He was clean shaven and sported a stud on his left ear. He was dressed impeccably in tailored suits and what Shamayan guessed to be designer trousers. From where he stood the shoes didn't really show…

“Heck man! I didn't invite you to a wedding you know..” threw Shamayan at his much changed childhood friend.
“On the bright side Sham, I make you look like a pauper,' was Shadabs prompt reply.

They both burst out laughing at that and just like that they were friends again.
They talked for a long time that cold night over cups of hot chocolate and mixed noodles.

Reminiscing memories of old, providing social commentaries and imparting wisdom upon one another. They talked of life, of love and of their role in the big picture of things.

One believed in destiny, another didn't. One had stayed home, another had moved on. It really wasn't that difficult to comprehend.

But now the time had come for them to part.
“Been nice seeing you bro,” smiled Shadab. “Its been a long time.”
“Yeah, I miss those good old days as well,'
“Not as much as I do. At least you live here you know.”

“Load of good that has done to me,' said Shamayan with a bit more spite than was necessary. “ Look at you man you are a success, a product of the system. Made to succeed. And look at me, still struggling to shake of my teenage disillusionment.”

“I don't know what to say man,' said a sorry looking Shadab.
“Well, nothing you say is going to change anything so its best if nothing is said,” replied Shamayan.

“Yeah I think that works out best for the both of us. But before I go, I have to tell you something,' said Shadab.
“Im all ears Shad.'
'You know sarcasm never was your strong point…”
“Get to it..”

Shadab paused for a while to gather his thoughts before he spoke and when he did his voice and demeanour sounded so much more advanced than his twenty odd years.

“Sometimes, you know I feel like I am four years old again and trying to fit inside the lines of my Mighty Morphin Power Rangers colouring book. You remember that one don't you Sham?”

“When I was four I had a love/hate relationship with that book. I loved it to bits but I hated the fact that I couldn't seem to colour inside the lines.”
Shamayan was smiling in remembrance.

“Now I am twenty two and I have a love/hate relationship with my life. Don't you understand man, no matter what I do over there, I will never fit in with the Davids and Stevens… not even if I wanted to.”

“The lines that I try to fit in by are too small and constricting for me. Don't you get it?”
Shamayan was quiet, his sharp features reflected by the light of the lamp across him.

Shadab went on, “The lines are like walls that separate me from the rest of them. They all fit in the right places; their colors don't run or bleed or anything. They line up perfectly, little bits of colored wax all fitting tightly together inside those tiny little lines, and I am nothing but a stray mark on the outside. A dot. A blemish. A mistake.”

“Sometimes I feel like I will never have a friend. Sometimes I feel like I never had any. And then I remember you.” Shadab smiled.
“All I wanted to say through that exceedingly long commentary is Thank You for being my friend. It means a lot to me.”

He stood up, clapped his friend from his babyhood days across the shoulder and left. He didn't look back.
Shamayan did look after him though and long after he had left a smile had painted itself in the corners of his mouth.

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam


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