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The Haircut

While walking along the paved walk Maxud was totally unfocused on the path he was taking. It was not because he had been taking that same path over and over again for the last twelve years but because he was in deep contemplation. 'Who says teens don't have anything to worry about?' Maxud said to himself as he remembered his father saying how much hardship he'd seen while he himself was a teen! As soon as he crossed the threshold to the barber shop the old barber looked up from the newspaper he was reading and happily said, 'Look who's here! Long time I don't see you around!' Then rolling his eyes he continued, ' I see your hair has grown longer than ever!' Maxud smiled back meekly as he settled down on the chair in front of him. The barber started saying again, not to Maxud but to another person just behind him, 'This boy is my precious customer! I've been cutting his hair since he was this high!' The man gestured a height barely two feet from the ground.

As the old man took his tools out from the drawer he asked Maxud trivial questions and he kept replying with his usual smiles. He was also checking out his hair from all the angles possible in the huge and numerous mirrors the barbershop was plastered with. After the barber had finished asking about all his family members, the old man got on with his job. 'Well then, why in the name of God did you let your hair grow so?' the barber was amused. 'Err… yeah!' Maxud avoided answering it. Actually he never liked having a haircut. He always felt he looked better before going to the barbershop and looked worse after taking the same old crew cut the old barber had been constantly giving him. But it was his dad who made sure he always had a haircut every month. So he could not avoid it until now that he had turned seventeen. His father is quite soft on him these days. So he took the chance and had not had a hair cut for the last two months.

Then his mother started nagging him to cut his hair though his father never said a word about it! Maxud found it strange but was actually elated. But eventually he became quite uncomfortable with his longer hair and bowed to his mother's talent for nagging people to submission. Usually his dad was always on the receiving end of his mother's nagging. There was also the fact that his hair was turning sticky. It was not quite as silky as it was anymore and had started falling out. Normally he would not even venture near those 'hair and skin care' columns in the newspaper. But for a couple of weeks in a row he found himself reading those columns pretty intently. He found it to be an awful waste of vegetables! Eventually he decided on at least sizing them down to a level when it would be less uncomfortable, at least on the ears!

There was another problem. He was not sure how he wanted his hair to be cut. He actually looked quite good these days. But it could have been for the faintly sprouting beard and moustache that brought him a sudden hunky appearance. The girls at his class became over active with whatever they were doing whenever he was around. 'Well that's a good thing to bear this torture for!' Maxud mused standing in front of the mirror while trying to figure out a hair cut. Then when he finally figured that out, he was not sure how he was going to explain this to the barber. He did not know if it even had a name for it. He had known that barber for ages and worried that suddenly asking the old barber for a different hair cut would definitely make him frown or even smile slyly. Nevertheless it was his macho look on the line!

Just before the barber started, Maxud interrupted, 'Well, I don't want a crew cut this time. Would you please size it up just a little and still keep this longer hair look?' The barber replied with just an 'OK'. But Maxud felt his face grow hot. Suddenly he felt like the barber was laughing his stomach out while keeping a straight face on the outside. He actually wanted to tell a lot more about how he would have liked his hair to be cut. But just those two 'quick' lines were all he was able to get out of his mouth. 'Damn, this type of haircut must have a name for it. Like the, 'crew cut'. If I had just looked up a bit on the internet I would have just been able to use that word instead and not feel humiliated,' Maxud thought while biting his lower lip hard.

Just a few weeks ago Maxud saw this great Jack Black movie where many of the characters were teenagers just like him. It was actually just a mediocre comedy about a band but he felt he could connect to the characters as they were all close to his age. He actually kind of became infatuated with the female bassist in the band in the movie. But most of all, every of the boys had neat and sleek haircuts, and he wanted something like that. If he could have just explained to the barber that he wanted a hair cut just like theirs he would have felt a lot better. He was dreading that this time around, the same thing would happen. After going back home and taking a shower, he would regret having a haircut. Further more he would not feel as confident as he has been in his classes for the past days.

'There you go!' the old man had finished his job. Maxud took a look at the mirror and he was not pleased. Grudgingly he paid the barber and made a mental note to try out that new men's parlour that opened up just a few weeks ago next time. Just after he had left, the barber started talking to that person again. 'Watched that kid run back home after getting whatever haircut I gave him for all this years. And now he wants a haircut of his own,' then smiling gleefully he said, 'How the world changes!'

By Hitoishi Chakma

A day in life

Rafi looked at the shining piece of metal in his hand as a wide toothy grin spread across his face. He had not only managed to meet the daily quota, but as of right then, he had managed to surpass it by five takas.

Mirth came into his sister Misha's eyes as she suddenly realised what her brother was telling her: They could go home now, or they could beg for a little longer and maybe make their mother smile for once. Misha tightly clutched the garlands she was selling in accordance with her brother's wishes, and the two siblings parted ways to ply their sad trade.

Elsewhere in Dhaka, Mehzabeen stared at her mirror, deciding on what to wear for the date she had with her boyfriend later that evening. She chose a purple chiffon salwar kameez and lovingly put on the make-up that is ever present in the faces of modern women. She would once again make Reasat happy for asking her out, as happy as he had made her so many months ago. Several minutes later, all preparations done, Mehzabeen took one last look at her preparations, not hesitating with a wink at her reflection, and made her way to the car waiting for her downstairs. They were to meet in one of their frequent date spots and celebrate their two-year anniversary together. She had it all planned out. A half-hour later, Rafi was distracted from begging to some kind of ruckus going on further down in the street he was in. He looked in that direction and saw some large man screaming at a frail figure cowering before him. Instinctively, Rafi rushed to where his sister was in jeopardy. And the sight he saw there saddened and disgusted him to his very core.

It seemed that Misha had gone too close to one of the cars, and the safety-pin that held her haggardly frock together had made a small scratch on it. The owner of the car was furious and continued to berate her viciously and even made several threatening arm gestures at the poor child. Not able to control himself, Rafi began to rush at the towering man when another boy, a friend of Rafi's, held him back.

“Don't even try it bhai.” The boy said, in barely a whisper. “He may show mercy to Misha, but he will kill you.” The other boy whispered to him. Rage welling up inside him, Rafi could only stand there like a fool and watch as the man finally got back into his car and left the little girl in tears. Rafi slowly approached his seven year-old sister and gingerly picked her up.

Tears staining her faded frock, Misha showed Rafi the garlands she had still clutched, a small smile beginning to form on her face. Rafi felt tears well up in his own eyes. He couldn't believe that the only thought going through her sister's head was one of protecting their livelihood. He had seen children as old as her do nothing but smile day in and day out, clutching balloons and candies, not a worry in their minds.

After comforting his sister, Rafi decided to make her feel better by using the extra money he had received that day to buy her some candy. He left her on the pavement and secretly went towards the corner shop to make his purchase. He happily gave the shopkeeper the price asked, and made his way to his sister, the single piece of candy clutched in his sooty hands. It was the cheapest of delights to most, but it was a luxury children like Rafi and Misha could not always afford. Right then, he caught a sight of a young woman inside a car, weeping. Mehzabeen sat at the backseat of her car, tears flowing from her eyes like a faucet. Reasat's words kept going through her head again and again as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.

“I think it's time we moved on. I'm sorry.” Reasat had ended his speech with, thus ending their two-year old relationship. She had gone to that little coffee shop with her head held high, as if she could face the entire world. She laughed inside her head as a bearded man tauba-ed himself at the sight of an attractive young woman sitting next to a boy in the same table. But it seemed that all the planning in the world stands no chance against Fate.

He ended it within a half-hour, and Mehzabeen thus found herself once again inside her car, weeping for what was, and what could have been. Inside the car, a myriad of thoughts went through her head; about how or why her boyfriend could've done what he did, about what she had
done wrong to deserve this.

And her thoughts were going down a very dark path; one of fire and a burning pain down her throat as she saw herself slump to the ground; when she locked eyes with a
young boy, barely ten years old.

He was dressed shabbily, his T-shirt ragged and dirty, but he looked at her with curiosity and pity. Mehzabeen herself looked at him, dazed at how such an urchin could look at her with pity, an urchin who barely managed to feed himself daily. And through that realisation, she sat up straight. She wiped away the last of her tears, noticing that the tears had stopped flowing long ago.

Rafi looked at the weeping woman, burning with curiosity. He had never seen one of them sad. He couldn't understand why; they had everything; money, education, a stable future. What could they have to be sad about?

Right then the woman looked straight into his eyes, her watery eyes turned dry in a moment and she seemed to be slightly flustered. Rafi clutched his sister's candy tighter as the red light turned green and the car slowly disappeared. He slowly made his way to where his sister was sitting down. She looked at him, still crying slightly from before. Rafi bent down, smiled broadly at his cute sister, and held out his hand. Misha immediately brightened and hopped to her feet, hugging her big brother.

They began their long journey home, to hopefully see a smile greet them at their destination.

By Shampad Mutakabbir Rahmatullah


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