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Did you hear that? My princess beckons me to supper. I must leave now; but follow me as I introduce you to myself. My name is Greg Arthur and I am the husband of a loving wife, Judith; and a beloved daughter, Samantha. I am a taciturn ventriloquist and a social introvert. I am obsessed with puppets.

Judith my wife is laying out the table and my angel silently gazes at her. During my meal, I begin to reminisce about my next performance. As I have stated before, I am a ventriloquist by profession and a small time performer at clubs and bars. In a small town like mine where nothing much ever happens; people are even fascinated by impromptu acts like mine. It is not only my ventriloquism which amazes them but my eerily close to life puppets, which leave them breathless. To my dismay, I even have fans who are eager to have my inscriptions and photographs and even converse with me.

Verily, I have a phobia of people and the only people I socialize with are Judith and my princess Samantha. Their love and understanding towards me make me feel accepted. Samantha roused me from my thoughts by beseeching me to talk to my fans. I smilingly looked at her beautiful face and once again began telling her about my disturbed past while sugar coating the details.

My overbearing and eccentric mother would not allow me to mix with anyone, as she had lost her faith in people after my father had left her to raise me single handedly. I had no siblings and spent most of my time in my dark room practicing ventriloquism. Truth be told, my mother has never accepted me and this fear of denunciation has kept me away from people.

This haunting past has had a deep impact on present life, but my family's devotion towards me has pulled me through. They incessantly reminded me of their ardour and gratitude for having me. Them and my puppets.

I was transported back to the present when the doorbell started ringing. The mailman had arrived with my parcel of puppet construction materials. I introduced him to Judith and Samantha and told him to converse with them as I went off to get my pen. He sat down with a puzzled look on his face. In front of him there lay a room inundated with puppets of all sorts and drawstrings and sitting across him on a couch, was not two people; but two life-like puppets! The puppets were strikingly realistic. There was a brunette housewife, with a warm smile and a blonde girl with the word "Princess" stitched onto her pink sweater. He walked a little further towards the hazy window and found a newspaper cutting with the headline, "Family of three suffers in mysterious fire".

The extract read as follows: The Arthur family consisting of Greg Arthur, his wife Judith and daughter Samantha endured a chaotic fire. The lone survivor of this fire is a distraught Mr. Greg, who shows signs of severe mental trauma. After being sent to therapy it is discovered that he has absolutely no recollection of the accident and still believes his family is alive. He deems his puppets to be his family and projects his voice to converse with them. This accident and his disturbed childhood were believed to be the cause of his mental stigma. He was later on released from the asylum after six months due to his normal behaviour.

The mailman was stunned and a chilly draft drew apart the curtains. With petrified eyes the mailman saw two dilapidated tombstones with the epitaphs: Judith, Loving wife. Samantha, Princess.

"Honey, is he gone yet?" I inquired. "Yes dear", my wife replied from a distance. "He didn't speak much. As if we weren't even there." I looked once more at the charred remains of the puppet on the floor and all the painful memories came pouring back. How my family began to fear my growing obsession for puppets. How one fateful day Samantha, my princess, enviously burnt a puppet in the fireplace. I burnt her with the same fire and Judith also perished at my hands when she rushed to Samantha's aid. The smoke made me unconscious as I saw my family slowly being incinerated by the glowing fire. My past pain ebbed away as Samantha came and embraced me. Her hair seemed to have fallen. I must go and dissect their cadavers again I thought; must keep them looking their best. As I went out to get my shovel to excavate their graves; I smilingly looked at my family .My family of puppets.

By Mahera Inaya Kamal

Bengali Book Review 
Ahsan Habib's “Bhuuuut”

Ahsan Habib is one of countries most celebrated cartoonist and funny man. A Grandfather of Jokes- as he likes to call himself. So what happens when the foremost cartoonist decides to induce fear in us instead of laughter? Well “Bhuuuut” is such an attempt.

As you may have already guessed by the long extension of U's (or “Rosh-sho-u” in Bengali as in the title of the book), this was a semi serious attempt to write some serious ghost stories. In it are a mixture of all kinds of ghosts or Bhuts: serious, non-serious, semi-serious, fantasy, comedy ghosts, real ghosts. Even the Lungi wearing bhuts that exists in the sheora trees in the villages of Bangladesh are present in the book, trying hard to make your stomach go upside down with fear.

For me, I think it was almost ten years since I picked another teen themed ghost story book. However, make no mistake! This book is intended for people of all ages, except for the really old ones with heart problems, as it might make them have a heart attack, if not by fear, then by laughter. I could literally trace my footsteps back to the times when the stories of Fishy Ghosts (Mechho Bhut) or Tree Ghosts (Sheora Gachher Bhut) used to make me shudder with horror. Well thanks to satellite channels and overly funny horror shows, I am no longer struck by the fear of the dead kind. But these stories reminded me of the times when I used to be afraid.

Some of the stories also remind us of how the times have changed, of the recent corruption in Bangladesh and of the way politicians have taken over everything. The story titled “Pret Chikitsok” (Ghost Doctor) is a satire against all those bad doctors who are adept to making money by all means even at the cost of the lives of their patients. Even these doctors have no place in the Ghost World. The story “Madina Begumer Genie” tells the story of a housewife who doesn't believe in anything thanks to the “Bhejal” situation that has encroached our daily lives. So whether you are reading this book for the sake of enlightening yourself or purely for the sake of fun, there is something in it for every one. There are 18 short stories in it- all on the topic of ghosts. The cover was designed by Ahsan Habib himself. All the inner illustrations are an added attraction and were meticulously done by the author himself.

“Bhuuuuut” came out in the book fair of 2006 and is priced at Taka 100, but you can buy it for Taka 80 in New Market and other book shops. Don't buy it from Nilkhet as they are bound to have pirated versions of it. The book as published by Srijoni Prakashani.

By Monty Python

Haroonuzzaman's ‘Inseparable’

With our Independence Day drawing closer, I thought I'd sample some local literature pertaining to 1971. Personally, though, I feel that writers, artists and film-makers over the years have made the Liberation War something of a cliché...going for the same angles, the same themes, somehow never achieving the variety that other war stories, like those about the World Wars, for example, have achieved. So when I came across Haroonuzzaman's 'Inseparable', I began reading without any high hopes or expectations from the story.

The story revolves around the confusion of an East Pakistani radio newscaster, Habibul Alam, and his confusion during the war. An offer of a post at Radio Pakistan comes just as the War breaks out, and while he is muddling it out, we see how two women in his life add to his internal turbulence. There is the mysterious and elusive Shila, whom he loves, and there is Sheema, his younger sister, who is suffering from cancer.

There's a term used by film students called 'montage' which refers to an editing technique that juxtaposes a two separate action sequences in a series of quick scenes either to speed up the narrative, or to create a symbolic meaning. In 'Inseparable', the author splices scenes of war-torn Dhaka with Sheema's suffering to compound the sense of disturbance inside Alam. At the same time, the nine months that Sheema suffers from excruciating pain, is pretty much symbolic of what the nation went through before emerging as Bangladesh on December 16. Quite a neat way of talking about the War without going through the old genocide, rape and pillage cliché.

That said and done, the book is by no means an easy read. Whether intentionally or not the author has used a style that feels as though the narrator is thinking in Bengali and writing in English. This, to me at least, made the book an obstacle course to plod through, which took the charm off an otherwise unique story. Nevertheless, the author deserves credit for trying a fresh approach. The book is available at the Bangla Academy.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
The winner of the “Gods of Dhrall” contest is Shontrix. Drop us a mail, and we'll tell you when to come and pick up your autographed copy of “The Younger Gods”.

Infectious metal

3rd Generation Showbiz organized a concert for underground bands on March 9 at the Russian Cultural Centre with Radio Foorti as its media partner. Attended by almost 200 people, the show kicked off with the band 'Anger of Metal' that covered a few tracks of Nirvana.

'Soul Fire', an aspiring new band, covered 'So What' by Metallica, “Megolomaniac” by Incubus and “Seven Nation Army” by White Stripes. Samannoy (vocals) was kind enough to share his experience. “This was my first underground show. I was nervous at the start but when I saw the wonderful response from the crowd, it felt absolutely great!” And so it was, when over 50 people came to the front of the stage and were head-banging crazily!

Soon after came 'Carnival', who covered, Nirvana's 'Skul', 'Come as you are' and 'Smells like teen spirit'. Another band 'Exiles' is worth mentioning since they came all the way from Noakhali and performed one of my favourites, 'Good Riddance' by Green Day. Others bands who performed, to name a few, were 'Baazhnought', 'CNG', '666' & 'Mechanix'.

The show ended with a bang with a performance by 'Kral' who covered their own song, 'Amar Kobor' and 'Domination' by Pantera. When asked about the show, Ifaz, one of the audiences, replied, “It was amazing!” For those who went, I must say that the 130 bucks was well spent!

By Faria Sanjana


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