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The nuisance that is noise

Life takes you places and sometimes you just find yourself in the oddest of locations say for example on top of UCB Bank which happens to be at one of the busiest intersection points of Dhanmondi 27 which again happens to be one the busiest roads of Dhaka city, which is what happened for me.

The very first sensation of entering my new house (in the above address) was rather interesting. You see I couldn't tell that I had actually gotten out of my car and eventually it was like permanently living in a car. By the time the first sleepless night was over I had pretty much learnt about all the different types of vehicles that reign the roads at the late hours of the night, I had this new found concern for more fuel efficient cars that use anti-knocking agents in their petrol, has a more stable body so that the parts don't clang together constantly basically anything that could possibly be done to reduce all that sound these obnoxious machines made. I also learnt that any reduction in sound levels during those ungodly hours due to low traffic is overly compensated by the heart rendering effect that sudden noise shocks have on you from monster trucks that holler through in the 'peaceful' nights.

I guess one get used to it, possibly the only way people working at construction sites still have ears that work and people doing the 'field work' for the City Corporation have noses which work. But it is possible to get used to it only during waking hours of the day. One mistake that I dared to make was trying to grab a nap during a rush hour. You know that particular state of mind right before you fall asleep when your nerves are just very relaxed (I'm not sure what really causes that state but I am guessing this is it), and any noise is amplified several times, well it was during that time I became truly aware of all the annoying noises that surround us in our daily lives.

The incessant vroom vroom of cars is somehow always their in the background which occasional screeches from horns somehow putting the finishing touches to whatever was lacking in the scenario of sounds. Did you know that the there are over an infinite number of horn types in this city? Yes fascinating isn't it…cars have an urgent horn that demand respect, trucks have horns that are angry and impatient, the motor cycles seem to have timid horns that almost say please in an insisting way. Then there were those times when all these different vehicles from different walks of life simply put aside their differences and just scream in chorus. I have to tell you each have their different scales but it really is one a heck of an experience for your ear drums when the all just start screaming in a chorus of 'PEEEEEPPPPPP'!!!!! And then there are sudden sounds which bring variation; the techno music horns and then the high bass 'Jhhalak dikhhlaga'.

Those were just the roads. I also discovered a few things about my neighbors. There is this boy in one of the floors who wants to sing but cannot. It's particularly painful to be audience to his futile attempts at the very fine notes of 'Pothchola'. There is also this woman who is constantly screaming at the domestic help in Noakhailla, our ears, have somehow gotten so used to it that we don't even notice it much like the sound of traffic. Then there was this baby in a distant screeching with all his might, with various distortions in his screams like he was experimenting on his newly discovered vocal chords. At some other side of the building there was one of those toys that play “happy birthday” over and over and over, and while it plays some aspiring pianist tries out his own contributions by pressing buttons here and there, I guess at an attempt to enhance the music further. All these noise collectively seemed like a droning buzz, but in that peculiar state of semi sleeping and semi awakening, every sound stood out with its own characteristic and persona.

As exciting as it was it was still awfully annoying especially since I couldn't really get that nap of mine and I do get somewhat despondent with the realization that I probably will never get a day time nap, at least not while all my nerves are in working order.

By Aniqa Moinuddin

Book review 

No, that's not a spelling mistake. Would it help if I said that it's a book by Terry Pratchett? I thought so. When it comes to the insanely funny, you need not look further than this highly popular author of the Discworld series.

I'll start off with a quick skinny for the uninitiated…like my little friend Shehtaz…who had not even heard of Terry Pratchett! (Blasphemy in my book!) The Discworld is a disc-shaped planet carried by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle. It is peopled with interesting characters, like witches and wizards and cunning (but well-meaning) dictators, and entities like Death (whose scythe arm is sore from all the swinging action). Places like the city kingdom of Ankh-Morpokh, the village of Lancre, and the Unseen University (eat your heart out, Hogwarts!) also figure regularly in the series.

Maskerade features my personal favourite, Granny Weatherwax, the crabby, cunning and utterly lovable witch. It opens in Lancre, with Granny feeling out of sorts because a member of her coven recently got married and moved out. As it takes three witches to make a coven (two only make an argument, as Pratchett puts it), her remaining partner Nanny Ogg, is hard put to find a third witch to complete the set.

Further off, in Ankh-Morpokh, the Opera House is in turbulence. The place is being haunted by a mysterious, maniacal and murderous phantom. With debts and corpses piling up at an alarming rate, the opera-house owner is at the end of his wits. Into this madhouse comes the enormous and enormously talented chanteuse Perdita X Nitt (don't ask). The only thing that outrivals her tremendous girth is her extraordinary voice, which has such a remarkable range, she can even sing a harmony with herself. The blurb in the book reads 'Inside every fat woman is a thin woman trying to get out. (Or in the least, dying for chocolate)'. In the case of Perdita, that thin woman happens to be one ambitious and calculative witch.

What follows is a hilarious whodunit, which collides with a few other crazy subplots. Like fellow humorist Tom Holt, Pratchett takes the mickey out of popular literature, with random references from well-known stories. He liberally pokes fun of the operatic traditions, but all in a way that you simply can't help giggling at. If you want to let your hair down and have a good laugh, go grab this book!

By Sabrina F Ahmad


Rabindranath Tagore, the most influential and prominent writer in the history of Bengali literature, is the author of numerous poems, songs, novels and short stories. And as all of you probably know, or rather should know he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913, for his “Geetanjali: Song Offerings”, a work that was translated by the author himself. Tagore enriched every genre of Bengali literature and culture through his writings. He was not just a mere writer, in fact according to many he actually had to mould the Bengali language into a more fluid and flexible shape as he went on with his writings. One of his greatest achievements was the introduction of short stories in Bengali literature.

Rabindranath Tagore's “Golpoguccho” is a compilation of a large number of short stories written by the author, organized chronologically. A large number of these stories were written in the 1890s, when, as the son of prominent landlord, he was sent to Bangladesh (then East Bengal) to collect taxes. Raised in the congested urban surroundings of Calcutta, Tagore was fascinated by the natural beauty and the simplicity of the people in the rural Bangladesh. Hence, many of his stories portray his love for nature and his deep insight into human thoughts and relationships. With his ingenious narrative, Tagore, focuses on human psychology to effortlessly bring out the humor, using a style that is the author's very own.

The story “Praoshchitto” is one of my favorites. It's a story about a guy named Anathbondhu, who, because of his intellect is placed on a very high pedestal by everyone else and himself. According to the general opinion, if he tried he could succeed in everything, but for some reason he never tried and everyone retained their belief. Everyone thought he would come out first in the exam, but he didn't even attend the exam. Everyone believed that if he entered a job he would easily rise to the most prestigious position in no time, so he never took a job. He had obvious disregard for the average people, as they were worthless according to him. He also didn't have any respect for the extraordinary, as he believed he could easily be better than any of them only if he tried. After a while he ends up writing for an English newspaper. Many of my friends strongly insist that this character is exactly me hundred years ago, pointing out the all the striking resemblances. Despite my strong protest, I guess that is probably the reason I like this story so much. Anyway, later, unable to make anything out of his life, he steals some money from his father-in-law and leaves the country. Let's just hope I never have to resort to something like that.

Another very touching story is “Chhuti”. It's about a very mischievous and spontaneous teenage boy named Fatik, who, after spending all his childhood among the beautiful surroundings of rural Bengal was taken to the city by his uncle to study. The congested city, the unsympathetic atmosphere in his aunt's house and the school had a deep harmful impact on his mind; consequently leading to a tragic end.

Despite being written many years ago, Rabindranath Tagore's stories are still an enjoyable read, and relating to them is quite easy. This is probably because in most of these stories universal themes transcend regional and cultural barriers. I remember one of my very highly respected teachers once told me that, Tagore deserved the Noble Prize twice for his short stories alone. But why take her or my word for it? Check it out yourself, and trust me you won't be disappointed. You can find “Golpoguccho” in pretty much every Bengali bookstore. If you find the narrative and the author's poetic style too hard too digest then for god's sake use a dictionary. I mean, if my friend can start learning Russian, just to fully understand the essence of Dostoyevsky and Maksim Gorky, then what's the shame in learning Bengali 'again' to read the work of our very own legendary writer?

By Sadman Alvi


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