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House of Cards

Imet her at a time when I was lost. Not literally lost, of course, but when I looked around myself and found nothing but empty stares and cool indifference the cold heart of a rather sweaty city not at all to the taste of someone who is used to warmer hearts and fresher air. Being a small town guy can be really hard sometimes.

And then she came to me; why she came, is still a mystery. She was rather pompous at first. I have found that some people are like gas tanks when it comes to being friendly; you only need a spark, only need to start the conversation, and you don't have to worry about the rest. She was like that, although she started the conversation. But I was cautious; I would have been stupid not to be. I have been burned too many times by the best of friends. But somehow, this thing seemed to work.

She was a smart girl, beautiful and way too rich by my standards, as everyone else around here seem to be. She had half the guys in my class going for her but she only batted her eyelashes at them seductively, torturing them into half-insanity. I think she enjoyed hoola-hooping with the minds of my gender. And the specimens present in my class were already mind-boggled by too much of every good thing.

Some people have said that she took pity on a dork when she paid me any heed. Others said [and I support this party] that she liked the “loner-vibe” that I gave out. Wow! That sounds positively sexy! YYAAAYY!! Ahem, maybe I am a dork after all.

But whatever the cause, she became my friend, a very good friend. And no, we didn't end up in a corny, Hollywood, best friends-become-lovers story. Lets leave that to the romantic comedies, shall we?

After I got through her shell a little, I realised that she was interested, mostly [with the exception of make-up], in the same things I'm interested in books, movies, music, the whole cliché lot though we had some difference in tastes. She had her troubles, lots of them, but she maintained similar principles to me: things move on, so don't try to hold on to them if you don't want to stumble. She had her share of back biting friends, too. Sometimes, English medium schools in Dhaka remind me of my school in Sweden; you have to watch where you tread or might get blown up by a landmine made up of gossips and rumours. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe all high schools are like that.

She was there when everything seemed worthless; when dreams fell like a house of cards. She was skilled at building card castles, and she was skilled at making people dream. She used to read those silly stupid stories I wrote and act like she was impressed. I know she was acting, because now when I read what I've written, I snort with derision. She encouraged me and in some cases, she became my muse; not that I come up with great ideas, but a muse is a muse, my friend.

She was a pillow maniac. Most people hug other people, some hug their pets, some even hug trees. She hugged her pillows, sitting on her bed in her PJs looking at me with big brown eyes, trying hard not to laugh as I gave her lectures about life and philosophy, politics and history [yeah, I'm boring sometimes. Ok, most of the time] and literature, though I know next to nothing about them. I quoted books and movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I think I'm stupid, too; I should have quoted from Aristotle and Socrates, Robindronath and Jibonanondo and Shakespeare [he is the pinnacle of boredom]. But with her, life was somehow simpler. No need to be extravagant and poetic. The simplest things I said, made me feel conceited, as it sounds - poetic.

This thing about her and her pillows was sort of cute. Some might think it weird, but I didn't. I woke up one night to find myself smooching my pillow; I was having a rather excellent dream, which included Jessica Alba, Keira Knightly and some other faceless women. She laughed when I told her this. I even dared to suggest that she try something very pleasurable - at least as far as I know - with the water jet from her bathtub faucet; seriously, in some cases, girls are so lucky. She said “eugh” and I said I read it in some book. “You have a lousy taste in books then,” she had snapped, but she was blushing and smiling at the same time. I never got around to asking her whether she tried it or not. Come to think of it, there is a lot I never managed to ask her, like how she managed to endure my stories and lectures, and why?

So, my dear friend, this is to you. You know I can't write too well. The readers won't even have any idea of what you mean to me from reading this. But that doesn't matter. “What matters is what you feel inside, not what other people think and say you feel”, right? I miss you…and I love you so, so much.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique

An unfinished story

Rahim walked on towards the park. “Ma...”, he mumbled out, tears streaking down his dirt smudged face. He had woken up at their one-room shanty house to find her already gone for her day's chores as an ayah at the school next to the park.

A delicious smell wafting from the park area made Rahim's stomach grumble with hunger. He had not had his breakfast and had not even had his last night's meal, he remembered. Ma did not bring home food last night.

“Hey! Where are you going? You cannot go inside.”the elderly, mustached guard at the gate warned Rahim as curiosity got the better of him. Lost for words, Rahim retreated his footsteps and stood next to the guard at the gate, instead. The entire place had been fashioned in a taboo-like manner, he noticed. Children his age, dressed very colorfully were playing around. A podium had been set up in the middle, just like the ones on which politicians strode to give speeches; Rahim had seen such things on TV at his neighbor's place.

Who was coming? Was it the Tarek Zia guy? At 7 years of age, Rahim surely was not unaware of the nation's political situation. No wonder there were food arrangements, that man hosted a lot of 'kangali-bhoje's, he knew. He and his mother had even attended one, being paid tk.100 each and as a bonus being fed mouth-watering khichdi. Rahim's stomach churned at the thought of the khichdi.

“What are you doing there? The competition is about to begin and you are still stuck here?”a lady in a pink cotton sari called out from behind and took Rahim's small hand in hers. “Why didn't you let him in?”she inquired to the guard.

“He never told me he was participating.”the bewildered guard replied.

“Come boy. What's your name? And why has your mum not come with you?”---the woman asked Rahim so nonchalantly as if she didn't need a reply to her queries at all. Too scared to string two words together, Rahim found himself deposited at the hands of two young pretty ladies who were jotting down names of the other children.

“What did you say your name was?”the old woman shot the inquiry at him again.

“Ra---Rahim”the panicked Rahim stammered.

As the women hurriedly scribbled down his name, Rahim noticed the attires of the children around him. Some were dressed in red saris like brides. One had a doctor's white coat on, with a certain instrument hung around his neck, the kind doctors put to their ears while the other end is placed on a patient's chest. Rahim had seen this at the municipal doctor's chamber where last month when he had been down with fever, his mother had taken him. The thing had a weird name; but Rahim could no longer remember what.

“Who did your make-up? A fabulous job has been done on you.”One of the two young women exclaimed at seeing Rahim's tear-stained face. As the other woman affectionately ran her hand through his sweaty hair, Rahim shied away, afraid she might hit him. “Actually”-the former commented, “the slits and dirt on the cloth look genuine. Haven't borrowed the rags off some poor urchin's back, have you?” The two chortled at the remark as Rahim slipped a hand to the back of his acquired-through-donation green shirt to pull forward that torn part from showing off his bare brown back.

An announcement saved Rahim from further investigation. All kids were asked to assemble on the dais. As the other kids hurried with their moms to gather around, the lone Rahim sneaked away to a table laden with food that had lured him into this dilemma. He recognized one of the items as 'burger', the food of his fantasy. Everyday while coming back from the local free school, he walked an extra half mile on a longer route to home, just to gaze at the food items (especially the 'burger') displayed on the window of a posh fast food shop.

Just as he reached a brown hand out to pick one of the burgers up, the lady in the pink sari reappeared. “There you are, I've been looking for you all over the place.” Bringing him over to the podium, she placed him between a kid dressed in an army uniform with rifle in hand and a 'badam-wala' carrying a basket full of peanuts.

“And the winner of the school's Dress-as-you-like competition is....Rahim...” Rahim recognized his name but couldn't make out what was going on. As the kids around him booed and cried their way down from the stage, aged people gathered around Rahim, congratulating him. He was presented with what they called a pack of Pokemon cards, the value of which was nil to him. His mind still clung to the burger he badly wanted.

Even when his mum appeared out of the blue in her ayah-uniform to fetch him down much to her shame and he was ripped off the title and the Pokemon cards as everyone realized he wasn't a student of the school, rather the ayah's son, his mind still lingered on the burger. If only he could have a bite........

By Reesana Sifat Siraj



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