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Still here

There would be no more chances.' I thought as I looked on to the empty red chair. There was something different about the chair. This chair once stood proud; it possessed a power which seemed indestructible. Its like my father is still sitting there; looking through his documents; talking on the phone and not caring about the cold coffee on the table. He bought it the day he got a promotion. I can still see him opening the wrappings; reminding everyone that it's HIS chair and smiling at it with pride. Who could tell that six years afterward this pride would be gone; that tears would fall every time he looked at that chair? I remember….

My father walked into the dining room with his shoulders sagging. I looked up at him, hoping he would remember my birthday but all he did was sigh and shut the door on his way. I was quite disappointed. No presents; nothing. Later that night I peeped into his room and saw him sitting on the floor; crying. I heard him say, 'What should I do now? I did retire, but…'

'Don't worry…we'll find a way,' replied my mother.

I understood what he meant. He'd retired from the army. He'd been meaning to do that for a while now. I wiped off the salt drop from my cheeks and although I wanted to tell him 'it is going to be ok' all I could utter was, 'Well, who told you to?' and I left the room.

I couldn't bear to look at that chair any longer. Conscience now bit me hard. The pain was unbearable. I had to leave the room. As I sat on the chair in the dining table, my cat came running. I saw my reflection in its eyes. I noticed the disappointment. They didn't want me; the eyes searched for someone else; someone whose place I could never take. I knew who they wanted. They wanted the man who would feed them bread crumbs every morning. The cat now turned away and so did I. Both of us knew he wouldn't return and both of us had our own miseries.

I begin to wonder why I hated him so much. Why we hardly spoke. It seemed that the words that passed between us could be counted. When he entered the room I would leave; if he wanted to help me I would push him away. It was almost as if I was allergic to him. But I just didn't know why. I can only remember the little conversation that we had, if they can even be called conversations…

'How was school?'
And all I would say was, 'Fine, I guess.'
He would hate my short replies. Irritated, he would ask me why I never talked to him. I let him know why.

'Why don't you just leave me alone?'
I think I understand how he felt, now that I think back on how I treated him. I felt burning shame and remorse, a cringing, nagging pain from within. I never wanted to know how he felt. For me he was nothing but a stain; a stain I didn't want to live with. I saw him in those days when he was still a serving officer. I loathed him; loathed him for all those times when he used to scream at people for no good reason and give that cutting smile to all those who were under him. I was blind to the changes he made, made to make us happy, made to make me happy. I never bothered to wonder, whether he was still humble and compassionate inside. Worst of all, I turned away from the father who suffered in silence, who wept at my rude comments; the father who only wanted a little trust, a little kindness, a little love from his only daughter.

I remembered the last conversation I had with him before he died….

The doctor had uttered their famous line, 'There is nothing we can do.'

He looked terrible. The color had bled away from his face and his eyes were lackluster. No fire raged in them. I saw a changehe looked more pensive, more withdrawn. When I entered his room he was staring out the window. I crept closer.

'Are you scared?' I asked through my tears.

'Let me tell you something. The word 'scared' does not exist. Fear never lives within us; it is simply an illusion created by the human brain. Never confuse it with reality. Fight it. You know how to.'

A tear spilled over. Quietly, very quietly, and in all sincerity, I said, 'I'm sorry.'

'I know.'

I left the room crying. As I lay restless on my bed, different positions generated a different emotion; from anger to sadness as I lay on my side to disgust when I lay on my back. That night I had a dream. My father was holding my hand and we were laughing. He whispered into my ear and I went on giggling like a ten year old. But suddenly I heard a voice and I saw my father leaving. I kept on calling him but he didn't respond. The voice was my mother's. She was saying, 'Your father is gone, wake up.'

The bell rang and two of the guards from downstairs came into the dining room. I looked at my mother. She gestured at the red chair.

'I'm giving away the chair. I don't think it should be here anymore.'

'There would be no more chances,' I thought, as I looked at the chair being dragged across the room. No more chances to apologize. No time to say sorry. I wished for a second I could will myself back in time, maybe say 'I love you, and I'm sorry,' but of course that would never happen. If only there was a way…but there wouldn't be.

Just then there was a massive bang. The lights failed; my mother came into the room, a burning candle in her hand. In the flame, I saw the last of my father being dragged away.

By Shehzeen Samarah Hussa

The fright about height

What are the two things that one must never ask to a man? One, how much he earns and two, what is his height! This is an interesting revelation and is true about most teenagers in Bangladesh. They are in so much insecurity about their height, that many of them often resort to ridiculous means of getting taller. Many of those attempts have a permanent effect on their body in a wrong way.

I wanted to find out what is the ideal height considered by most guys and girls and what is the true picture of the reality. I asked around some of my friends about what their height is, without adding the thickness of their shoe soles (most guys and girls naturally add the thickness of their shoe soles)! Most of my friends are of average height and the general answer was from 5 ft 6 inches to 5 ft 8 inches for boys. Tabulated with a excel worksheet and my statistics formula, the most common recurring number is 5 ft 7 and 5 ft 6 inches. Surprisingly, when asked about if they were happy with their height, most of them expressed dissatisfaction. Most wished to be 6 ft tall, and some wished (the really short ones) if they could have been 5 ft 10inches!

To the same friends, I asked what height they look for in girls, and most answered they would rather date a tall girl of same height as their own (some wanted taller). Now it was turn to ask the girls the same questions. Now the important thing to consider is, firstly, girls, no matter how good a friend of yours, is always likely to add the height of their shoe heels to their own. Anyways, from what answers I got, it seemed that girl's height varied from below 5 ft to the tallest being 5 ft 6 inches. The most recurring number was 5 ft 2 inches. When asked about the height of their dream men, all of the girls actually answered their ideal man would be 6 ft tall.

With such mismatch of reality and perception, one would wonder what the problem with this generation is. We Bangladeshis, for that matter, we Asians are always short compared to Africans or Americans. So why was it hard for everybody to accept their height for what it is? So I popped the question. Most guys answered that they fear that being short reduces their social status. Some told me that it is often embarrassing to be shortest amongst a group of taller or average height people. But the one thing that everybody seems to agree is that, it is difficult to “get girls” if you are not tall enough!

The girls' answers were different. They said that being taller made them look and feel beautiful. Nobody is happy being short as it also makes them feel lowly about themselves as boys seems to prefer and compare them to models or other taller girls. A few of them complained that they find their boyfriends look at taller girls when they pass around them! So that is the frenzy of wanting to be taller de-mystified.

Even though the average height of the people of our country is pretty low compared to the people of western country, it is highly usual for us to be like that. But the pressure from within the circle of friends and expectations from the opposite sex makes the teenagers feel insecure about their body. As a matter of fact, feeling insecure about our body is a mental disease. We have heard about girls in USA starving to death or having anorexia. And something similar also exists for the young boys and girls of our country due to the perceived lack of height.

Although most guys and girls I interviewed are dissatisfied with their height, but only a handful of them are actually desperate enough to change their height. Some of the people actually confessed to have bought a height extending sole for their shoes while most guys admitted that they were tempted to go and get one when they saw the ads. Most guys also admitted to trying various exercises to help them increase their height. Amongst the girls it is a popular misconception that playing basketball actually increases their height.

Doctors agree to the fact that height is a genetic phenomena, but exercises and healthy eating will strengthen the bones and add some height. If someone is short or unhappy about their height, it is not the end of the world. Think of Sachin Tendulkar or Maradona. They may be dwarves, but the world is at their feet. So height not the thing, improving ones self esteem by excelling their respective fields or studies and work is what makes peoples head soar above the cloud.

By Monty Python

Oh mum, where art thou!
Thousands of students from different corners of the globe come to Sydney every year to pursue their higher education. While this city provides a great range of opportunities, international students also have to face a great number of difficulties like expensive public transport and accommodation; with financial constraints further exacerbated by imposed limited working hours.

The majority of the international students studying in Sydney come from South East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. These students are accustomed to close family structures and while the excitement of being thousands of miles away from their parents is liberating, the pangs of homesickness are worsened by the daily pressures of university, work and the expensive cost of living .

Gofran Rabbi Chowdhury, an Accounting student from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) says, “I barely earn $200 a week, all of which is spent on rent and public transport, I hardly have any money left for myself and I don't even have the option of working longer hours. It's extremely frustrating.”

Students come to Sydney for higher education as it is reputed to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. Instead of living their glorious years in fun and freedom, they are shackled into a never ending cycle of homesickness, stress from studying and a constant struggle to make ends meet. In the end, they are left longing for their homeland and families, and when it is time for them to go back, they have slaved away their youth without enjoying it.

By Amrita Makin Islam


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