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Of smoke & highs

With the amount of smoke that had enveloped the room, all furnishings inside the room were beyond sight. An atmosphere so thick with smoke it could have easily been mistaken for fog, only if one's eyes didn't sting from the smoke and only if the young boys and girls were not present.

Cigarette butts littered the floor, leaving round burn marks on carpets and sofas. Occupying the room were ten seemingly ordinary boys and girls who did not study any higher than class 8. They were joined together smoking pot.

Outside in a dirty secluded corner of a building, one late afternoon were a group of seemingly ordinary university students. It was a simple hangout where nothing seemed out of place. A heap of school bags were abandoned at one side of the circle of students.

To look very closely you would notice foils and powder compiled at the center of the circle. The smoke from them burning was seen being inhaled by the girls and boys. In a common day of a common month, a group of common people sat together using heroine.

Call it a fashion or trend, a craze or a disease, the inevitable has crept into the societies of Dhaka; drugs. No one is a stranger to neither the name nor the business

Anyone having watched the news or the read their morning paper will know by now the arrest of the men caught for selling yaba in their infamous red Porsche and BMW. Yaba, marijuana, cocaine, heroine, ecstasy, LSD, crystal meth all of these drugs are presently easily available in Bangladesh. For some these are only a phone call or a favor away. The sellers or distributors often simply give away their drugs for free in anticipation that they will leash the customers who will eventually come back for more.

School going adolescents can easily get their hands on any type or sort or amount of drugs only if they know which school mates (or in particular cases, which teacher) to ask. It is known now that even sixteen-year-old boys drive around the city selling Yaba or cocaine or what ever else to others. Huge parties without any responsible adult present even cater to such drugs.

Scattered all over Dhaka are young people who belong to a particular class of families, none of whom are unaware or ignorant of the names of yaba, ecstasy, pot, cocaine and so on forth. These kids are nearly close to having everything available to them but are still not satisfied. Hence in many cases they resort to drugs and alcohol as a simple past time. Although the bitter truth is that these kids not only know about them but use them, sell them and share them as well; boys and girls alike. Social life, money, sex and materialistic needs are most significant to them.

It begins innocently enough where young people of certain age groups discover themselves in the presence of such drugs. To be curious is never a crime, but curiosity kills the cat. How did it feel for a young boy to have his first try at a cigarette offered by a bunch of neighborhood boys or older schoolmates? He must have felt excited, anxious and beyond curious, no doubt. It always feels the same for everyone to test the forbidden. No one forgot the story of Eve and her apple from the forbidden tree. Especially if such items are so close to one's reach, why refuse?

At the hands of ruthless dealers, buyers or addicts may manage to jeopardize their family's safety only if they do not continue buying from the dealers. Any form of refusal will result in fatal and horrid threats most of which will be carried out. Subsequently there are the pestering dealers, who simply will not leave you alone. They call and call and knock and follow the drug users until they will get them to buy from them.

Addiction to be defined simply is a need. But to analyze addiction it would take more then a description such as "need". Addiction is compulsive, and is mostly achieved through repetition of a habit. For drug-addicts drugs are a necessity that they cannot do without. More then many drug users wind up being indebted to numerous people. Nevertheless the affluent groups of buyers and users ordinarily have enough money all the time to buy without having to borrow most of which sometimes even buy in bulk in order to resell. Users never realize initially the effect that drugs will have on them. Drug abuse is bound to leave an imprint on the physical appearance of a person (facial deformation, skin problems, weight loss etc). For major addicts it will show on the body.

Individuals should know what is right, and be able to differ between black and white. The drugs business that began so invisibly has unraveled into a multi million Taka business and huge threat to the nation.

By Maliha Jabbar


I was scared stiff. The bullets rained down from all directions. I saw my fellow soldiers running to stay alive. I stood cold as each member of my squadron died right before my eyes. Finally I was able to get a grip on myself and run for cover. As I ran through the forest, Tom suddenly tackled me and I tumbled onto the ground. A split second later, a bullet went over my head, Tom had saved my life.

After running for half an hour, we reached the outskirts of the forest. There were no signs of allies around. Most of the men must have been killed, the others captured, and eventually executed. We looked around and saw fire and smoke at the far west village. We knew they had executed all the villagers. They never spared anyone. In our mind we heard their screams as if we had been right there. Six months on the battlefield would do that. We never had nightmares; we lived them everyday. Tom pointed towards the east we had an hour's walk to get to the river and after that, freedom.

We maneuvered our way through the fields with utmost caution. We didn't want to get ambushed as we had been back at the camp. We did not rest for a minute. With every passing minute it felt they were gaining on us. We were in a foreign land with no shelter and no allies; nothing but traps surrounding us. It was a hunting game, and we were the hunted.

With half way to go still, the lone water bottle attached to my belt was near empty. As we scouted the area, we saw torches behind the bushes. As we peaked cautiously through the trees we saw only dead bodies. It didn't scare us. We have been seeing this for a long time now, probably too long.

Finally we reached the river. I got onto the only boar, and Tom started untying it from the tree. We were almost there. I looked at Tom. He had finished untying the rope, and the boat was now moving. But he was now just standing there, smiling and waving at me. It was then I realized what had happened.

A teardrop ran down my cheek as I saw a hole right in his head, blood flowing down. There were torches right behind him. They were getting closer every second. Tom shouted to me, “We are free.”

By Eresh Omar Jamal

Book review
Isaac Asimov

Have you people seen Armageddon, where they drill a hole in the Earth-destroying asteroid and plant a nuclear charge to blow it up? Well, I'd like to see them do that to a red dwarf star. That's right. Nemesis is a star. Circling Nemesis, there is a planet. Circling the planet, is a satellite. Circling the satellite, is Rotor.

The year is 2222 [or 2237, your choice really, read the book and you'll know]. Rotor, one of Earth's settlements acquires hyper-assistance, which is light speed travel. As a result, it sends out the Far Probe, the futuristic equivalent of Voyager. One of the astronomers, Eugenia Insigna, discovers that Earth has a Neighbour Star which is only two light years away. It has so far avoided detection because it hides behind a dust cloud.

When Rotor's wannabe commissioner, Janus Pitt, hears this from her, tries to keep the information secret. He convinces the rest of Rotor to move on from the Solar System, without revealing the destination. His vision is to develop a homogeneous society, to see how humanity would be without the constant clash of cultures. He figures, since Nemesis is hidden behind the dust cloud, colonists from Earth will overlook it. And if they do, Rotor will have ample time to be ready to face them. So one day Rotor leaves, leaving behind those who decided that leaving the Solar System is something they cannot do. Among them is Crile Fisher, who is an Earthman, a spy and also, Eugenia Insigna's husband.

But things don't go as Janus Pitt plans. Earth discovers Nemesis pretty soon and also realizes that it is heading for the Solar System. The settlements can scatter through the galaxy, but Earth has five thousand years to evacuate its eight billion people. It's not enough, as they have to build twenty-six settlements a year for five thousand years. But the Director of the Terrestrial Board of Inquiry is a vengeful man. So he decides to catch Rotor and punish them for their treachery. For that, Earth decides to develop super-luminal flight [faster than light travel]. So they get the best hyper-spatialist there is. And whom do they send to bring her? Why, Crile Fisher of course.

On Rotor, Marlene Insigna Fisher grows up. She feels a strange pull towards Erythro, the satellite Rotor is orbiting. And she can read people's body language. Janus Pitt, who is a man of many secrets, decides after meeting her that she is a not that nice a person to have around and sends her and her mother to Erythro, as per Marlene's wish. But Erythro has a secret of it's own.

The way Asimov writes, you always get the feeling that all this is very possible. The book feels real. Here he paints the characters so well. A father's longing for his child [who resembles his deceased sister], the worries of a mother who is slowly losing a child, the priorities of a scientist and of course, how seductive and convincing power really is, and how short-lived. It also tells us how humanity might one day turn the galaxy into the chaos that is the world of today. Janus Pitt may have overlooked human nature slightly, but you do wonder though, even if the differences remain, if we had the chance to build a new world, could we possibly build a better one?

By Kazim Ibn Sadique




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