Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


Can't run, can't hide

The bridge was nice. It was old, true. The bricks bulged where the mold had gotten to it. But on a nice day, when the sun was out and the sky was a clear blue, the bridge was a nice place to be.

He preferred lurking in the solace the bridge's shadow provided. Sitting on the bank, his feet sinking into the squelchy mud, the water quietly rushing past his stooped form. On days when he felt particularly down, he wouldn't budge from under the darkness until evening fell and the town's streets emptied of people. Because they were the one thing he couldn't face. The people.

Oh, how he hated the people.

He hated them, for their gait and their faces and the looks of scorn that never left their eyes. He hated them for the way their lips curled up whenever he passed them by. They never bothered hiding their disgust. They never bothered turning away to whisper their comments and their remarks.

They, in their starched clothes and their houses with picket fences and blue shutters. They, with their walking sticks and parasols. And then there was him.

Stooped. The hump prominent on his back. The small eyes, set deep in his scarred face.

He didn't have a mirror. He didn't need to be reminded. He was aware, from their looks and the way they pointedly turned their backs on him that he wasn't welcome.

That was why he sought out the bridge. The darkness.

He loved the solace. He loved the fact that Nature, with its rivers and trees, saw him not as something scorn-worthy. That nature was forgiving. Nature didn't blame him for the way he had turned out. He just wished the rest of the town would forgive him.

The misery he had learned to live with. The solitude sought him out.

Not today, though.

Today he didn't wait till evening fell. The river was depressing him today. It was the sky's shade of blue. Little silver ripples jumped across its papery surface. The fish were scurrying away (away from him?) and the town looked especially nice. The lights were on in the windows, the tinkle of laughter rising and falling with the wind. The carriages were rolling up and down the cobbled streets. The governor was probably hosting a party.

Today he couldn't help himself from venturing out from under the shadows.

He ambled into the streets. The trees made patches of dappled shade on the cobbled lanes. He walked under the foliage, watched the leaves flutter down.

And suddenly he was in full view.

A large party was standing at the foot of the sweeping stone stairs. They were a well turned out crowd, dressed in expensive silks and furs. Their cadence had the sophistication of expensive schooling. When they laughed, the hair at the back of his neck stood up.

Oh, how he hated them. How he wished they didn't see him. He couldn't endure their taunts…

Too late.

They turned. As one, they turned. On the foot of the stairs, with the sounds of dancing and music and tinkling laughter wafting in through the open ballroom doors. It was scenic, from where they stood - with the majestic sprawling mansion silhouetted against the darkening evening sky. The stars were out. They had a ball to go to.

They didn't lurk in the shadow of a crumbling bridge, waiting out the day, only venturing out at night.

They turned to him. Their eyes widened. Their lips curled up in scorn. And then, they laughed.

They laughed and laughed and laughed. They pointed at him. They shook their shoulders. They leaned against each other. One of them started hiccoughing, she was laughing so hard.

He turned. He ran back to the bridge.

And, for the first time, he cried.

When he got home, he steeled himself. For the inevitable.

The next day, the town was in an uproar.

Carriages flocked out of the houses with the gardens and the picket fences. Parents shrieked and ran out into the streets. Little children wouldn't stop crying.

The people turned out in droves to stare.

All the handsome men, all the beautiful women, and the fresh-faced, attractive youth suddenly they weren't all attractive anymore. No. Their bodies had shriveled. Their skin aged beyond their years. Their faces lined and wrinkled; their eyes sunken in deep folds of skin. Their hands were spotted with sores. And they carried with them the smell of rotting flesh.

The town took all of two days to leave. Parents abandoned their children. Husbands abandoned wives. They marched away, leaving behind a crowd of wailing men and women, people now doomed to a life of ugliness.

They cried. They cried themselves hoarse. No one stopped to care. Or look back.

He watched the carriages roll away. Revenge was sweet.

By Shehtaz and Emil

Exam review: M1

Point to be noted: If we can have concert, book, game and movie reviews, then why not exam reviews? I'm sure you certainly would like to know, that if your exam was the only one that went bad or not. So what say? Let's have an exam review!

Exam: Mechanics 1
Date: 11th January, 2008
Venue: Not specified
Time: 8.00 am

It was an ordinary winter morning, most people woke up late since it was a weekend and mothers woke up early to make breakfast as the sun made its way up from the horizon. Was it really an ordinary day after all? There were many students out there, brushing their teeth, some nervous, the rest more confident.

Time: 11.00 am

The exam venue was crowded with students and the air was filled with an excited chatter of voices. Friends tracked down friends and then loud shrieks and laughter followed. “Dost, M1 e I'm expecting 100 on 100!” a boy commented. Everyone was smiling, almost. Some people still had their heads buried in books, looking all confused. Studying thirty minutes before the exam never helped anyone. Over the PA system, the announcer instructed everyone to queue up before the entrance. It was time

Time: 11.30

“You may start your exam now, best of luck”

Time: 1. 10 pm

Shocked faces, confused expressions and some laughter. “What the hell was that?” Mr. shocked asked. “I'm not sure I believe that just happened” Mr. confused replied. “Arey dhur! It was a joke on us” Mr. Hysteric supplied. However the classic Minormind nerd thought that the question was lengthy, but not as hard (not for you, duh!). It's true; the question was lengthy and comparatively difficult among all previous years. Majority of the students were going to sit or the exams again. Before leaving, a dazed student said “Eita ki Solomon question solve korlam naki?!”

The question was not easy, and don't worry, you're not the only one who's going to do bad. Think, they never ask for range in M1 and this was the first time. I guess we'll never know why the board decided to make such a question,
but never hesitate to let out that curse!

By Nayeema Reza

Queen of Dreams

Once in the dream of a night I stood
Lone in the light of a magical wood,
Soul-deep in visions that poppy-like sprang;
And spirits of Truth were the birds that sang,
And spirits of Love were the stars that glowed,
And spirits of Peace were the streams that flowed
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.

-Sarojini Naidu

Little Rakhi had known for a long time that her family was different from those of her friends. It wasn't just that they were immigrant Bengalis living in California. Her parents never slept together, a fact that caused her much distress after her friend pointed out that her family was 'weird'. After badgering her mother about their weirdness, she discovered that her beautiful and mysterious mother was a dream-teller. “I dream the dreams of other people, so I can help them live their lives” came the enigmatic explanation.

Years later, a divorced young mother, artist and entrepreneur, Rakhi is the one who needs help living her life. Her mother, always silently and unobtrusively going forth to help others, is dead, leaving Rakhi struggling to make meaning of a world that is changing around her. Her husband Sonny, a dark and handsome DJ who insists he wants her back, her strangely perceptive daughter Jonaki, her melodramatic business partner Balwant ('Belle' to all who wish to be in her good books), and her benignly distant father, are all people who care, but can do little by way of truly understanding her. All she has to hang on to are her mother's dream journals, which tell secrets Rakhi has always yearned to know while growing up.

As a rival café opens up right across the road, and Rakhi's paintings are finally beginning to be noticed, and her depression over her mother's death reaches a crescendo, an international tragedy strikes, and the lives of Rakhi and all her immigrant friends will never be the same again.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices, takes the fascinating theme of dreams to approach a subject that continues to fascinate readers worldwide: the Immigrant Experience. The struggle for assimilation, the identity issues and confusion over one's roots, the external forces that shape our hopes and fears, whether we are living on native soil or not, are beautifully depicted, in colours as vivid as Rakhi's oil paintings.

Queen of Dreams is a great masala read, and is available at Etc.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

The search

In winding roads I searched for you,
Seeking the footsteps time erased,
I followed you in long lost trails,
Looking for you in faded ways.
I stood beside the deep blue sea,
And asked the waves where you were,
The sun set through golden dreams,
You seemed to smile at me from far.
I walked up to a mountaintop,
And gazed at the life below,
As the air went whispering by,
I wondered..Where did you go?
I sat alone one silent night,
With the light of twinkling stars,
Suddenly. I stopped to seek,
And there you were,
Hidden in my heart.

By Ananya

Blind Hope

I see you both behind a picket fence
I painted red (not white)
Because she smiles like a blossom
You hold hands, and a nightingale
Perches before you,
Bursting into light
You can have it all,
Just remember to
And cross out the crooked lines
And breathe in Deep.
I know it seems like a Lot of work
But, Reach.
We'll just call this our riskiest investment
For now.

By Alaka Halder



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star