Petty little small people: Not my 2 taka
THE mean, dug up and waterlogged streets of Dhaka are littered with many different sorts of stupid people. This section looks closely at those petty little small people who stand out from the crowd due to their immorality, sheer lack of decency and manners that transcends the term 'uncouth'.
Mr. (I'm So Much) Bigger Than Rickshaw-Pullers
Forget being the best at what you do. If you really want to show people how powerful you are, how much respect you command and just how courageous you are, go and beat up a rickshaw puller. Sounds like bad advice? Well now let us meet Mr. Bigger-Than-Rickshaw Pullers.
This guy secures his whole damn future by beating up rickshaw pullers. You know how it is that sometimes rickshaw pullers charge unreasonably high prices? Like to go to Destination A they might charge the ludicrous, bankruptcy inducing 12 taka when Mr. Bigger than Rickshawpuller (BTR) knows that the original fare is a reasonable 10 taka.
Well, Mr. BTR can't stand such a thing. So instead of settling on a fare before mounting the three-wheelers, he proceeds to get on and go to his destination and then haggle. Well, not haggle really, because Mr. BTR doesn't believe in bargaining. He prefers an old-fashioned beat-down of the helpless poor rickshaw puller who will usually not fight back.
How dare the poor, downtrodden, lazy rickshaw-puller make such a huge demand for two extra takas? Off with his head, right? While BTR sits on his behind all day in office, working his backside off, the Rickshaw puller does nothing but sit on his three-wheeler and pull heavy passengers here and there, day and night, in the sun or the rain. Still the latter has the cheek to ask for two extra taka. What is this world coming to?
Yes, one may say so, 'Ok, Mr. BTR, why don't you just pay the two extra taka.' Well, you uninformed cretins, Mr. BTR knows that paying that extra two taka may just mean no food on the table for the next 100 years, two extra takas would mean no education for his children, when its just easier beating up the rickshaw puller and getting away with it. And sometimes rickshaw pullers refuse to go where Mr. BTR pleases and you know 'a beatings going to solve that'! A slap, a few punches and a kick and then its back home for Mr. BRT, who forgets all about the incidents, ends the day sleeping next to his beloved 2 taka.
Of course worse than Mr. BTR are the people who witness these BTRs beating up the rickshaw puller and do nothing about it. These are the same people who witness all sorts of tragedies in the streets and instead of helping out; they go and write to Dhaka's Dairies and stuff. Ok, a poor person doesn't want his life condition on print; 10 bucks would help just fine, but whatever. Next time Mr. BTR stops by, tell him to pick on someone his own size. Watch him run for cover because they are traditionally well-known covers who can bully the helpless only. Till later, keep a look out for the other forms of Petty Little Small People and tell us about it.
By Osama Rahman
I hope you never love anything as much as I love you. Time's going by faster than I can plan to do anything with it, waving, teasing, like the smug buster that manages to catch the bus while you are left alone in the rain with layers of mud caked around your shoes from running after it. And you don't have any more fights left in you so you sit down at the stop, trying to appreciate the fact that at least there's a place to sit. Being blown every which way by the wind, I hope you're not thinking of me as much as I'm thinking of you. Because I'm dry and comfortable under a blanket, and I'm having hot chocolate, but I'm thinking of you. I cannot stop and I'm frustrated. Are you frustrated? Do you know when the next bus will come along?
Today's a Thursday and you know how I hate them. I slept in, much longer than usual, staving off as much of the day as possible. When I woke up I had coke for breakfast, thinking of how you would disapprove. I wore clothes you gave me because I needed to make this Thursday better than the rest, and wore that body spray you like on me. I listened to our song, and it made me sad like it always does. But I can't tell you that, so maybe I'll just write you another letter I know I'll never send. And I'll write on it about how wretched I feel listening to this song, because it's beautiful and it makes me think of beautiful things. It reminds me of us. It's frustrating. Because our existence is difficult to believe sometimes. Because it's beautiful. And how can beautiful things be true? I saw my therapist. We talked about you. She's the only person who'll listen to my endless babble about you. But only for the stipulated hour, before my session is over. She asked me what I used to think about all the time before I met you. Damn. What did I think about all the time before I met you?
She doubled my dosage. And I figured that this Thursday would not be so bad after all. I wish I could show you all the ways I thought about you today. But I couldn't do that without upsetting you. I'm not a quiet person; I'm not antisocial; I'm not secretive. I present half-truths about my days, polish them over and make them shiny. I feel like I do it to protect you. Protect you from my life. This is why I try so hard to be funny, to make jokes and end in a light note another long-distance conversation. I've started to exist in case you need to be protected. And I'm so happy with myself, for the first time, aren't I?
I hate making you wait and that's what I did. I made you wait because I'm not used to double my usual dosage yet. I fell asleep and I dreamed of you. And looking back on the day now, I'm having a hard time deciding what you said to me in the dream, and what you said to me in reality. Does it make a difference either way?
I'm told there's a day that friends celebrate their friendship. Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe it's today. I think I'll find out soon and tell you what a great friend you are, and how much you mean to me. And you might find it silly that I chose to say all this on a random day and not on the decided one day of the year when friends are supposed to say these things. I'm afraid you might so maybe I'll just write about it in that letter I'll never send you. I'll write about how far I am from the centre of the universe.
This Thursday has been okay. Every day has been okay. And I'm okay. Time went by faster than I wanted it to. I found little time to even put the blanket on me properly. I think I took more than double the dosage but it's okay. It's okay that I didn't really talk to you today, but imagined it. And I dreamed it too. At least I can still tell the difference between the two. I'll stop writing now. Tomorrow I'll write that letter I won't send you. Not that I'll send you this either. Because I have to protect you from my life.
In a few minutes I'll be watching House. I'll be wondering what you're doing. But I'll be afraid of sending you a text, or a message. I wouldn't want to distract you from whatever it is I imagine you might be doing. I'll just watch House and burst out in laughter for a moment, forgetful, overly medicated, and laughing out loud I'll look next to me, and realize I'm alone.
By The Anarchist Kitten
SHE stands in the well-lit bathroom of a high-end hotel, a duffel bag spilling out by her bare feet. Through the door that swings open every five minutes she can hear voices wafting down from the ballroom, now festooned in baby blue organza and decked with fragrant orchids. The newlyweds, beaming under the adoration of their makeshift extended family, sit on the dais and smile into the crowd.
Cold air blasts the back of her neck and she infinitely grateful to have an excuse for not being out there with the watered-down Indian cuisine and dressily-arranged dessert, out there with the parents hollering in Bengali and less-than-thrilled half-and-halfs who try their best to scurry over to the bar tucked quietly in a corner of the vast lobby.
The bathroom, for now, serves as intermission central. Aunties stop outside stalls to gush about each others' saris. Toddlers wail from behind the walls, demanding to know why the toilets won't flush. Younger girls, painfully removed from the comfort of American denim, talk in minced tones about school and such. A few of the more familiar faces wishes her good luck, before waltzing out to join the party.
The door swings close again, and she is alone. Her crown of plastic jasmine lies on the marble-topped counter. Her hair, shoulder-length and straight-edge American on most days, is now coiled in an elegant chignon, complete with extensions. She uncaps her eyeliner, pulls at the skin of her eyelid, and draws in thick lines. She is used to this, used to the donning of the costume that takes no less than half an hour, used to the makeup and hair routine, used to flustered managers asking her to hurry up. She has come to anticipate the chaffing of her leather anklets, having almost worn them smooth from her almost ten years of practice. She knows, from too many competitions and performances, where to look and what to see when she's on center stage.
On cue, the wedding planner barges into the bathroom, her microphone abandoned for now. 'We're ready for you,' she says a tad breathlessly, a slightly manic look in her eye. 'Are you going to take long?' She looks up, powder puff in her hand, and mouths around her bright red lips, 'Almost.'
She barely notices when the planner steps out. Already she is going over her steps in her mind, her feet tapping to the beat she hums under her breath. She turns her head this way and that, to see if the plastic flowers will stay. Her anklets chime reassuringly, the starchiness of her costume as familiar as her own skin. She has done this before, done this too many times to count. And still the butterflies flitter under her skin. Pre-performance nerves, she thinks to herself, and smiles. It never gets old.
By Shehtaz Huq
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