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HER left hand is tucked into her right, and she rubs the palm of her left hand with the thumb of her right, digging deep into the center, where three of her lines meet, intersect and move on, diverging as soon as they start, and progressing further alone. She does not realize this until she feels a smidgen of something precariously getting larger and larger under the intense force of her thumb. She stops her thumb in place, with the edge of her nail softly piercing into the thickness of the skin, and raises her hand to bring it to her face. A dark ball of dirt hangs loosely from the encircling lines on her thumb. She is fascinated by it for a while, playing with it with the thumb and forefinger, and then, flicks it away. She does not follow where it goes; stares at her hands, mesmerized.

The Azan blaring from the TV breaks her away from daze, and with Bismillah at the tip of her tongue; she takes down her lemon juice in one big gulp. She has been famished all day, and the coolness of the shorbot trickles down the interiors of her throat, leaving it conspicuously sated. She settles it down and looks down at her plate. She had broken the fast already in the morning, when she had secretly snuck in a small box of sweets from the refrigerator into the bathroom for her shower. Pilfering proved easy with the borkha; it could hide quite a lot, she had found over the years.

She takes a pyaju up from her plate and bites subtly into it and lets the saliva seep into it, the taste mingling with the insides of her mouth. She doesn't look up; she avoids the faces sitting around the table. She would've preferred being home than at this invitation for iftar, and ravaging the food she now tried so hard to refrain from devouring, and she could've done so without the scarf, which hugged the contours of her face. It feels uncomfortable against the smoothness of her skin, abrasively clutching on to the edges.

Her eyes drift away to the adjacent dining room, where the adults had already arranged their prayer mats and stood on them, breaking their fasts with water. She waits for them to finish, feeling more comfortable with the table now empty, so that she can partake in a similar ritual. She chews gluttonously on the chhola popping around in her mouth, and looks at them again, bowing now, their foreheads kissing the surface of the mat, their mouths captivated in fervent whispers of Arabic, faced away from her, towards the Ka'aba.

Her eyes stray to the wall they face and it's white and creamy and fluid in its color, but, that's all she sees. She wonders what they see. She wonders what they bow down to. Because she doesn't see anything, feel anything. She immediately touches her left cheek, then right cheek and then her left cheek again with the tips of her fingers, muttering tobatobatoba under her breath. She does not enjoy the thoughts, which penetrate the certainty she once so intensely possessed.

She leaves her plate unfinished, running to the now vacant spaces left by the men returning to their iftar, ready, at last, to give in to urges of their taste buds, and she, unfolding a mat in front, stands on it and lets her memory take over, the surahs flowing out of her mouth, immaculate, with years of diligent recital.

But the thoughts, they don't let her be. They start off at the back of her head as she brings herself down, her hands on her knees, and then, by the time her forehead has touched the mat and she is lifting herself up for the final phase of her prayer, they are on full rage. She cups both her hands side by side, in close proximity of her chest; two halves of a sphere hanging purposelessly in midair. Her mouth moves to let Arabic through, but she thinks of other things.

She thinks of the coming Eid, and the days leading up to it, wandering obediently behind her mother as she shops for this and that, her feet dragging along, aching from all the walking, looking enviously at dresses that don't matter, because they would be hidden beneath. And the Eid itself feels pointless, with cousins who talk about make-up and boys and clothes and she feels completely left out. She doesn't know about these things, and sometimes, it hurts, to not belong. And as her thoughts transform, with her palms now touching her face, gently, delicate, the thoughts end up where she doesn't want them to end up, the worst place they can be: the what ifs.

She has doubts. And she doesn't know what to do with them.

By S.N. Rasul

Book Review

Size 12 is not Fat

MEET Heather Wells, former teen idol and pop princess. Shoved off the charts and out of her famous boyfriend's arms by the pretty young popstar Tania Trace, poorer by the life earnings her mother ran off to Argentina with, but richer by a few dress sizes, she's reduced to working as assistant dorm...sorry, resident hall director at a posh New York College. Hey, it's not a bad life. She doesn't have to sing plastic songs foisted on her by a soulless, commercial record label, if she manages to complete the probationary period at work, she will be allowed to get an education, and to top it all off, she's got her ex boyfriend's dishy older brother as her landlord. What more could a girl want? Other than a few more of those chocolate-covered orange slivers?

Heather's bubble of idyll bursts when a female student is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft at the hall. The authorities have ruled that it was an accidental death, caused by 'elevator surfing' but something about the case seems off to our plus...sorry Average-sized heroine. Because, you know, girls just don't elevator-surf. When a second death occurs, apparently by the same means, she is absolutely certain that something fishy is going on. Convinced that the police will never take her hunch seriously, she enlists the reluctant aid of Cooper, who oh-so-conveniently just happens to be a private investigator, and decides to get to the bottom of whoever it is that's sending these girls to the bottom of the elevator shaft. Things get a little sticky when her ex decides to make a cameo reappearance into her life, and inadvertently intercepts an attempt on Heather's life. To see how this delicious serving of chicklit pans out, read the book.

The popular author of the Princess Diaries series brings to life another lovable female lead in this first of a trilogy starring the irrepressable Heather Wells. With all her quirks and insecurities, made excusable by her genuine warmth, Heather makes a more relatable female lead than any of Judith Mcnaught's perfect princesses. This is a book that will make you laugh as you try to see if you can guess who the villain is before the self-appointed sleuths do. Even though it is not meant to be a lofty work of literature, if there's one gripe this reader has about the book, it is that Cabot has been unable to shake off her teen-fiction style. Even though Heather is supposed to be 30 something, she sounds 13. Nevertheless, all you ladies that are looking to sink your literary teeth into something fluffy and sweet, give this sugary treat of a novel a try.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

The science of daydreams

IT'S that superbly boring ceremony you've got to attend again, and the only thing you can do is listen to all the crazy banter flying around and off the top of your head. Then you suddenly land up in your cosy room (which is quite far away, really, considering the fact that you're not at home) reading that book you'd saved up for a long time, and are only brought back by the eerie silence and people gaping at you in an odd way. (You know, not the oh-you're-so-smart way). Oh well.

Daydreaming has been a survival strategy for a long time, though some people like to pretend they have nothing to do with it and brand it as a harmful occurrence in daily life. Recent research proves that somewhat wrong. According to findings from a research at Dartmouth College, daydreaming might showcase that the brain is evolved enough to multitask

Also, daydreaming is now often thought to be the 'default' state of mind, and can actually be constructive provided that you're in control. While you are daydreaming, your brain might actually be processing other important information. The cortex is thought to be very active during this period, and numerous regions of the brain interact with each other.

However, for daydreaming to be a useful mechanism, you would have to be aware that you are, indeed, daydreaming. People who are on this level soar higher on the creativity scale, because they are more at ease with imaginative thoughts and are thus more likely to have creative insights. Some scientists claim that daydreaming can hone problem-solving skills provided that people don't overindulge in them.

So don't go overboard with the daydreams and completely lose touch with reality, but a little daydreaming escapade here and there isn't so bad either, no?

By Anika Tabassum


It was me

Do not stare at me,
I know I am not the girl I used o be.
Do not cry with me,
I know I am pathetic, but for me
the same you must not be.
Nights I had spent, scratching
away empty words.
Years I had spent, trying to obtain the world with those countless words.
Decades have I passed, cherishing that dream from the caverns of my heart.
Then why did they not come to me?
Touch my heart or give me my dream?
No one knows.
Some say god has better plans,
Some say it was nothing but a flawed action;
But, I know, it was me.
That it was me who had failed you mother,
That it was me who had failed me.
So wipe away those tears, mother
For the child you loved, is here no longer.

By Mashiat Rabbani



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