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While the world of corporate commerce and economics might be suffering in the bowels of recession, there are those organisations that are curiously immune to market fluctuations. These organizations aren't that well known. Actually, they're VERY well known, right under our noses, but we just don't know they're there. They don't really propagandize very well, even though we're using their products and services every day. Nearacle, really. They'd rip us to dry twigs if they had an existing marketing plan.

Messrs Habi and Jabi Garbage Disposals: Walking the streets of Dhaka has been touted by foreign nationals (by which we mean kids who came back with their parents to the old country and now can't stand the heat) to be quite adventurous. These very same people however notice the things we take for granted.

Just the other day a dude who quite famously suggested a street urchin to sell lemonade instead of lemons told us that the garbage vans move in some weird tandem.They're always moving towards some unknown destination and the weird thing we noticed is that they never pick up street trash and yet the vans are always full. God knows where most of the stuff has been, and God knows who knows where it's going.

The Rickshaw Syndicate: If you're one that travels more than the average bloke, then you might have noticed some annoying things about our occasionally friendlyslashhostile rickshaw-walas. Though, enmities are rot within their own circle, and they always seem to scuffling over space, fare and every now and then their mothers and fathers, at the end of the day (literally- that is to say, at night), they're a tightly wound group of people akin to stragglers and survivors of some apocalyptic war.

What we're trying to say is, they'll form a cartel, they'll collude, they'll engage in practices unfair to the general populace and harmful to consumers. If, for example, you're wanting to take a rickshaw from Mohakhali to Niketon, it will be a male-offspring of a female-dog for you to get anything other than 20 taka (as opposed to the usual 10). They have this look that says, “I'm gonna charge exorbitantly now that I see you're in need.”

Stragglers within stragglers aren't uncommon but rarely found. It's like divine intervention giving you a lucky break.

Chabi Ghor: Ironically, they really don't have any particular place that they can or would call 'home'. But they're scattered all over the city, and most likely all over the country, too. They are semi-masters of crafting with metal and similar materials. They're quite the useful buggers when you don't REALLY need them, but if only it were always so. Their presence is usually marked by this little desk/shelf thing of various colours, but generally blue and green or wooden, with a scrawling of “Chabi Ghor” on it in Bangla. And a phone number, too. You can't do without phone numbers these days. They are perfectly friendly, useful and productive members of society. Until they get this smile and attitude that says, “I'm gonna charge exorbitantly now that I see you're in need.”

If you ever find yourself locked out, and no keys to the locks in the immediate foreseeable future, then these are the people you will have to turn to, with their smile and their attitude and their insufferable charm (fyi, sarcasm), and a simple job of hammering a nail into the lock will cost you an arm, and a leg ALWAYS double check your pockets for the keys. Gorram.

The Shoe Shine Corporation: With the topography of Dhaka resembling miniature canyons on Mars it gets hard to traverse this city now and then on foot. And sometimes you slip and fall and get back up again to find those Batas torn. And what do you do then? Just around the next bend will be this person sitting on the sidewalk and he'll flash that toothy smile that says, “I'm gonna charge exorbitantly now that I see you're in need.”

Kuchra Commodities LTD: Notice how, when you're out for a walk, you never get to see the sidewalk? Notice how its all one long line of blue canvas cloth tents and tables set up selling all manner of commodities? And notice how they are everywhere? They'll try to sell you clothes, they'll try to sell you shoes, CDs, nail clippers, fruits and sometimes they'll try and sell you your own watch that got pick pocketed the other day. And if you ever do need to buy something from them, they'll smile that smile which says, “I'm gonna charge exorbitantly now that I see you're in need.”

And there you have it, the commerce world that exists that no one ever talks about. One of the reasons why the banks here didn't cave in is because this underworld exists. Guess we should them eh?

By Tareq Adnan and Emil



They come like foot soldiers drunk on stealth, slipping past ditches and dikes that we throw around our fragile bodies till they are planted firmly, in our minds and our thoughts and in the laughter that escapes our lips. Those whispered comments, those snide remarks, those words made even more hurtful when the mouth spouting the half-truths hide behind the smile of a friend.

Maybe you wonder, “How could she?” Maybe you lapse into thought, trailing a finger across a photo frame that holds a snapshot of the two of you with your arms around each other. “She wouldn't say that about me.” How naïve you are, to put your trust in friendship when you really ought to have been sinking deeper into cynicism. Should have known better, no?

And, soon enough, you find an arm reaching out and pulling you into a corner, her voice whispering in your ear, “How come you never tell me these things anymore, eh?” A dig in the ribs, and when you wince it's from a pain that is hardly skin-deep.

An eyebrow arched, the slightest tinge of malice in a grin. You wonder how you could've shared your mother's brownies with her, once upon a time.

You look at her, feel the grip of her fingers on your arm, and a sudden squall of bitterness washes over you. Gossip is a concept you are not alien to, oh no, most certainly not. You have been bred into it, playground liaisons and pinky promises from so many years ago morphing into the slightly more delicate and wholly more complicated friendships of today. You know, just like you know the back of your hand, how an innocuous remark can find its way to the ears of the wrong person. You know, just like you know the words to your favorite song, how karma will come around.

And resentment, it rises in you. And you find yourself being pulled in, into the snare, and soon enough you are leaning against the water fountain at school and telling that girl from Economics class “oh, you have no idea. She gets around like none other…” Your conscience protests bleakly, but what do you care?

The damage done, the blow dealt, the words spoken.

But she won't come around and ask you outright. That would violate the Girl Rules. No, she'll find channels. Her disapproval will find ways of getting expressed. Maybe a sidelong glance while you two stand in line for lunch, or a text message that doesn't sound wholly lighthearted. “Hey, it's not like you've been talking smack about me.” You laugh it off, lift your shoulders in a show of good-natured teenage living, but inside you know the seeds have been planted.

You find ways to justify it, to ease that conscience so rapidly slipping away. “She started it.” “Her words, not mine.” “What's it to me, anyways?” But then you see her in the halls, you bump into her on your way to coaching class, and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is “hey, we should hang out.” The things that remain unacknowledged hang weightily from your shoulders, a veritable albatross.

You sit across the table under the cheerful lampshades of an artfully decorated coffee shop and sip your overpriced coffee, manicured fingernails drumming on the table. You jiggle your foot, you make light conversation. “Did you hear about…?” and “He told me he was going to dump her in no time at all…” “Gosh, I don't blame him, she's so clingy!” You are united under the same banner again, in the willful slander of another person's character. But hey, you reason, at least she's not talking smack about me.

At least, not today.

By Shehtaz Huq





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