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Endangered Toys

Toys are one of those things passed down through generations, from older sibling to younger, from parents to children. A marbles collection of over one thousand, an immaculate set of miniature pots and pans. A spinning top you don't know how to use, a board game you're not bored enough to play. The thing is, nowadays older siblings are rarely older enough to have played with these, and parents are no longer inclined to hand over their old, simple toys to a kid immersed in technology. Children aren't interested in doing the work either. So today RS brings you the disappearing toys, right out of villages and the streets of Dhaka.

Latim: Unlike the Beyblades and light-up spinning tops you find in the markets, the original version of both these, the latim, is spun using a string. It's usually made of solid wood with a thick pin stuck through the center, and the shape is rounder and longer than the average plastic tops. As you can imagine, the pinpoint makes it virtually impossible for the hand to exert enough spin or force. The string is wound around the top tightly, and pulled real hard real fast; the latim shoots to the ground, somehow balances itself, and manages to spin better than any plastic top. It takes skill, practice, and is entirely more addictive than cigarettes. It also sucks the first time because the most you do is break something with a flying piece of wood.

Kite: These are extremely rare in stores, since they're almost always handmade at home. It's necessary to select the right kind of paper, proportioned sticks, the correct kind of thread, and calculate the dimensions. The slightest fault means the kite won't fly. The string is wound around a latai, a cylindrical wooden object which helps manoeuvre the kite in the air, and keeps room for extra string in case it soars high. Anyway, a running start and a nice breeze is all that's needed. Kite-flying falls under the sports section too, considering the awesome game of kite-cut-kite. Basically you pull a move where your string cuts through the string of another flying kite. It's not easy, but the feeling when your kite takes down another… there's just no comparison.

Marbles: Your dad probably has a huge collection of these glass objects. Collecting marbles back then was akin to collecting Ben10 equipment now. Aside from being very pretty to look at (there are variations in colour and internal design; the most famous are the cat's eye marbles), there are about a thousand different games you can play with them. The basis of all of these games is to hit one marble with another, in a specific way to a specific place. Now, since they're perfectly round, this turns out far more difficult than it sounds. With multiple players, even harder. It's a great way to improve accuracy and reflexes, without actually doing anything.

Yo-yo: Yo-yos are classic. There's not much to it; just hold onto the end of the thread and throw the thing down. There are several well-known tricks you can do with yo-yos; yours truly specializes in 'Around the World'. Keeping it spinning is the only problem, but it's pretty easy actually; fifty tries, and you've mastered it. Possibly the reason it never left. On the endangered list only because of the latest invention, where the yo-yo spins itself. What exactly is the point of playing with something that does all the work?

Handmade dolls: Granted, this was an interesting way to get girls to learn the then compulsory art of sewing. But it's a great way to activate imaginations. Little girls even now enjoy playing with their mother's dolls, one reason being they're made more realistically than the blond Barbies. Marriages between friends' dolls is carried out as delicately as an actual marriage would be, with 'talks' between families, selection of date, makeshift venue, decorations, not to mention wedding crises. This author believes this is in fact practice for developing tact and persuasive skills, which females are undisputedly too good at.

Haaripatil: Another fun way to learn the art of cooking. Nowadays more guys know cooking than girls. Huh. Anyway, your mom probably has a couple sets of tiny pots and pans, and if you're a girl, you've probably played with them too. Using grass as spinach and mud as meat is an imaginative way of trumping invisible tea and cookies in the Western-popularised tea parties. It's more original too. Condolences to the brothers who are forced to partake in the aftermath of the cooking: the eating. Possibly a reason why females are the main and more apt users of poison.

Ludo: Now this is a board game to surpass all board games. Played equally by both boys and girls. There's one dice, a bunch of small coloured disks, and a board with two sides. It never gets old. Your parents played it, your grandparents played it, and you play it. One side of the board involves the more strategic game, where you need to get all your disks safely to the house. The opposite side is the classic snakes-and-ladders. When a bunch of kids get together and are bored, Ludo beats Monopoly any day. Maybe this one isn't endangered, but it definitely deserved a mention.

By Professor Spork

The Backburner

Who left you so?
Things get in the way like rain on the windshield. In the beginning, it's a smooth cruise, an uninterrupted course, a pleasant journey resonating with perfection, without speed bumps, the speed is a pulsating eighty kilometres an hour, and the breeze is cool, fresh, hitting you in the face with the sweet intensity of joyous splendour. The sun is up, not too bright, bright enough to be disillusioned into happiness, and the sky is clear, blue like the ocean, wispy white clouds which add to an ecstatic high.

Time heals; time screws.
There's only so long the smooth stretch of road will last. There are speed bumps of jealousy, red lights of misery, separating islands of time, interrupting traffic, roadblocks. You don't even realise the shift in the gear, from the fifth to the fourth to the first, the speed coming down, and the day darkening, the night drawing nearer and nearer. To make things worse, there's rain, sweet drizzling at first, and before you know it, it's pouring, pouring so hard, shattering the windows with the fierceness of the strongest storm, and your vision's blurry, there's barely anything you can see. Darker and darker now, there's not even a moon to guide you through the night, into light, out of this mess you've created for yourself, out of this tunnel that's blocked from both sides and eventually, as the impending crash that you so vehemently denied draws closer and closer, you suddenly know there's no way out, this is it, it's too dark, hope too vacant, and everything will go wrong now. The brakes will crash, the night will be all encompassing, the gears won't work. And they don't.

It ends.
Importance is as flexible as time: we move in and out of lives like hot and cold weather. Suns come and go; moons brighten and fade away. We find ourselves at the bottom of piles, at the back of lines, at the corner of eyes, and, eventually, not in their vision at all, because the darkness of forced forgetfulness is more powerful than we can imagine. So easy for them to forget when we can do anything but.

There are explanations; there are debts. But it's never enough because nothing prepares us for the onslaught. There is nothing we would deem as perfect reasoning. Hours of psychoanalyses follow, churning details in the forefront of our minds, and spitting out justifications which only serve to feed the confusion that has gripped the heart so intensely and is not letting go.

A meeting of old friends: misery, self-pity, denial. Etcetera. We go downdowndown and the air gets lighter, the walls close in. We drown and it doesn't feel like we can get up. But we tell ourselves we must survive, they can't win, all is not lost. There's something else that has taken hold of you now, something more sinister, something less noble than self-sacrificed self-loathing, something that burns. There is endless, mindless rage, anger pushing through the pores, under the skin, writhing against molecules, coalescing with atoms.

You're an instrument of anger and you will slice up everything in your way. Acceptance is a beautiful thing; it has the gift of the illusion of clarity, when the lucidity itself is the haze over the haze, when everything makes perfect sense because we want it to make perfect sense. To avenge the loss of purpose is the purpose itself now and we will redeem every single iota of that fury.

It doesn't last long, does it? We want to be angry, stay angry, to let the frenzied indignation consume us into a numbing state of oblivion but we realise there's nothing to aim the wrath at. There is a certain level of respect leftover that you can't rid of. You must wait; we must wait. There's always time. And the hope for the hope of healing.

Who left you so?
Grace is a gift for the fallen, dear,
You're an angry blade and you're brave,
But you're all alone.

By S. N. Rasul

Book Review


When we think mystery novels, Agatha Christie is the one name that is bound to pop up into our heads. After all, the lady has written more mystery novels than any other writer and has been dubbed the Queen of Crime. For those who have a love affair with this genre, Christie's 'Nemesis' should prove to be a treat.

The story begins when Miss Marple receives a letter from a recently deceased friend, the millionaire Mr. Jason Rafiel, asking her to investigate a crime - upon her success, she is to receive £20,000. The only glitch is that he didn't leave Marple with any information about the crime. 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream'- these words were the only guidelines left by Mr. Rafiel, who had given Miss Marple the nickname 'Nemesis'. Nemesis - the goddess of vengeance; an unlikely name for the senile spinster Miss Marple, who happens to be the protagonist of the book.

So, with basically zero knowledge about what she is supposed to do, Miss Marple embarks on a tour of the archaeological sites of Britain, arranged for her by Mr. Rafiel prior to his demise. Accompanied by 14 others on the tour, the nifty old woman soon suspects the link between her investigations, some of the tour members and a few locals. She learns that she is dealing with a crime committed years ago, which involved Mr. Rafiel's wayward son, Michael (currently in prison) and the death of a local girl, Verity.

Before she can solve the mystery at hand, Miss Marple is confronted with a murder of one of her companions on the tour, who happened to be the Headmistress of the school that Verity attended. Miss Marple is now convinced that she is at a crucial stage in solving the riddle - but this time it is her life that is at stake.

This book happens to be one of my favourites from Agatha Christie, even though I'm not particularly fond of the Miss Marple series. The book is initially a bit slow, and the events don't seem to lead to anything substantial. However, as the story progresses, it picks up a considerable amount of speed - leaving you scrambling for the seat belt you thought was unnecessary. What else can one expect of Christie? With an ingenious plot and an unpredictable ending, 'Nemesis' will pique the interest of a mystery fanatic.

By Sarwat Yunus



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