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Bhoot versus ghost

Western ghosts are almost clownish if you consider the fact that the only thing they can do is to turn lights on and off and to open doors and windows. Now come on, lights turn on and go off all the time in our country and even my three year old cousin can open a door. If you want a real scare, the one that involves gore, blood and pain, look at our country’s jewels, the ones who have made history by doing nothing and have done everything that can be expected of a being that does not exist. Yes, of course, I am talking about none other than our very own brand of horror bhoots.

Imagine a western kid, six year old and scared about Goosebumps's illustrations; ask him to imagine a haunted mansion and the ghost of an actress that lives inside it. Tell you what? All that he will manage to imagine is probably of doors that close behind you and strobe lights that go on and off behind windows. Even if the kid has a highly developed sense of imagination, all he will manage to imagine about the ghost is the face of a woman who looks too much like bad Photoshop work and sound effects that fail Bangla cinema soundtracks.

If you ask a Bangladeshi kid to imagine the same scenario, even the dumbest kid in town will definitely think of an Oak tree or a Bamboo jungle instead of the haunted mansion just because the mansion is way safer compared to his own house. Regarding the ghost, you can rest assured; Bangladeshi kids won't be imagining ghosts turning off the lights and going "boowoo" with outstretched hands and closed eyes. The one and only thing they will think about are bhoots.

Unlike the ghost; who will wear an eighteenth century gown for a dress, our bhoot will definitely wear a white cloth, which will ensure that it is dead, unlike the ghosts, who are un-dead people who were supposed to die years ago. Come on, how can a ghost be scary if it is not related to death and only thinks of resting in peace in the place it died? Our bhoots are better, they may not have mansions, but they do have Tetul trees and Neem trees to live on, which they need not directly protect, because they kill everyone who goes under them anyway.

The maximum damage a ghost can do to us is to get our heartbeats to increase with the help of background music; while the bhoot bothers about none of that - it just creeps up behind you, and does what it is supposed to do, breaks your neck. Who cares about special effects, eh?

On the other hand, the ghost cannot even take a form, they cannot touch us and can pass through our bodies, and sadly, all that it does to us it to give us the feeling of cold; come on, I can get that by just turning on the AC!

Ghosts even lack the quality of innovation, of all the sound tracks in the world; they can utter only one sound, which is not even that scary. Even a five year old can creep up from behind you and shout, "Boowoo!"

So, what would happen if you were to put up a bhoot alongside a ghost? Well, I am quite sure that the dumb ghost would try to scare the bhoot by turning off the light. Well, as long as it does not turn the fan off, it is not going to hamper the sleep of the bhoot. If it does finally find out the switch and manage to turn it off and starts playing the boring "boowoo" track, the first thing the bhoot would do is take a cotton, stick it in its ears, take a pankha, and fan itself to sleep. Boo yeah, ghost.

If the bhoot gets up on the heels of the ghost first, which I am sure it would; all that it would bother doing is to get behind its neck, get hold of it and start playing volleyball with the head that it has just torn off. The hell with strobe lights and broken mirrors that reflect blue eyes. Blood, gore and broken necks, that is the dream bhoot; scary and evil.

Bhoots win, ghosts lose; end of story.

By Eshpelin Mishtak
Illustration: Sarwat Yunus

Into Dust

Dust, disturbed can cause sneezing to the allergic. Unless of course you were force to disturb it, when every sneeze that you emit seems a testament to your suffering and by the Gods, there have been a lot of testaments haven't there? Ten in a row too.

Well, the parents noticing the stack of things you had accumulated atop that closet wasn't the most fortuitous of things that could have happened to you on an early morn, but well it happened. And you now have to clean it all up, by which said parents mean put it out of their sight until they notice it a year later under the bed. While you sneeze, as you move aged cardboard boxes that contain Hotwheel rides you'd thought you long ago lost, you come across one of those stack of notebooks, tied together, their edges crumpled.

You take it down, during which new testaments are given to the world of your covenant of suffering, but instead of relegating it to the underside of the bed; you sit down with the notebooks on the floor, like you once did with those Hotwheel toys when you were younger.

The neat handwriting on the cover detailing your name amuses you, so different from the scrawl you now employ. ‘Biology’, this notebook says beside ‘Grade Eight’ and that surprises you too. Biology was so long ago, and you don't even remember when you ever took the subject.

A flick and the book is open; right pages lined and the left blank. The tidy handwriting, so small and structured, blue ink on faded yellowed paper, the pages surprise you with their knowledge of biology. The language though is undoubtedly yours, nothing copied from a book and nor does it have the staid flow that comes from dictated notes. You were once diligent; you once knew what metacarpal meant. A musing smile stretches your face as you turn the page and come across a diagram of the heart. It's too neat, too detailed to be yours, but it's in your book. You drew that. You once knew what the vena cava did. You once knew how to draw.

A chuckle, somewhat rueful, remembering your past self but you move on to the next notebook in the stack. This one bears the moniker of mathematics. You open it too, and numbers extending in neat columns present themselves to you. No cut outs, no corrections, all the equations laid out in precise formation. You were surer of yourself back then, weren't you?

Of course back then calculus had yet to introduce to you the vagaries of integration, but still, it warms your heart somewhat that at some point in your life, you were able to lay claim to being good with numbers. But then comes to your mind that slideshow of memories, of you bunking classes, of classes attended where the numbers seemed gibberish and how slowly demons emerged from mere mathematics. The nightmare of your last math test flashes before your eyes. Suddenly uncomfortable, you decide to stop perusing this particular cache of memories.

The next notebook called itself Economics and this time you truly smile. The subject you chose to pursue beyond the borders of school and here in your hands are the first few steps you took down that path. The very first page asks you that quintessential ‘what is economics?’. You look at your vague attempts at trying to define something so vast in just a few sentences and you laugh out.

Going through the book, you can almost chart your fascination with the subject. From the initial puerile answers, which you did more to amuse yourself, to the actual notes that you later took down, the growing interest palpably evident. And you grin when you come across some of your more outrageous economic theories, the anti-social economic system with which you tried to explain oil price rises, because the correct answer was beyond you. You look at the creativity that once flourished in these pages and you realize that all of it came from you. A little astounding.

With the residues of the previous smile still on your face, you pick up the next notebook. This one has the simple tag of English Composition, and unlike the rest, the cover is scrawled all over with tiny quotes, from books, from songs, lines you wrote yourself; little tidbits of inspiration that you always fell back to.

Opening it, the first thing you come across is an attempt at poetry. Reading through, you unaccountably flinch. The meter is all wrong, the rhyming childish at best and the subject… everyday teenage banalities. Feeling somewhat embarrassed of yourself you quickly move on, only to come across something that makes you wince with just the title. A fiction piece and you remember yourself when you wrote it. The pride, the foolish feeling of accomplishment. You read it, and every exclamation mark you come to makes you cringe. The at times inappropriate use of archaic language, the foolish attempts at melodrama, all of it brings to help you understand the mind of the person you were. And you flinch again at your own naivety.

A little rattled at the evidence of your own humble beginnings, you find yourself unwilling to explore more into your own past. Especially since the next notebook is called English Literature, and you don't want to go through your own idiotic attempts to explain Plath or Lawrence. That particular embarrassment you'll save for later.

You put the notebooks away, and get back to cleaning, and disturb more dust and discover a Sidney Sheldon book. You decide you don't like the idiot you used to be.

By Tareq Adnan

NB: Title taken from the song of the same name by Mazzy Star.

The Memories of Messi

Most people say dogs are man's best friends. Dogs bring companionship, personality and gut wrenching humour to households across the world. Dogs are loyal, dependable and simply wonderful creatures.

To begin with, a perfect day was dusking in my new compound. Biking alone in the streets of DOHS, I pedalled without energy. Suddenly, a puppy came scuffing out of the bushes. His body was roughly coated with a blend of black and brown fur and his eyes were round and big which was a complement to his caramel muzzle. He was absolutely adorable.

I hopped off my bike and wandered a bit closer. I wanted to take him home, but then I noticed he had a brown collar around his neck. To my astonishment, the puppy scurried over to me, and started licking my hand. Suddenly my uncle, looking worried and concerned, came out of the bushes.

"Oh! Thank god you found him," he sighed with relief.

I confusedly asked, "Is this your puppy?" I lifted it up in my arms. My uncle smiled and said, "Well it was supposed to be a surprise but I guess the little puppy couldn't stay away from his owner." That was the sweetest memory of my life.

It was July 2006 when I got him. It was World Cup season and so I named my little puppy after my favourite player, Lionel Messi. It took Messi a few days to get used to his name.

Messi was a mixed German shepherd. Unlike other guard dogs he barked only when necessary. He was never aggressive and rarely attacked strangers, though he was wary of them. He was still a good guard dog.

Messi was very fussy about food. His food had to have 60% meat. He was like a nagging little child. His favourite meal was his late-afternoon snack. After this meal, we played Frisbee with him, which was his favourite game. He was always cheerful, obedient and eager to learn. Although he was tranquil and clever, he never responded well to harsh discipline.

He was my companion whenever my mood was dull; I would go outside and sit beside Messi and convey all my thoughts to him. He would lie down beside me with his paws placed on my lap. I felt like he actually understood my state but just couldn't speak, that's all. He was somehow deeply connected to my heart.

Messi's journey of life ended on September 10th. He was suffering from high fever and paralysis of limbs. In his last stage he could barely step out of his kennel. Messi left me alone in this world but he left behind the good memories that we both shared, the memories, which will remain in my heart forever.

By Ramisa Rob



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