The Woes of University Coaching
If you're one of those kids who thought life would be easier after HSCs or the O Levels, we feel for you. Figured after studying so hard for so long, you could take a well-deserved break, right? By now, though, you know just how wrong you were. Because after high school and before university, comes university entrance exams. And in Bangladesh, that means - you guessed it - more coaching.
The flyers and pamphlets that were being thrust in your and your guardians' faces when you came out from the Bashundhara exam hall were mostly for those coaching centres guaranteeing your entrance into IBA or BUET or NSU or IUB or BRAC. And you can bet your behind that your mother saved a couple. So now you're going to one of those coaching centres, prepping for the entrance exam of your (read: your parents') choice.
As is the way of the world, your holidays are cut short. And if that's not enough, you soon discover that university coaching is a lot like A Level coaching.
Exhibit A: 'Hierarchy' to 'higher ki'
Exhibit B: Extra classes
Exhibit C: Homework
And you thought school was bad.
Exhibit D: Traffic
Every teacher is under the impression that their subject is the only subject you're working at. Sucks, doesn't it? Some of you probably only go to one coaching centre, but the larger proportion of you go to two or more, since Mentor's only coaches for IBA and SAT, but you're also applying to BUET and Dhaka University. So you head to UCC and Sunrise. It's like the O Levels all over again, with your seven plus subjects and corresponding seven plus coaching centres. You spend your day in traffic.
This time, it's Ramadan. People's shopping sprees are clogging up roads and you have to get home in time for iftaar. Some of your teachers have also set classes after iftaar, so you can't even roll around with your full stomach at home in peace. It's a cruel world.
Unfortunately, for most of you, all of it actually helps, due to some weird cosmic sympathy and sense of justice. So you can't really complain.
By Professor Spork
Ramadan Musings over Vanilla Ice-cream
Vanilla ice cream at 3 in the morning, a week into Ramadan. An incongruous picture, yet I find myself pensively eating said ice cream indulgence in the month of abstinence. Such a little thing, really, yet one cannot help thinking. It sounds like something a child would do.
Child. Do you remember how much we'd want to fast when we were children? And they'd say, of course. Have breakfast and fast until lunch, and then don't eat anything until iftar. 'Half-roja', they called it. And we did keep those 'half-rojas' in good faith. We really, truly meant it and ate only during meals. I doubt that we would have caught our younger selves binging on ice cream in the middle of the night. Not that the grownups would have awoken us, but still.
And then, once you turned 11, the concept of 'half roja' didn't exist anymore. It was only because you were young, they said. Understandable. Grownups did things like that because you were young. They put lipstick on their forehead and told you it was blood, because you were young. They said you could fast without fasting, because you were young.
Thus was our initiation into the world of 'real' Ramadan. We learnt that 'Ramadan price hikes' happened because, for some reason, people suddenly needed more food when they were fasting. We'd await iftar parties of banquet proportions, and continue to snack intermittently until the next dawn. We'd join in the Eid Shopping rush, barely a week into Ramadan. And come Eid, we'd smile when friends would say how well we looked in that new sari or kameez, because we'd spent the past month trimming ourselves to fit into it. Or we'd exchange and laugh over anecdotes of the various iftar parties, already planning next year's ones.
You are taught an Arabic verse, early on during your fasting experiences. A Niyyah, they tell you, to express your intentions of fasting. And you recite it as you begin and end each day of 'abstinence.' Somewhere along the road, though, it occurs to you that you aren't exactly sure what the words mean. Intentions, yes but of what?
You realise too, that there was a time that you did know so well that a verse to express it wasn't necessary. You knew nothing of these formalities during your 'half roja' days but you meant it more sincerely than you possibly do now. You knew that it wasn't about having vanilla ice cream just because it was before sunrise, and there was no one there to say 'no'. It was about saying 'no' yourself.
So, for tonight, I'll say 'no' and leave that second helping for another day. I'll recite the Niyyah and pray before falling asleep as soon as possible. And maybe tomorrow I'll find myself expecting another elaborate iftar, preferably with friends, or pondering over Eid plans. Right now, though, I'll say 'no' and mean it. After all, even a child would know better.
By Risana Nahreen Malik
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