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The Alternate

We at RS have been given the unfortunate responsibility of telling you that your addresses have changed. It's been a gradual process, involving increase in population and narrow roads, but it is now official. You are street people; your entire lives are spent on the streets. Those addresses have lost the house numbers. People now find you by your number plate.

Your new homes are small metallic compartments, which are, irrelevantly, capable of movement. There is a wheel and small pedals towards the right in the front, which are presumably to direct this movement, but use up valuable space instead. There are also wheels beneath the compartment. We repeat, irrelevant. Research tells us that these boxes were previously known as cars. They are, indeed, still known as cars, but in the homonymic sense. The meaning is entirely different.

Life goes on, however. Rooms are restricted to seats, and irritation runs high. Divorces become more common. Fights among siblings over property (in square centimetres) lead to murder. The beggars make no money, because life in a car kills compassion.

And then there are the neighbours. They are close. They are ridiculously close. Your mother has hung thick curtains from the windows but they are still too close. You can hear them eat and whisper and snore. You can hear them talk about you after they have craned their necks to put their noses into your homes and sniff out things to talk about.

Before they used to know everything. Now they know EVERYTHING. In your moments of angst, they're passing tissues through the window. You make a joke, they're rofl-ing all over the place. A single hair falls off your head, they'll pick it up and give it back to you, along with a bottle of Sunsilk hairfall therapy shampoo. Profanities rise to your lips. They hear those too.

The aunties don't have to knock anymore. They are looking through the window onto the dashboard where the jug is resting as your mother's mouth begins to shape “no”. So she must smile. “Of course you may borrow milk, Bhabi.” 'Borrow', she stresses on the 'borrow' to make up for the fact that she cannot pretend to be out or that it will all be drunk, and nor can she slam any doors in any faces, for there are no open doors to be slammed.

But those whom Lady Luck really loathes, they go beside the special apartment blocks named buses. From these buses, night and day, pour the contents of upturned stomachs, of colours varying from rich ochre to pale lemon. These poor souls put up their windows, but the stench creeps in. It is everywhere, the puke, congealing on the sides, sludging up the glass, foul little droplets seeping through the cracks. The weaker ones die. The rest grow feelers and wings and begin to scuttle. These new mutant cockroaches can survive anything.

However, we shall leave these creatures to their miserable lives and return to the Lady's more favoured ones. The rooftops must feature in their existences as they did before. And yet these centres of youth, these places of open sky, where the very carbon monoxide smells of freedom and the sunsets are symbols of revolution, they are now corrupted. They are in plain adult view. Where shall the lovers go, those forbidden Romeos with their Juliets? Where shall their sacred chhaad sessions be conducted? Shall they wear camouflage clothes and lie flat on their backs, just whispering sweet things? Will they have to meet in the car boots instead, curled into the stuffy darkness, fighting for oxygen?

And football? Yes, they still play football. Smash smash, go their boots. Twitch twitch, goes Uncle's moustache. One car roof to the other, the ball goes back and forth. Street football revamped. And yet, how often it goes wrong. Where the ball used to fall into the mean Uncle's garden before, now it dents the roof. On bad days it smashes through the glass at the back. Uncle doesn't like it. The balls are not returned.

It might please you to know that we at RS are doing some research into cheap forms of air transport. Unfortunately, these will have invisibility boosters, because we don't want any Raizing Starz capsules coming out and clogging our conquered skies. However, we wish you luck on the ground. May the red lights go green one day (and someone actually care).

By Grasshopper

Classified Ads

Bride Wanted

“A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.”
- Michel de Montaigne

Though this advertiser may think himself one of the most awesome beings to walk on the planet Earth, he doesn't want to brag. His experience in bragging, quite extensive, does suggest that among several people of the same race regardless of gender, one person trying to hog the spotlight by mentioning his enthralling qualities one after another is seldom appreciated. At first people are all nice and understanding and they nod to your rants, occasionally piping in with 'Yes,' 'What? Really?', 'I knew you had it in you'. But very soon their faces display exhaustion. The whole thing ends in them walking away. But this advertiser can't afford you to walk away, because, after all, he has paid a handsome amount for this advertisement to appear in this part of the newspaper.

For this shy, handsome, elegant, understanding, respectable, simple, eloquent, cultured, strong, delicate, silent, funny, intelligent and gentle life form and great omelette chef, a bride is wanted. The advertiser is firmly against the publicity of some mere statistics, for they are, after all, statistics and cannot show the true value of a human being. Human beings are all about their heart; and this organ is functioning very satisfactorily for this advertiser, apart from some minor hiccups. But it doesn't mean that he is old. He is experienced. And lovable. He is rich. He has a Toyota Corolla. It is red. He can drive as well. He believes in 'Safety First'.

In the past, when asked about his preferences for a life-partner he used to say that he considers the whole female population as 'beauty' itself, and choosing one makes as though he is declaring her to be the fairest of them all, which goes against his principles. But now, he feels the time is ripe to have his queen of beauty and love. She should be well-educated, independent, responsible, outgoing, yet home-bound. She should be able to make salads, and beef-bhuna. On rainy days, she will be expected to prepare khichuri. A good sense of humour, along with the ability to sing and dance would be his preference. She should be able to do everything and become a well-suited partner for the outstanding person with the aforementioned qualities.

For more information, contact Ghotok Nightingale bhai: 01-420420.

By Ero Senin

Meet Bill

Bill was a nice man, but nobody liked him. It might have been his muddy eyes, or the hair parted on the side, or even his fake Gucci belt. It was also probably something to do with the way he walked, and man's inherent fear of the average.

We feel that we must tell his story, because it shows the struggle of the human spirit through the trials and sufferings of conflagration. He was a loser. Everybody fired him.

It was his birthday. A week previously, fresh university graduate degree in his hand, he had got a job in an insurance company. Despite the silence and the lonely lunch table, he liked his work, underlining slightly incomplete red circles on forms. Every weekend, he went in to work overtime. His birthday was no different, they even asked for him specially. He arrived at his cubicle, hoping to receive a call any moment informing him of a promotion. Instead he found a birthday card, with the usual glittery teddy bear and cake.

“Happy Birthday” it said. “We wish you luck finding employment elsewhere.”

The new job was just beginning to fit. Bad salary, but good holiday benefits. They told him he was free to skip work for a week. They encouraged him to, in fact, leaving brochures for vacations on his desk. He went to Majorca in the end, because he thought his boss would be pleased. On Sunday they Fed-Exed him his personal belongings from his office with a little note informing him he would not be required to come in the next day. He had to pay the mailing bill.

Bill was just coming back into his most recent office one day after lunch. His key card didn't work. He tried several times, and then, confused, went to the guard-desk beside the door. After swiping the card and looking at the screen for a couple of seconds, the guard looked back up and told him his account had been terminated; his key card would no longer let him into the building. That was it. The company never called.

He bounced back quickly this time, but reality popped louder than ever. On Facebook. His notification tab showed red and he went to his wall. His boss:

“U r fired lol”

Bill decided that he could not take any more of this. One more laying-off and he might spontaneously combust. So he did something very sensible, and took a job where he definitely, definitely couldn't get fired. He volunteered at a “Save the Earthworms” organisation where they had a serious shortage of staff. They didn't fire him.

They asked him to leave.

We believe that Bill is alive in some council block somewhere, but he doesn't like to be contacted. At present, he is most likely interviewing the different ice cream flavours in his fridge. “Which one of you would like to work for me tonight?”

We implore you not to laugh at him. The poor man was invented only to demonstrate the worst ways to be fired, but he doesn't know that. He is attempting to blame the recession.

By Safieh Kabir



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