Meows, not Roars
Bangladeshis love watching sports. We love talking about sports. It's just playing a sport that seems to make us stutter. The year has seen some pretty dismal performances from our national teams. The SAFF Championships, the region's premier international football tournament, was held this month. This article is being written without knowledge of the winner because this writer is just too depressed to care. What the hell happened? We went into the tournament the highest ranked team in the subcontinent, 142nd, a full 20 places above India, and after the impressive displays against Pakistan and Lebanon in the FIFA World Cup pre-qualifiers we had every right to be the favourites to win the damn thing.
But then again, every time we put even the slightest bit of expectation on our teams, they crumble under the burden. We played well enough against Pakistan in the opener but were held to a nil-nil draw. We attacked, we pressed, we had a very high defensive line but Pakistan had the better of the chances in the game.
Coach Nikola Illevski, had been accused of rotating too much and that's what he did in our second match, dropping one of our best players, Mithun Chowdhury. Again, we had good opportunities and it seemed like it was destined to be another nil-nil result for us. That was until the 95th minute when Nepalese defender Thapa's free-kick found its way into our net. Seriously? 95th minute? Nepal? It's enough to make a man cry. This left us with 1 point, needing a win against Maldives, arguably the best team in the group. No prizes for guessing what happened next. We lost. 3-1 in a game, where they tore us apart with shameful ease. In the second half, when they took their foot off the pedal, we couldn't penetrate their defence and instead conceded another goal. But hey, look on the bright side; at least we scored our first (and only) goal of the tournament before bowing out. Sigh.
Now, let's move to cricket. A team of world beaters. One of the best spin attacks in the world. Again, what the hell happened? After a great year last year, this year was a serious disappointment. Yes, we beat England and got revenge on the Windies but that pales compared to our list of defeats. First there was 58 in the World Cup, then Shane Watson trying to break records with how far he can hit the ball in the series against Australia, followed by series losses to teams we should be beating, Zimbabwe and West Indies. But just to put the icing on the cake we brought in the Pakistanis.
Seriously, why on this month did we have to watch Pakistan beat us with an unholy wrath? You know, 40th Victory day being this month and all. Well, at least we've treated them to some serious hostility in the stadiums, right? No, we haven't. For some reason Bangladeshis went to the stadium and started cheering for the Pakistan team. Whether the cause of this was our hopeless batting performances or Shahid Afridi's James Bond villain swag that drives Bangali girls crazy is still unknown.
In the T20, we bowled brilliantly. They were out for 132 runs. 132 runs in 120 balls. Easy stuff, right? Wrong again. Not for our batsmen who somehow still managed to lose by a good 50 runs. The next game wasn't much better as our batting continued to collapse, again not reaching 100 runs, bowled out for 91. The second ODI had them batting first, posting up a challenging 262. Challenging until our batting order disintegrated once more, posting pathetic scores with the exception of a brave century by Nasir Hossain and decent support by Shakib.
The third ODI seemed like it was finally our time to win it, despite Tamim being bowled in the first ball of the 177 run chase. Nafees and Mahmudullah settled in nicely, until a (not-so) bizarre power outage interrupted the game. Some have pointed to this being why our batting did their customary collapsing act but I disagree. Power outages are a part of daily life, this should change nothing. But take nothing away from Pakistan, their bowling has been magnificent but our batsmen have done near nothing to change that fact.
We were whooped so bad in the first test, I see no reason to elaborate. We proved again that we are an immature team, incapable of even a hint of consistency. In the end, all we could hope for was retaining a small shred of dignity by the end of the second test. And that's when Shakib finally decided to step up. He hit a magnificent 144 and took six wickets, becoming the first player to do so since the great Imran Khan. We still lost but at least we can once more lay claim to the game's best all rounder.
The thing is, no matter how bad things get, we're still going to support the Tigers next March at Asia Cup. If the team performs like Shakib did in the last match, we can beat anybody. For sure.
Last week our topic was The Last Bell. Some very interesting stories turned up, but this one, though a little derivative, scared us a little, in case we're inspiring the same level of “dedication” in the rest of our BetaWriters. We hope not. Good interpretation of the topic though. For next week, our topic will be: The Wonderful Stink. Go crazy. And by that we mean go funny. Submissions need to be sent in to firstname.lastname@example.org before Sunday noon. Word limit: 500 words
THE LAST BELL
By Ahmad Ibrahim
The title is set; the typewriter in front of me. I stare calmly into the dark depths of the grooves made by the keys, contemplating my next move. Obviously, the next logical step would be to think of a character: name, age, sex. I start fidgeting, glancing across the room; strategically overlooking some parts of it. Sara is a good name, right? Yes, that might be possible. But what if the name sounds too overpowering for the character in mind? Too chique? Clearly, this is the wrong name.
I sigh and get up. The musty smell in the room was getting to me now. It emanated from every corner of the room and engulfed me, all the while ignoring the huge elephant standing in the middle of it all: my writer's block. For days I had toiled in this self-imposed prison of mine, praying for inspiration, hoping for divine intervention, something that could put words on my page. God is still silent and my demon prevails.
The rope was running out. Connections have been broken, chains shattered. The chaotic world turns and my time, too, is almost up. I have till tonight to write, write anything at all; to show them I still have something to offer. How poetic then, that my topic is 'Death'. The one Absolute. Hadn't they told me to invoke strong emotions about the matter? That my inspiration would stem directly from my actions?
Well, they were wrong. I look around the room again, this time taking in the whole view. My cup of smoking coffee on the table, my beleaguered typewriter, my wife's carcass lying in a bloody heap. I had hoped the taking Sara's life would invoke powerful frissons of emotion in me, something that I could translate into words. Yet the feeling was too complex. Death, it seems, cannot be emulated on a page using a string of insipid words. It is a symphony so exquisite that my words would not do it justice. Plethora of writers had tried and failed in their attempt to capture its essence. Death would outlive us all.
I needed to look more closely at this kaleidoscope of doom. Perhaps a peek behind the curtain? Yes, that would do the trick. I look over enviously at Sara. She's seen it all before me now. It was foolish of me to bestow such a tremendous honour on her when I was the more deserving.
I slowly walk over to her and sit down. The blade creates a beautiful tinged reflection of her face. Beautiful. I pick up the knife and find out what the black inside the vein looks like. The ecstasy of my pain is overwhelming. Waves upon waves of inspiration cascade down upon me. Finally I am about to get an answer. Through the red haze I see the clock strike twelve and the alarm go off. It is the last call. The beginning beckoned.
A fashionable true story
By Suraiya Zerin
"Mom, where do you think you kept my remover?"
"Over here, honey, but you are not changing your nail polish again, are you?
"Actually, I'm comparing it with the light one. I think the lighter is better."
"Where's the problem with this?"
"Well, my friends would think I have used black if they are standing far from me?"
"But what's the problem?"
"You don't see mom!" (frantic shaking of head) "I wanna show them how good I'm in matching my look!"
And here it goes. Running from one shop to another, endlessly comparing between two stilettos, driving the shopkeepers crazy by ordering them to show the top with the perfect colour, cat-walking in the narrow passages of shopping malls with the newly bought bag, showing others the bangles and demanding from them reluctant opinions. Matching-mania. Or whatever you want to call this. Of course, what happens after the shopping is also quite interesting.
"Hey, honey, why did they arrange the programme at 7am in the morning? The parlour won't be open."
"I think I need to set up my hair at night mom, the night before the programme."
"Don't talk nonsense! I guess I will have to call your 'choto khalamoni' to stay here over the night so that she can set hair in a nice 'khopa'."
The mom's sleep shortens as well as the daughters. She tries to make the dark circles under her daughter's eyes disappear.
As you may well be aware by now, the girl is going to attend a party. If you want more info, it's a formal school party, which needs the students to dress up like a 'desi' woman.
"Mom, you won't mind if I wear the low-neck blouse, will you?"
"No, but not the sleeve-less one."
"Oh mom, I was thinking about that one really!"
"Were you? But it's darker than your saree!"
"Don't worry, mom. It will match the sling backs."
"But the other one is perfect with your saree. I mean, if you are wearing the chiffon…"
She went on. But the girl's mind had fallen to something else.
"Mom, I need flowers. Where do you think I'll get blue gladiolus? No, no, I'm not buying it from Shahbag again. You remember the 'poka' coming out of the rose last year?"
The saree is blue. And so are the sling-backs and handbag. That's why the earrings, the 'kacher-churi', the clips, the flowers, the eye-shadow, the kohl, the teep will be blue. It's not 'matching-mania' anymore; you can call it 'blue-mania.'
Then the girl walks into the jewellery counter of the big departmental store for the fifteenth time. Looking for the blue locket she saw the first time she was here.
What you need to realise is the girl is feverish about matching. No, feverish about blue. No other colour will be allowed. Just blue. The right shade. The right tone.
And the night before the party, the girl's saree is torn off in the process of “trying it out”. The girl starts to cry and wail, making the cats jealous. Don't wince. All of us cry sometimes in front of our mummy and daddy. No shame in that.
What will happen to the girl? Oh, her mom will just run into the nearest mall to get a saree again, matching the sling-backs, bag, earrings, flowers… send her some sympathy, if you will. If you think this is a weird incident and can't happen in today's less-is-more fashion trend, you are wrong. The writer herself is a witness of this. And not just once.