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Ramadan Tales:
A Walk Down Memory Lane

By Mastura Tasnim

Let's admit it - all of us, as kids, fell for at least one half-cooked story our parents made up to get us to do something or think of something their way. Whether it be the babies-plop-down-in-bed-rooms-when-mommies-pray-hard-enough fable or the tiger-is-coming-eat-fast routine, we've been fooled into believing a bunch of stories handed down from generation to generation of gullible kids. It might even be that there was actually a time when a kid had to eat fast in order to outrun a tiger. We highly doubt that worked out well for him.

Regardless, parents tried their best to shut us up, make us stop doing whatever we're doing and pay attention. And who can blame them? A person can say 'you're too young for this' only so many times while we poke them like it's Pokemom day or something.(Geddit? Poke-a-mom? No?). It's not like we were innocent little angels sent to Earth to fill it with love and wonder. Yep, that's just another myth.

During Ramadan, though, our parents really outdid themselves. It probably had to do with the dehydration and low blood-sugar levels - known to spring inspiration and kindle imagination in any average Joe. In any case, the excuses they came up with were both brilliant and efficient.

Take the half-roja tale, for example. A kid could in effect have sehri with the family, fast the morning, break his fast with a lunch and still show up for iftari. It was such an effective way of integrating us into the system; made us feel all fuzzy and warm about responsibilities, made them laugh the evil maniac laugh. And it made perfect sense! Half the height, half the fast.

Then some genius parent came up with an even better idea - tell them they can blow their roja in a bottle and keep it there while they eat. As if generations of kids wouldn't be face-palming about this when they hit puberty. Surprisingly though, this worked fairly well too and kids went on to eat anywhere, anytime as long as there was a bottle around.

Then there was the entire fluids roja, and only the most desperate of parents had to resort to that. That's the only excuse left when your kid is too pious to have a crumb of bread and too smart not to see through the half-roja and botol-roja stories. So you give him the lamest reason ever: kids are allowed to keep roja as long as they drink fluids. Why, he asks. Well, because there are special conditions for God's little angels. A little smile here, a little nudge there. And little smarty is convinced.

You have to appreciate the ingenuity of it all though. Our parents had to go to great lengths to keep us safe and healthy while not squashing our morale. Hats off to them for doing such a great job of it. And for making memories that still make us laugh.


The Magician King
Author: Lev Grossman

By Tareq Adnan

It's not often one comes across a writer who can blend realism into escapism. Lev Grossman is that writer. In the previous review it was mentioned that The Magicians is what would Harry Potter would have been if the characters had actually acted their age and had gone through puberty. This review deals with the ever after part of that story, much like the book.

Grossman leaves us in his first book with a shellshocked Quentin Coldwater who escapes into the magical land of Fillory, after having suffered and paid for all his mistakes. Sounds very traditional, right? Well, the second installment deals with the perils of escape itself. What comes after having conquered evil and horrible foes and having learned great and terrible magics, after becoming kings and queens in a magical land, after living the fairytale to be exact? Well, the answer according to Grossman is nothing.

We find Quentin, bored and frustrated with the life that he is leading. The edges of adventure and danger have faded from Fillory, leaving behind only a decadent luxury that leaves little to the imagination. In a desperate attempt to find a way to inject some thrill back into his life, he embarks on a long voyage to the very edge of the magical world to collect… taxes. This very mundane quest soon turns into the search for a golden key. Grossman's fantasy world, however, doesn't just adhere to the fantasy rules but adds to them. Instead of Quentin finding the key and getting his second happily ever after, he somehow manages to get kicked out of Fillory and gets sent back to Earth.

Once Quentin returns to Earth, we once again diverge from the norms of traditional fantasy writing. In most books, authors generally come up with one way of using magic. Usually it is a clever and unthought-of way, giving the readers a pleasant surprise. Grossman in the first book created a wholly academic style of magic reminiscent of Harry Potter but with people failing and dropping, much like a real school. In this book, Grossman shows us how magic is not just confined to magic schools. There is a vibrant community of street magicians in the world, with their own ranking system and their own way of doing things. And Quentin, educated and cultured, doesn't have any idea how to navigate it. What ensues is Quentin getting more adventure than he bargained for and a side story following Julia (his highschool crush) that is brilliant and haunting at the same time.

Like in the first book, Grossman explores a world with magic and how people function in it. Instead of wizards living in hidey holes constantly afraid of normal people, in this world we see magicians just trying to keep themselves entertained and occupied. And like most people, magicians are prone to their human failings as well, but nothing quite so romanticised. They have the same insecurities and the same problems that plague us all.

The themes explored here are a lot darker than the first book as well. Self-discovery is well and good, but if something as fundamentally life-changing and character altering as magic is involved, what happens to a person in the pursuit of it? These are questions that aren't generally addressed in other fantasy books. And Grossman seems to like the old adage of innocence lost to a disturbing degree, because instead of enlightenment, most of his characters only bring themselves more grief. And like in the first book, Grossman's conclusion is the same. You don't need fantastical monsters; you just need people being people to destroy the world. Magic just accelerates things.

The Magician King is the second part of this series. And from the way Grossman is going, this reviewer can't wait for the third book. Only not quite as breathlessly as he once used to wait for Harry Potter books.

Lost in My Own World
By Fahim Shahriar

Didn't know how it was to see when I had my eyes shunned away
the day I was to be.
Didn't know how it was to cry while silence was all I had. Hadn't felt the need to try when failure was a surety
and I was sure to have failed.
Didn't know how it was to dream when my wild nightmares were
the only thing to cherish. Didn't know how it was to live when death came roaring up my sleeves.
Had I thought how it felt to be true, when all through my life I thought
and thought only about you? I had forgotten how it felt to love being drowned in my world of
hatred and unjust.
This world is cruel and at times evil but tomorrow we hope it to be
something different.


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