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By Zafreen Zara Shah

I decided it was best not to imagine the audience naked when various members of my family were in it. About two hundred pairs of eyes looked back at me. The noise in the auditorium was deafening but my heart was beating louder.

Instead I was concentrating on the pronouncer, who in fact was taking an annoyingly long time to search for a suitable word, when there was a whisper from the back that said “Don't you just haaaate it when they take that long?”

The whole stage erupted into laughter but I could only manage a shriek that the microphone intensified into something weirder and before I knew it, the entire auditorium had joined in. I was still waiting for a word when another voice from the back started singing the spelling bee song. An argument ensued as the poor kid was bullied and his defence? It just invoked another round of helpless laughter. However I agree with him, it was really catchy.

I went back to my plastic red chair that suddenly seemed all too inviting, only to receive a lecture on what I had done wrong. One student ventured helpful advice that had us rolling on the floor once again. We were oblivious to the stares we were attracting. A solemn promise was made to follow this boy's instructions diligently however, which was actually very simple. All we had to do when we did not know how to spell a word was “Make them work. Ask for the different meanings, both the English and the Bengali ones, ask him to use the word in a sentence and then once again in another sentence. Have him repeat the word a thousand times. Once you are done with all this, just do it again. Then just wing it.”

A demonstration of this revealed that the pronouncer spoke Bengali with a slightly weird accent and he stuttered. For this reason exactly the poor man was made to do this over and over again until he finally passed the microphone over to the person sitting next to him every time someone asked for the Bengali meaning.

While we laughed and made fun of the kids who were sharing useless medical facts like one who advised us to blow on our thumbs to make our heart rate go down, I decided that sitting on hard red chairs that made our bums go flat had never been quite so much fun.

The Spelling Bee round in the Sunbeams School ended with three of its finest spellers going on to the final round. The rest of us gave interviews, was kissed too many times and decided that the national spelling bee was great for onstage shenanigans and maybe it would have helped if there were karaoke bars in the future where people rapped about spellings. I could definitely look for a career there. Maybe because I think we will just stick to the cyber cafes for now.


English can be a weirdly confusing language at times. Why for example, does the f have to change to v in plurals of words? What did the f's ever do that whenever there's more than one, they are banned to make way for v?

Math equations are not the only ones which are confusing

There's a subtle difference between the pronunciation of the last part of the words 'inflation' and 'equation'. While the first is a 'shon' the latter has a 'zh' sound. So there's a simple rule, for all 'zh' sounds, the 'sion' is used. And for that small difference, vision is not spelled as vition.

But to mess with our heads, there always has to be an exception to the rule. That's why even though equation has the zh sound, it is spelled with tion.

Discovering Dinajpur

By Shahnoor Rabbani

You know there is something wrong with your luck when, wherever you decide to go, you end up running into a hartal – first in Pabna, then in Bogra, then again in Dinajpur and even on our way back to Dhaka. What an absolute mess!

In Dinajpur, me and a couple of my colleagues from champs21.com ended up staying for three days straight and as a result had more than ample time to see the surroundings and get some much needed time to relax.

My initial observation was how much more liberal the people at Dinajpur seemed to be - especially with the sight of a woman driving a motorbike with a man behind her at Ram Shagor, one of the must-see places there alongside Rajbari. Whereas in a place like Bogra you would be, double checking to see if the female species existed at all in the streets.

Moving on, it's very heart-warming to see all types of people from all over the country get the chance to take part in the Spelling Bee. Take for instance the caretaker, Habibullah, at our rest house, who decided to enter his daughter, who studies in class 7, into the competition. His motto, “All I want to see is my daughter spell alongside the others.” I think a lot of our modern day 'educated' and 'aristocratic' parents can take note from that cause it's certainly not about coming first in class or in any competition, but rather just participation.

Although, Habibullah's daughter, Shahrin, did not qualify for the Divisional Round, she did perform admirably getting eliminated in the penultimate round. Overall, though I was left surprised at how well some of the participants performed in the zonal activation at the Dinajpur Zilla School field (you guys should already know the difference between a zonal activation and a school activation so I won't go into that).

Especially the participants from Scholars International School, most certainly the best English medium school in Dinajpur from what I saw as five students participated from the school and four of them qualified. The one that did not was so angry with himself that he decided to write on the board, “I couldn't even spell admiral correctly!”

I was gladly accepting of the fact that these five spoke English fluently and to quote the great Booker T, “With the greatest of ease,” and preferred to get the English meaning of the words rather than the Bengali meaning of it and see me stumble all over the place.

The hartal though did play spoilsport to the overall atmosphere of proceedings as we did not have too many people showing up to watch the spellers compete or take part in the spelling related games in the stalls as much. Then there was the constant distraction of ongoing processions, where we would have to wait for them to pass by before moving on with proceedings. On a positive note, the The Bee, survived any further harassment.

The next few weeks are massive as many of the big schools in Dhaka are going to be visited for activations and the level of competition should get even better. Dinajpur was awesome and a place I'd recommend anyone to visit and I have the Spelling Bee to thank for it. I'll leave you with this – if you ever decide to visit Dinajpur, go to Pabna Sweets, which is located very close to the train station and it is very well known for its sweets. If you're a fan, be sure to try the 'Kheertua' which is by far the best thing as far as sweets go, that I have ever had. Best part is, it's only taka 20 a piece.

Word of the Week


What invokes in mind a Jules Verne character or Jackie Chan in a very loose adaptation of Around the World in Eighty Days, passe-partout is, very boringly, a way to frame something to a board using strips of cloth or paper over the sides. A word which one disgruntled speller got wrong, leading to his disqualification, he says, “Only word I didn't know there. If only I knew the origin, I would have known to add the t at the end. Well not really, but hey, I got a right to complain.”


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