Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |    Volume 7, Issue 29, Tuesday, July 17, 2012



The wanderer's wardrobe

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Exam season is drawing to a close, and with Ramadan creeping up, there's just enough time to make a quick getaway and have some fun before things get hectic again.

While you're calculating ticket prices and checking out destinations, let us help take one worry off your list by putting together your vacay wardrobe, so that you can pack light and still stay stylish throughout your trip.

The guy's getaway checklist

Banana Republic recently put together a getaway guide for their menswear lines, which we think is absolutely spot-on. You can borrow a page from their book and shop local brands to get the best overall deal.

Short sleeved shirt. Or, if you can find one that fits well and doesn't have that unfortunate floral embroidery that most of these things do, you could go for a short sleeved short fotua, but it's not as versatile.

Classic polo-Animal monograms on the breast (American Eagle, Ralph Lauren Polo, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Lacoste) are pretty big this season.

White linen shirt. This one's a wardrobe staple no matter where you go. Choose a nice basic one (no prints or fancy doodahs on this one, please!) that fits you like a dream.

Dark washed, slim-fit regular cut jeans. You can dress these up or down as the occasion demands.

Blazer-style jacket. Just in case you have to go somewhere fancy. Choose a nice, light, summery fabric like sateen. Or even a dark-washed denim, if you can find one. More than anything else in the list, make sure this one fits you perfectly.

Lightweight zippered hoodie. For when it gets chilly in the evening.

Canvas belt. Why canvas? Because it's washable, easier to maintain, doesn't crack, and is trendy and casual, so that you feel like you're on a holiday.

Oxford shoes. Day or night, they can dress up a casual outfit, but are still chilled out enough to be worn with jeans. We recommend brown instead of black.

Flip-flops. These can do double-duty as beach shoes if you hit the sandy shores anywhere, or be worn indoors, when you don't feel like going out.

Aviators. Do you really need a reason to carry a pair?

You can pretty much mix and match these items to create a whole variety of looks, depending on the occasion. Now all you need to pack are socks and underwear, grooming kit (don't forget the sunblock!), and your communication gear and travel documents, and you're out of here!

The lady list
Ah, the stuff of nightmares. Pack too little, and you have nothing to wear, a lament made by many fashionistas despite their bulging closets. Pack too much, and there's no room for all the awesome shopping you did. Here's a fairly general list that should get you started.

Leggings. Opaque black ones are the best, because they are so versatile and go with just about everything! You can use them to make a short dress acceptable, wear them with a long shirt and belt, or even with kameez in lieu of churidars. A girl can never have too many. Feel free to toss in a few coloured ones too. They don't take up much space.

Long tank-tops. Great for layering, these are another wardrobe staple that can be worn so many ways. You can layer one on top of a flirty camisole and pair with jeans, or a skirt. You can throw on a shirt or jacket on top for more coverage, and they can even do double duty as chemises. The possibilities are endless.

A couple of long maxi dresses. Choose nice summery prints. This can be worn as-is, layered with shirts or jackets, dressed up or down as the occasion permits. Another option for the DIY lover - pack a georgette sari that you can wrap around and wear as a maxi. You'll need a lot of pins and plenty of practice to pull this off.

Dark-wash skinny jeans. Choose something without embellishments and they'll go from day to night with almost no effort.

Open cardigan. Choose a nice, neutral colour and you can dress up your tanks and dresses. Another option is a denim jacket, but it's not as versatile.

A couple of long tunics or kurtis. Choose fabrics that breathe, but don't crease too easily.

A couple of long scarves. They can be used to cover up, wrap, or dress up your outfit, and can be made into makeshift belts or hijabs, if one is needed.

A thin belt. Helps cinch everything together. Make sure it has enough notches so you can wear it high on your waist or low on your hips as you wish.

A pair of pretty dangly earrings, a few strands of beads, and a killer cocktail ring, to mix and match and add some sparkle to your outfits. You won't need more bling than that, trust us!

Strappy, colourful sandals that go with at least three of your outfits.

One pair of heels, for fancier occasions. Pick a neutral colour that you can wear with anything.

Flip flops. For the same reason we asked the guys to pack a pair.

A roomy tote, to carry your essentials as you run around sight-seeing.

A make-up bag that doubles as an evening clutch.

Now you have plenty of options for a number of different outfits. And plenty of space in your luggage for all your shopping. You're welcome.


J is for jump

Munize Manzur

The academic year-end has a tendency to whack you on the head with a mixed bag of emotions. If you teach children, you know very well that they will grow up, leave the educational institute and move on. It's part of the job. But when you see them on stage on their graduation day, belting out their class song, an inevitable lump forms in the throat.

Lyrics float in the air. You catch a few strains.

“…spread my wings…learn how to fly…”

You stare in disbelief. Wait, when did that shy little boy become so tall and effervescent?! Who is that girl leading the chorus, her voice clear and soaring above others? She looks like the girl who always answered in hushed tones. Is that her?

“…that was my then…this is my now”

They strum their guitars; they beat their drums; they put together sound system wires that you can't make head or tail of. The children who once refused to draw straight margins, who wouldn't cross their t or dot their i, now don't even need to follow instruction manuals -- those very same complicated instruction manuals that you look at pleadingly, hoping they will somehow untangle their knot of words and make sense. Gadgets you'd rather leave well alone are mastered and conquered with nary a missed step by the child you once had to cajole into saying 'Good morning”.

The back bencher transforms reluctant mumbles into a magnificent choir; the taciturn one delivers a speech spot-on and makes the audience of 200 people laugh; the rabble rouser motivates friends into proactive community work.

Shy smiles have been braced, upgraded and downloaded for the world to catch! While you were pacing the school halls, reminding them about tucked shirts and missed deadlines, they grew in leaps and bounds, sprouted wings, kindled fires and manifested the courage to dare. Sneaky Time took them from right under your nose and transported them to the other side of childhood. They stand this evening, tall and beautiful on stage in their suits and their saris and you realise with a twinge of sadness: your stint as their teacher is over.

“…here comes the rest of our lives…”

Consolidating the lessons taught over these past years, you hope intransitive verbs are not the only thing they'll remember. Optimistically, you trust they will remember that one class discussion when they formed an opinion and defended it against you as the devil's advocate. And that project which made them realise last minute adrenaline rushes are a poor substitute for careful planning. And that brilliant flash of creative energy, which surged through them when they were given a topic they had never thought of. That moment when they jumped out of the abyss of 'I can't' onto a platform of 'I can'.

You, in turn, remember all the invaluable lessons learnt from them. Their studentship, which made you a better teacher for the next batch. The wisdom of offering a second chance. The challenge of channelling excessive energy. The necessity of taking a firm stance. The constant adjustment of a mental equaliser, trying to harmonise their lyrics and yours, with Bob Dylan's raspy voice keeping the tempo: The times they are-a changing.

“…I'll be there for you…”

The ceremony comes to an end. With a loud cheer they jump into the air as one. They can hardly wait to get out there, to the real world! You smile. From experience, you know this is their first jump of many more to come. You say a silent prayer that wherever it is they jump next, whichever phase, however high…you pray that they always land on their feet.


The Windy City

It was my fourth time in Chicago, the windy city. One might wonder what makes me go back to this particular metropolis time and again. The answer is: it's a magnificent place that boasts racial and cultural diversity, shopping places, restaurants and a breathtaking skyline along with its many other attractions.

Famous for its architectural grandeur, Chicago, in the State of Illinois, has skyscrapers that leave tourists awestruck. Once home to the world's tallest building, the 108-storey Sears Tower (now known as Willis Tower), draws millions of visitors every year. Many associate Sears Tower with notable Bangladeshi-American Fazlur Rahman Khan, who was the structural engineer behind this architectural wonder. Chicago's John Hancock Center, a 100-storey building, also boasts the structural engineering feat of F. R. Khan. So, if you are ever in this vibrant city, you may consider standing on Sears Tower's sky-deck to enjoy a panoramic view of Chicago.

The Millennium Park, a public park in Chicago, is another major tourist attraction. On our first two visits to Chicago, we enjoyed two free musical performances. Two main attractions of this park are the Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain. The Cloud Gate is a structure built in the shape of a bean. Thousands of people stand before it everyday to click snaps of their reflections on its shiny surface.

During summer, children frolic in the shallow reflecting water pool between the two glass brick towers that are part of the Millennium Park's Crown Fountain. The towers, which have LED screens, display video clips of the faces of Chicagoans -- I personally never saw a more fascinating and hi-tech fountain. Tourists and local residents sit by this cool fountain with ice cream and soda to beat the scorching heat of summer.

Chicago's Magnificent Mile is a shopping paradise -- an avenue that boasts department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and high-end fashion houses like Gucci, Chanel, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Burberry, St. John, Guess, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada; you name it, Magnificent Mile has it. Of course, shopping at most or all of these stores requires one to have a really fat wallet but nonetheless if one thinks retail therapy is a great idea to relieve stress, Magnificent Mile is the place to be.

A trip to Chicago remains incomplete without a visit to Devon, an avenue that is dominated by businesses run by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Portions of Devon are named after Mahatma Gandhi, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. From faluda, biriyani, luchi to shalwar suits, saris and panjabis, you name it and there will be stores on Devon to fulfil your wants and cravings.

Ghareeb Nawaz, a modest restaurant in Devon, attracts hundreds 24/7. Low-priced yet good food is the hallmark of this restaurant that does not accept anything but cash. I guessed it was one way to keep their costs low and thereby the prices. When I called them up to find out their opening hours, the answer was, "We are open 24 hours!"

When we went there at 10 o'clock at night for biriyani, paratha and kabab, people were waiting in line to grab unoccupied tables. It was hard to tell from the size of the hungry crowd that for many Americans, it was already late night.

On my last Chicago trip in May, I spent an entire day on Devon Avenue, relishing foods and drinks like luchi, halwa, shabji, milk tea and mango faluda. It was after four years that I had faluda; I reminisced about my Dhaka days when a faluda craving meant a visit to Euro Hut in Dhanmondi's Rapa Plaza.

There are so many things to see and enjoy in America's Windy City that just one write-up on it will never suffice. There are numerous restaurants, posh and modest alike, where one can enjoy meals from other parts of the world. There are museums, Lincoln Park Zoo and Navy Pier which are must-sees if you have children.

Chicago's water taxis are famous and a popular mode of transportation among tourists during summer. If you love to walk, Chicago is the city where you might want to be. A walk around Chicago will fill your senses with sights, smells and sounds that only a culturally diverse city can offer.

By Wara Karim


My New Beginning

The velvety night sky was adorned with a thousand little twinkling stars. I stood beneath the silver varnish of the glowing new moon and took it as a good omen. The time had finally come to bid a final farewell.

I opened the great oak doors and stepped inside the house of my childhood. The floorboards groaned under my weight and swirls of dust invaded my nostrils. My eyes scanned the drawing room and found the unlit stove and fireplace, the grandfather clock that had long ago stopped telling time, the open half-finished book and the closed curtains, shutting the house from the rest of the world. I strode over to the windows and drew back the curtains with unnecessary force to allow some light to break through the darkness.

My eyes caught an old black and white photograph in an ornately designed wooden frame. Broad strips of moonlight fell on the pictures beside the windowsill making it exude a kind of pure radiance. A laughing mother was holding a tiny baby with a tuft of black hair in her hands. The baby was sleeping peacefully in her mother's arms, her small head against her mother's warm chest, as if nothing could go wrong as long as she remained there.

Tears poured involuntarily out of my eyes and I impatiently brushed them away. It had been several months yet a single memory of her could make me dissolve into sobs. I blew the dust away and pocketed the precious picture, because photos were the only way I was able to see her beautiful face anymore.

I climbed up the staircase and my feet automatically took me to my room. So many evenings we had spent here playing board games, eating cookies and watching reruns of my favourite movie Mulan'. Every morning she used to drag me out of this very bed for school, while I groaned and complained and she patiently pushed me into the washroom. I used to return home from school and tell her all about my day, my petty problems and friends and the homework load as she stood and listened with a sympathetic expression on her lovely face. She was always so kind and understanding with me and made everything seem so easy that I never even bothered to ask her about her worries, her troubles, her loneliness. After all, being a single parent could not possibly have been an easy job, but she handled everything beautifully. She was perfect.

Willing myself out of my reverie, I turned and went down to our old backyard where I found the rope swing set still tied to my tree house. I used to sit on it every weekend with a smile as big as the sun on my face as my mother read a book beside me and gave me an occasional push. A familiar warmth swept over me and the thought of those carefree days actually coaxed a smile out of me. But the feeling didn't last long.

At last I entered my mother's bedroom. I had been dreading this moment and felt a horrible wave of nausea hit me as the memories of her lying in bed, helpless, pale and vulnerable came flooding back, extinguishing my strength and leaving me deflated. I held her papery white hand and watched as she lost the battle against cancer and breathed her last. Like the wounded martyr, she had been valiant in her effort to survive and fought till the very end.

I looked around the room and felt that a part of my heart will always remain here with her but I could no longer stay trapped in despair of her loss. I had to move on, get on with my life. I know she would have wanted it.

I gingerly stepped out of the house and walked to my car, stole one final glance of my dear childhood home and smiled. I was ready for a new beginning at last.

By Zarifa Shahrin


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