• Wednesday, July 30, 2014

FABLE FACTORY

DHAKA GHOSTS

Hasan Shahriar
Photo: Opu Rahaman
Photo: Opu Rahaman

'I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand,
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day,
I've got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away.'
—“Disorder”, Joy Division

Sometimes in broad daylight, we'd see ghosts, all pale and suited, walking down the dirty roads of Dhaka. They'd wave at you, if you smile at them, even come up to chat for a minute if they can spare the time. They almost never can.
My brother, L., used to talk to them. They warmed up to him for reasons unfathomable. He'd ask them questions. Physiological questions (How does your digestive system work?), personal questions (Were you married?), philosophical ones (Does your existence not prove that there is life after death?). They rarely answered him, changing the conversations to other subjects during such occasions.
The lamest thing L. ever said to me: “I wonder why they never venture into movies.”
One day, we were out to get some breakfast and get the paper, and we spotted one, gallantly walking down the sidewalk.
The funniest thing L. ever said to me: “I wanted to date a ghost once.”
It was a woman, in her late forties maybe. Her hair still had a golden colour, even though she was more transparent than the others. L. went forward and introduced himself.
“Hello there,” he said.
“Yes?”
“Are you just passing through? Or, taking a leisurely stroll? We don't often see ghosts commuting here.”
The dumbest lie L. ever said: “We don't often see ghosts commuting here.”
“Just window shopping,” the ghost replied, and went about her way. She was pretty uninterested, unlike most of her kind, who'd at least offer to have coffee with L., even though they'll have trouble stomaching that coffee.
L. proposed to be a guide, claiming that he knew lots of good malls. She thanked us, but declined. That was the first time I saw one. After we left her, L. joked that that was weird. That maybe the woman wasn't a ghost but only a human with too much powder on.
The most confusing thing L. ever said to me: “Think of an imaginary place that gets no Ghost visits. We'll call it Dhaka, even though it wouldn't be really Dhaka. Our Dhaka.”
“That would be inconceivable,” I told him, “If not actual ghosts, the city will be haunted by people pretending to be ghosts.You just need to have the right amount of talcum powder in stock in the grocery shops of the city, and voila! Ghost invasion.”
“Right.” He said and made a face.
If not for L., I would never have been interested in them. I would have seen them as projections of our absence, of the emptiness that we encounter in our alienation.
The most memorable thing L. ever said to me: “One of these days, when I'll be no more, make sure you keep your ears open, kid. I'll come up unannounced as a forty year old hag and demand you take me window shopping.”
I have been waiting ever since.

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2014

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