• Friday, October 31, 2014

SONGS OF THE CITYSCAPE

Memories of a Goldfish

Story: Ahmad Ibrahim
Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo

When Hassan was eight years old he used to climb through the corrugated iron bars of the workshop window at night. He was tiny enough to fit in through the small pockets and was the center of envy of many of his friends who also dreamed of seeing the insides of the workshop themselves. The cheap-plaster walls coated with blots of paint and the large canvasses and the smell of spirits was to them a land quite separate from their reality of muddied streets and adulterated ice-cream. The other children would often try to get details out of Hassan about the innards of the workshop and were incensed at his refusal to bringing some souvenirs back for them.

In truth, though, Hassan was quite frightened of the artist's workshop. The unnamed artist with his furrowed eyebrows and nicotine stained teeth who flitted in and out of the workshop every day without anybody noticing. His frequent forays, though, were down to three things. Firstly, his father's complete and utter abhorrence of this place and the many times he threw repulsed glances towards the workshop as he crossed it with Hassan on his way to the mosque. Secondly, it was a means of establishing his bravery to his group of friends and thirdly, the inertia of the moment by which we often continue doing things without logic or reason.

Though the workshop was left dark at night, light from nearby shops illuminated it enough to create a grey scale reality for Hassan to explore. The tables were coated with dust and paint and there was one giant fishbowl in the middle of the room with a goldfish swimming in it. The fish had eyes as big as Hassan's as he took in the multitude of bare-chested men painted on to the canvasses. The strangely lifelike portraits stirred a rather unusual feeling inside Hassan and he used to wonder if the goldfish, too, was affected by the paintings just as much as he was. The outside world of the workshop must've seemed strange for the goldfish from inside its bowl, just as strange as the artist and his workshop looked from outside the barred windows.

By the time Hassan was twelve years old, he could no longer fit in through the window-bars and he, just like his father, had started growing a strange dislike for the artist and his peculiar ways- his greying hair and the many male models he paraded in and out of the place. It was a strange place he yearned to understand but at the same time felt compelled to stay away from.

On the morning of his thirtieth birthday, Hassan walked past the now-closed workshop with his son, Rahim, on their way to the mosque. He glanced for a second at its walls and wondered what had happened to the fish. Then, without standing on ceremony, he scoffed and aimed a betel-stained spit towards it while his son looked on. They walked on with the rest of the crowd as Rahim's little eyes lit up, wondering what on earth incited such derision from his father.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, August 08, 2014

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