• Tuesday, September 02, 2014

City

The Masks We Wear

SONGS OF THE CITYSCAPE

“Songs of the Cityscape” is a fortnightly photo journal based on the colourfully paradoxical city of Dhaka. Here we live and breathe in a melting pot of contradictions, joy, despair and solitude. Embark upon this journey with us as we seek to bring to light the many faces of Dhaka through photos and vignettes.
Photo: KAZI TAHSIN AGAZ APURBO, Story: AHMAD IBRAHIM

The people of this city wear masks. Some that gleam under the yellowing-moon brightness of street lamps, others that melt like wax under the sun, creating a trail of embarrassed pretence with each footstep its owner takes. And, rarely, you might be fortunate enough to come across a discarded mask in some blind alley where dogs come seeking solitude in the night. Upon examination, these masks appear rusted with tear-tracks running down hollow eye-slits.
The people of this city have masks for every occasion. The corporate mask for feigned concern and the nocturnal mask for dinner parties where bottles seem more accepting than the people. Sometimes the masks stay on long after the need to put on a show has passed. They begin to meld in with the features of their occupants. The wax twists up to form raised eyebrows that look on in haughty disregard and curls about the ends of red lips to form an expression of permanent disdain. The masks soon start talking- they speak in long sentences and animated voices but tell very little. They crouch around bottomless cauldrons of conversation in the hopes that their voice resonates the loudest in penthouse apartments and the flashy interiors of designer cars. And, too often, the masks reproduce; copulate insatiately with our fear of facing the darkness alone and our greater fear of treading into the cleansing light.
The people of this city wear masks that are quite difficult to discern. The magenta plumes of their headdresses could very well be the light catching hair at an awkward angle and the candle-wax smile could be the resigned smile of a postman forced to work on a holiday. The people of this city make their own masks, meticulously so. But sometimes they also decide to put on their spectacles and gaze at this city. And inside the trembling frames the masks disappear and the lenses become tinted with the reality of life snaking through Dhaka's many tunnels like a jolt of electricity on blue waters. And for the infinitesimal moment that the shades stay on the many layers of paint and sweat of the city become clear- the hopes that rise and fall with the autumn leaves, the joy that resonates in the birds songs, the emptiness that billows with the wind during a storm. But all too soon the shades come off and that portrait of Dhaka is lost, discarded as the figment of an imagination that has been stuck for too long at the intersection trying to sell cotton candy to strangers.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2014

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