The 'little man' is everywhere. He is omnipresent. Once you get used to seeing him, you don't really need to see him anymore, He could be standing right beside you when you are hailing a rickshaw, he could be softly breathing down your neck when you stop to pick up that 50 taka. note which might have slipped out of someone's pocket. He could also be silently watching you from behind one of those innumerous rubbish piles that line up along Jubilee Road.
On the occasion when you do happen to see this 'little man', he might appear to you what I call a 'voodoo devotee'. With a long black dry fur coat on his thin frame and a monstrous growth of pitch-black beard and hair, the look is as horrendous as it is perfect. A grey thong barely covers him. The residents call him the 'little man', not because he is shorter than your acceptable average height', but because of the bizzare manner in which he walks. He might well be the fastest el loco on two legs. For instance, when he wants to cross the street, he stands unusually still for a moment or two, then slowly he lowers his upper body, positioning himself in such a way that his torso has an increased width. This, he achieves by jutting out his knees, so that the lower portion of his legs bend slightly at an angle. Then BOOM! He dashes over to the other side.
As for his hands, he keeps them crossed on his back, slightly below the neckline. This is very similar to the way Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) keeps his hands folded behind him in the sci-fi movie 'The Matrix'.
Sometimes you might see him in the dark hours of night and feel like greeting him, like asking him about how he feels (you know very well how he feels, but still...). That's really fine, I would say, but you might then change your mind when you see his peculiar sinister smile. Two rows of tar-coated teeth flash back at you, along with a blood-red tongue that sticks out between the teeth. And his eyes, like a corpse that has just been strangulated.
Besides his eccentricities, the 'little man' is also notorious for his wild antics that attract more people in a day than a nude picture of some Bollywood bombshell hanging far above Farmgate in Dhaka would. The 'little man' is what I call 'seriously funny'. The other day I saw him near this fruit vendor in Riaz Uddin Bazaar (in Chittagong City). The confrontation was quite a fiasco. The 'little man' hurled angry expletives, threatening to answer to the call of nature right there and then.
The vendor, timid as a rabbit, and shaking terribly didn't come any closer than he already was. From the wild look in the madman's eyes, the vendor realised that today was going to be one of his most unlucky days.
Then, as we all watched from a distance (you would be crazy to go nearer), the 'little man' stood strangely still for a minute or two. His eyes were closed and his head lolled backwards a little. He was taking in slow, deep breaths. The heat of the sun fell squarely on his face. All in all, he seemed to be sort of meditating.
That was when some of us saw a grayish, almost triangular wet patch form on his stained white lungi, between his legs. A puddle began to form on the dry, parched ground. Somewhere in the crowd, a woman shouted in disgust, a group of men uttered obscenities and a few children giggled uncontrollably.
The little man was in oblivion. He just kept his eyes closed and let the water flow out of him. The sunlight burned on the wrinkled leathery skin of his face. Then gradually the little man began to smile - a queer, wicked yet beautiful smile...
On 15th December 2005, a group of primary school boys discovered, on their way back home from school, a corpse lying in a roadside drain, outside a well-known residential area near Jubilee Road. The metropolitan police arrived on call to retrieve the body. Lots of people, mostly pedestrians and commuters, gathered that day to witness what might have been the most horrendous sight in their lives. I was there too.
The 'little man' was dead. Apparently he was murdered or, as most people there believed, committed suicide. I was confused, shocked and horrified, all at the same time. I didn't know what was true. Madness had finally taken its toll upon the 'little man'. The corpse was terrible. Its eyeballs were missing. The sockets filled with black dried blood. On the neck was an inch-long gash, made probably by a sharp cutting instrument, a knife, maybe.
The corpse was draped only in dark brown shorts and when police searched the pockets for identity papers they found nothing, except a dirty handkerchief, some tissue paper and a photo. The photo showed a lady, in her thirties, dressed in a red sari with two little girls, One sitting on her lap and the other standing on one side. From the looks of it, the photo had been taken in a studio. The deceased's unknown family, probably.
Later that day, an ambulance took away the corpse and along with it the haunting memories of a mentally-challenged man who once terrorised Jubilee Road.
Today, three months after the little man's death, Jubilee Road is nothing short of what it always used to be - piles of garbage still litter the road, pedestrians still walk like crazy, jostling each other while talking on their cell phones, men still pull up their lungis and crouch to urinate in the road-side drains. The hustle and bustle is still there and you still cannot hear the sound of your own voice above the traffic. But in this noise and extreme cacophony that is Jubilee Road, the 'little man' is lost - lost forever.
This is a true account of a madman who lived on Jubilee Road - a well-known market lane in downtown Chittagong.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006