Thursday, 13 October 2011

the self-tormentor

here is the full version of mine + stephen's contribution to the unlimited edition : an encounter between two characters who live at either end of whitechapel road, and are not quite as they first appear :

Tonight, there is an encounter between two unlikely characters. Or rather, two characters who do not like each other much. There was a family feud some time ago. Though it was not quite so dramatic, more a slow gathering of absence that quietly stacked up. So high, it formed a barrier between Taka and Poisha. An occasion missed here or there because of a lack of anticipation and then at one point, it just tipped. The history became arbitrary. Enough distance for some abstract resentment to be convincing.

Taka and Poisha are not geographically distant. They live on the same street in fact – at either end of Whitechapel Road. The exact point where each lives defines exactly who they are. Taka is right in the thick of it. He cocoons himself within the comfort of a tight knit community so that he might be everyone’s friend. The tip of Brick Lane, leading to a strip of professional welcomes. Whereas Poisha is out on a limb, consciously so, for just enough space to be allowed the opportunity to be introspective. Giving little away with tunnel vision towards the family. Whitechapel where it starts to change its mind.

Taka and Poisha use the street as a tool to remain a world apart. But a larger force binds them together, tugging at the invisible wires that pull the traffic through. While Taka gazes upwards to minarets among the silk weavers, Poisha curls up beneath the cross. A call for Taka to join like-minded others at the meeting place. One curious offspring of Poisha occasionally peers over to this exotic character, immersed in the centre of activity.

The disparate pair is tied by more than this road, for they are relatives. This would be difficult to spot of course, their personalities are laughably in opposition. Years spent in pursuit of splaying paths, burying the shared blood and naive experiences beyond view. Lives were once piled atop one and other, now they tilt at either end of a see-saw.

Taka and Poisha happen to be money exchange shops. Seemingly banal office types - desks, chairs, filing cabinets, wall calendars - yet filled with tales of adventures, and part of a topography that stretches to the other side of the world. Trade is embedded in the tarmac here, which unfolds and wraps itself around the tea leaves of north-eastern Bangladesh. The exchange of money runs along a streak of blue paint between skyscrapers, which gushes blue-brown through the streets of Dhaka. Travelling on two wheels from the City of Mosques to The City mosque, and back again.

A blur of moving blue lights interrupts the quiet pause just after the small hours, just before early workers. All awake at a tower composed of blue rectangles in the middle of the road, where either end is brought together. Taka is ill, a devastating tear in the routine of normality. The reason is not a lifetime of self-indulgence or reckless attitude to health. Instead, it is something that was there all along, squeezing ever-tightly.

Taka needs a piece of strength from another body to survive. It must be someone with an ingrained bond; Poisha knows it must be him. He does not feel the family connection anymore, he has carved himself a sense of belonging where he is happy; he still knows it must be him. Through bleary eyes, he sees with great clarity a character that lives on the same street. And for this reason alone, the interests of Taka are not foreign to Poisha’s own concern.

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