21st to 26th 2009
The craft show is a bazaar and it always reminds me
When I was so much younger, Marx was a red flag in the
imagination. A communist evil, not so far removed from the
Nazi. Then I saw poverty. The kind of place where people die of
hunger, of dirt and of sickness. Children playing in the
sewer. And a smell that cannot leave the mind.
"When sightseeing in Karachi use common sense -
avoid the slums." Just one more awkward noise,
perhaps. But sometimes loud enough to produce the question
I would take the rickshaw to the furthest bazaar I could
find. Spend the afternoon amongst its chaos and its color, its
quarrels and its life.
Come home to tell my elders the world was still round. And in my
pocket I would have some precious but useless item.
Then one day they asked me what I did during their
afternoon nap. It wasn't hard to tell them. A strange
loneliness, and they of course forbade me from ever doing it again. Which was a lesson in
honesty. But he was always there at the corner, and off we would go,
three wheels ripping through the traffic, while we spoke English.
It was his way to show off his mastery of his city. A place that
included camels pulling wagons and goats eating newspaper. He
had come from India as a child following partition.
He chewed betel.
Told me never to start, because it was expensive. He'd borrowed the
money to buy his rickshaw from a gangster. But he told me not to
worry for him, because the gangster was a believer who followed sharia, so
the interest was manageable. Not paying it was the problem.
Before they put me on the aero-plane to send me to
the new school in England they asked me what I wanted. I told them I
wanted a piece of cloth I had seen in the Bara Bazaar. It was black
and yellow and red. I would soon
be gone so they agreed. But it was quite a deal of money, so the
oldest male came with me to make sure I wasn't stealing from him.
I enjoyed the fear the Bara Bazaar put in his older eyes. It
stayed warm in me all through a long English winter at Boarding School,
where I was given the nickname 'wog' by those polite young gentlemen.
Sometimes 'kafir' and also 'nigger' until when they grew nervous it
settled into 'tin can', and finally 'tosh'.
Craft Shows remind me of Marx, not because of some
bloody gorgeous revolution, or some answer to the question "why?" but
because often, craft shows are markets, where those who still own their labor can
still sell their work.