An English In Kentucky



















February 21st to 26th 2009

    The craft show is a bazaar and it always reminds me of Marx.  

    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 "why?"

   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.

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