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     Volume 7 Issue 4 | January 25, 2008 |

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The Art of Falsity

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

Sculpture by Ronny Ahmed.

Ever wonder why people expend so much energy trying to be something they are not? Constantly, all over the world, people are vying for the privilege of pretence. It becomes almost a competition about who can be the most fake, the most unreal and the least genuine of them all.

It's almost scary how many people I meet in a day who refuse to ever be themselves. In fact I often wonder whether these people know who they are at all. They spend so much time pretending, it almost seems as if they have lost sight of who they are.

What I want to know is how these people do not get tired of always acting. It can't be a nice feeling -- always putting on an act for others and in the process never letting anyone in. Think about how many of these people are in relationships based on (let's face it) lies and deceit. I mean, when you are dealing with a person whose whole life is surrounded around covering up who they are so that they cannot be vulnerable in front of others, are the relationships they have -- between friends, spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends -- based on something legitimate and genuine? How can you actually like someone as a friend or a significant other when you don't even know what they are?

This is a problem I face all the time in good old Dhaka city, where people are accustomed to brandishing sugary sweet smiles at you one moment while in the next minute turning around and backstabbing you to someone else. I never know who is for real and who is not. And yeah, granted, one can ask why I want so much to know the real story anyway? There is a certain relief at keeping life completely superficial and not digging too deeply into anything, therefore lessening the drama and tension in life. At the same time, if you settle for anything less than what's real and the truth, however ugly and unnecessary it may be at times, what's to say that eventually there will be nothing left but a sea of superficial relationships where everyone's claws are sharpening, just below the surface and ready to be bared in a minute's notice?

It is hard for me to understand whether it is better to just keep everyone at arm's length and therefore, never expose yourself to getting hurt, or whether we should save ourselves a lot of inner turmoil and just start getting real. All this pretending and tiptoeing cannot be good for the soul. At the same time, since I have already come to the conclusion that Dhaka city is full of soul-less people, perhaps the damage would not be that intense. After all, these people, after years and years of pretending, may have actually BECOME the people that they are pretending to be, which, in reality, is even more scary, considering the plastic smiles and the affected conversation that we are all subjected to every time we step out of the house.

Perhaps I am being a bit harsh and definitely extremely idealistic. We all have to pretend at some point or another in our lives. We all have to act out some role in whatever small way we can. The question, however, is whether we make a habit or even a lifestyle out of it; whether it becomes something that comes as second nature -- and all for what? Is it so that the people on the outside consider us void of any human emotions and therefore, we become superhuman to them? And are we really the kind of people that will kick people when they are down, or are weak and vulnerable? What kind of people are we? It is true though that there are many people in the world and especially in this city who, upon seeing any kind of weakness, will jump at the opportunity to belittle and pick on others. Perhaps they too are suffering from their own insecurities and hiding their own flaws by choosing to highlight others'.

When I was little and we children used to say whatever came to our heads, I remember all the adults around me talking about how cruel children can be. Granted children definitely need a few lessons in diplomacy, but do they really have it all wrong? They have the luxury of saying to a person's face that they hate them without having to worry about the repercussions. In addition, the person in question will have no confusion about where they stand in that child's eyes. And is a child's lack of diplomacy actually more hurtful than the backbiting of an adult? Would it be so hard to just be honest with each other or have we become a nation so obsessed with dui nombori that we no longer have a grip on reality and legitimacy? When did it become so important to pretend and lead a fake life? Is what everyone thinks about so important that we, in the process forget to be ourselves?

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