Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
      Volume 10 |Issue 44 | November 25, 2011 |


 Cover Story
 Current Affairs
 One Off
 Photo Feature
 Writing the Wrong
 Human Rights
 Star Diary
 Write to Mita

   SWM Home


The Art of Illusion

Aasha Mehreen Amin

If any of you are into magic you will obviously know about illusionist David Copperfield's amazing act of making the Statue of Liberty disappear in front of hundreds of jaw-dropping witnesses. The disappearing act has always been a favourite among spectators and magicians over centuries have used it to ensure the rapt attention of their audience. When the rabbit disappears from the hat, the woman vanishes from the box (disgruntled husbands please DO NOT try this at home), people are awed into thinking that truly the magician must have supernatural powers of some sort to accomplish such a feat.

But if you thought not everyone can make things disappear or create an illusion, think again.

Certain manpower agencies, for instance, have perfected the art of illusion. They make thousands of poor, young men believe that they can send them to Eldorado where the streets are paved in gold - in the form of well-paid jobs in foreign lands. All this in exchange for a little fee (that may be equivalent to the last piece of ancestral land). When the eager men enter their dream land they find that their jobs have disappeared!

These kinds of illusions are being created by mere mortals – they were not trained by any Houdini or Chris Angel. They never met David Blaine.

These individuals have apprenticed at the The School of Conman-ship. This school does not have a physical form (yet another magical quality) but it does exist in some dimension of the psyche. It is where millions have learnt their skills of making people believe in something that does not exist.

Graduates of this school can be seen selling creams that claim to remove all signs of aging in six weeks or dissolving the ugly fat along your waist. The age spots are still there, you don't look any younger and the cellulite is as stubborn as ever but they have convinced you that it is really working.

You are a diligent student in a private university that gives you the illusion that in five years, after spending your parents' entire savings, you will get the certificate to practice as a professional. But actually the diploma doesn't really exist - a fact you find out after the five years. Then again maybe it will appear all of a sudden after you and your fellow students tear the place down and set fire to a few chairs.

You are dreaming of an authentic, driving license as opposed to the 'dui nombor' version, to validate the thirty years of driving experience. You keep giving little 'donations' to a myriad people - the dalal who works at BRTC, his accomplices, sorry associates, the chairman of your union parishad, not to mention the peon who works for him; all of them have given 100 percent guarantees. The donations have reached unbelievable proportions. But for some reason the licence just does not materialise.

Men have found their beautiful wives have vanished the day after the wedding, along with all the gold and cash they could lay their hands on, not to mention the self esteem of their flabbergasted husbands. Women have seen their husbands disappear only to reappear a few years later, in the next town with a brand new set of wife and offspring.

Illusionists of course don't really make things disappear. They just make people think that they have. Imagine a bridge that is about to be constructed over the mighty Padma, bringing enormous benefits in terms of connectivity, economies of scale, a place to hang out in or jump off from. There are hundreds of workers - drivers, mechanics, engineers, labourers etc. living near the site waiting for the company that hired them give the green signal. They are under the illusion that they have highly paid jobs that they have procured by paying a little fee of thousands of takas to individuals who have convinced them that they have really been hired by the company. It has been weeks and the local people are under the impression that construction work has started, seeing so many workers bunking in the makeshift accommodations provided by the company. Actually the jobs don't really exist and for all you know, even the smooth talking 'facilitators' have disappeared into thin air. As for the bridge, maybe it exists already, but we just can't see it.




Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2011