A PhD-level scientist, Sankar Chatterjee possesses the passion for traveling worldwide to immerse himself in new culture and customs to discover the forgotten history of the society while attempting to find the common thread that connects the humanity as a whole for its continuity. His most recent (2016 -17) essays appeared in The Vignette Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Missing Slate, Scarlet Leaf Review, Funny in Five Hundred, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Friday Flash Fiction, Quail Bell Magazine, Travelmag - The Independent Spirit and forthcoming in 404 Words.
Photo: Avi Chatterjee
A Funny Man of Fez, Morocco
In a late November afternoon of last year, I was strolling through the streets of the modern urban section of Fez, Morocco, when I spotted Ahmed, a young citizen of the country. Colorfully dressed in costumes, he was sitting on a cement block underneath an equally colorfully painted seal of the local authority. His pose reminded me of French sculptor Rodin’s famous “Thinking Man” statue. What attracted me most was his unique multi-colored funny brimmed hat, totally in contrast with the gloom displayed on his face. I approached him to strike up a conversation. Ahmed was from a nearby village, but came to town every day dressed up in historic traditional costumes, so that the western tourists could snap a few pictures with him to post on their social media posts. In return, he expected a few gratuitous bills of valuable western currencies to consider them to be his daily wage. Thanks to recent global technological revolution, he had access to a cheap smartphone bringing world news to him that affect his livelihood.
And that day it suddenly hit him. America just elected a new President at the end of a most divisive political process in its history when hate, insult and mockery of fellow human beings made up the platform of the winning candidate. From the well-heeled British tourists, he heard about the certainty of that country’s pulling away from the union that other European countries have been working so hardly to keep it together. He was aware of the moral failure of the German executives of a top car maker of that country, with their intention to cheat the fellow human beings in exchange of more profit. I asked him about his own country’s future outlook. He referred to me to the construction of the spectacular modern Hasan II Mosque in Casablanca (that I visited just few days ago) for the legacy of the current ruler at a cost of more than half a billion euros, the money which could have easily been utilized for betterment of healthcare, education and job creations for ordinary people like him. So, he was deeply pondering “where the world was heading to?” instead of posing with the tourists that day.
I had no reasonable answer to his query to take away his gloom and make him funny again. In a world, where one percent of current population, amounting to 70 million has currently been living in tents as the refugees due to war, poverty and displacement, juxtaposed with the fact that only eight richest people on earth now own more wealth than the poorest 50% of population amounting to 3.6 billion of people, I myself pondered “May be utopia has just been a concept, but isn’t human equality also about human dignity?” We sat together for a while with no intention of posing for a picture for the virtual world.