The magic in everyday things


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Category: Reflections Date: 05 Dec 04


She was dancing. Still, her pretty face crumpled with concern, she asked me to, please, be more positive. She already knows about the poverty, illiteracy, the crime, the waste.


Now could I write of something she doesn’t know?


I couldn’t tell her there, could I, in the middle of the dance floor that journalists don’t only write bad news to sell papers (although people do love a good corpse on the front pages, something I think should be banned because it cheapens human life) but to be the voice of the voiceless.


Who’d know of the human beings living like rats in dumps or slitting one another’s throats if it weren’t for us, or the genocide in Darfur, where women sway madly, muttering, using their ten fingers twice over to count the family and friends they have buried. All we can do with film and words is to flash a light at dark holes where forgotten humanity resides, expose the horror and hope that somebody, either the perpetrators, or the influential intervene on their behalf.


Still, I know what she means. There is so much more.


Like these pictures taken for an upcoming photographic book on Trinidad by photographer Alex Smailes. In them I rediscovered the magic in everyday things. He’d captured so many. The child in the homemade go-cart on the road holding a pink parasol, entirely unaware of Disney and Nintendo. The elderly woman, back ramrod straight, picking her way through potholes and chickens on a bright morning in San Fernando with the dignity of a queen, the child having her body covered in sand shot with gold light, enchanted at her own transformation in Maracas into a beach mermaid by her patient brother; the teenager rolling a wheel down a ramshackle hill, a child’s trusting face as a mother plaits her hair—both looking at the hills, the exuberance of a teenager swinging on a vine near water in the rainforest, dawn breaking in millions of splinters of white light over the sea.


The girl with outstretched hennaed hands, the white billowing figure of a woman being baptised in water. The magic in everyday things. She was right. Its all here. We need to observe it.


We find it in unexpected places. There was this young comedian on television entertaining people with his horrible past—my God what guts it must take to shake out the skeletons in his closet in public—of his alcoholic estranged father, his violent abusive step father, and his mother who after one lashing too many shot the abusive man dead. Boom boom. Two shots in the head, murdered him right in front of her young son.


Who was now this comedian on TV telling millions of people how he is now visiting his mother in jail, his father in an institution, admitting to being violently abused by a woman, turning everything into a joke, making people laugh, reading your mind saying “I ought to be shooting heroin into myself but I tell people who complain about their lives, to stop moaning.” I took my own cross off my back and knocked it into a bridge to a better life. And after that you get talking to people, really open up and you find everyone’s skin and heart is pitted with a hundred nasty wounds.


And scores of laughing people—you’d never know to look at them that they’d been through illness, abuse, loss, betrayal, isolation who took their crosses and turned them into bridges. The everyday alchemy of ordinary people. Yes, there is that. I see the pretty woman now, whirling around, dizzy with the bridges she walks on.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur