Head Trading Centre

Maskwaith Ahsan
Art & Literature, Story
Head Trading Centre

He is drafting an editorial when his wife enters the study waving the day’s newspaper. “You have been writing this crap for 20 years now but nothing’s changed in our society or system,” she ridicules.

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He stares at her blankly, so she points to an advertisement published in the daily: “Willing to sell your head. Get in touch with your nearest ‘Head Trading Centre’. The trade will bring fortune and a guaranteed second home abroad.” He reads the advert but can’t believe his eyes.

He resists but finally succumbs to his wife’s insistence and visits the nearest ‘Head Trading Centre’ as a walk-in candidate. Someone at the Centre recognizes him; “What a pleasant surprise. Of all the people, you are here.”

After an enthusiastic handshake, he’s escorted to the interview board and introduced as a prolific writer. A board member tells him that he’s far superior and they are not qualified to vet his candidacy so they will trade his head without question. “We need such heads for development. Where would you prefer to have a second home, in Canada or Malaysia”, they ask him.

Seeing him hesitate, another board member comments, “You seem unwilling. Do you not like development?”

“I know him through his writings. He is apolitical, neither pro nor against anything,” says another.

“In that case you must be an idealistic civil society member. So are you really willing to write for us,” taunts another.

“Write what?” asks the prolific writer.

“Well, it seems the interview roles have reversed. No problem. Let me answer that”, remarks the first board member. “Say, there is an incident of rape and the social media goes berserk with demands for justice, your job will be to demand extra-judicial death for the rapist, thus popularizing and expanding the scope of crossfire as a means to justice. You can rest assured that our conservative wing will raise the issue of the victim’s character and take it all the way to women dress code. But as a liberal you will have to rebuke our team B and take the discussion towards history or culture. Your role is to deflect public attention from the rape incident to anything else. As an influencer, will you be able to do that?”

“I can”, says the prolific writer, “but if you deflect core issues instead of solving them, problems will only pile up and eventually be harmful for development.”

“How much money do you have in your savings account? I have millions of dollars. So tell me who is more intelligent, you or me. Just listen to what I say. If there is a killing, all you have to do is to raise the killings of the past, thus tactfully convincing people that in comparison to the killings of history, the present one is nothing. This is called the Time Machine method, very effective for development.”

The writer shakes his head, “Lies will pile up like dead bodies if truth is constantly side-lined. Isn’t it better to establish the rule of law because only justice can ensure development?”

“Do you have a second home in Malaysia with a swimming pool in it? I know you don’t. But I have it and I have earned it. So again listen to me. If news of any corruption in an ongoing development project breaks out, your job will be to use the Time Machine method and talk about past corruption. And you will also have to challenge media houses airing such news on the grounds that people don’t want to hear about corruption from corrupt media houses.”

Silent for a moment, the writer says, “This means the culture of corruption will go on forever!”

“What is your problem with corruption? Don’t you think that the son of a beggar has the right to live like a landlord? I hate such illogical people, feel like killing them,” shouts a board member hysterically. His frenzied outburst forces his head to pop out and roll onto the table leaving his body on the chair. Red eyes from the head stare angrily at the writer.

Shocked at the scene unfolding before him, the writer looks nervously at the board. “Don’t be scared,” says a member. “We have all sacrificed our heads for the sake of development and replaced them with those provided by the party in power.”

Maskwaith Ahsan. Maskwaith Ahsan is an international journalist, educator and the author of over 14 books. His columns appear in several Bengali newspapers, magazines and websites across the globe. He also hosts his web TV show E-SouthAsia. With socio-political satire...

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