Social Media shows us meticulously curated imagery and art: that perfect face, the choreographed tik tok video, the manipulated political message. Through my art, I hope to uncover the beauty in the hidden imperfections that my mind is not yet trained to see. The blurriness in my lines indicates my feeling about the nebulous nature of life. I continue to capture the complexity of my culture and background in the images I create.
With so many bookshelves in the background of Zoom calls, it’s clear we like the look, but is it really necessary to horde books?
Each letter has its place related to lines that have already been drawn. At times, a letter grandstands at the opening of a sentence, and at others a it announces the end. Sometimes it must connect with the letters on each side, smoothly, mixing in becoming one of the group. And then there are those that connect awkwardly and prefer their own space, distant from others.
It’s a creativity enhancer, an aphrodisiac for art, Selma tells me about the mystic music that inspires her most recent painting of calla lilies dancing like whirling dervish.
The anthem is in Farsi, not Urdu, the national language. We understand a few verses, not all of them, but we know to bow our heads at the end, showing respect to Khuda, Allah, God… Sayyai, Khudae zul jalal. Protection in the shadow of the Almighty.
Hand crafted projects rarely are perfect, I remind myself. I have learnt to embrace these imperfections and incompleteness, the wabi sabi (侘寂) of life. The simple Japanese concept of coming to terms with transience, the imperfections and the incompleteness that life holds.
For years my label for myself has been musafir, مسافر/यात्री which is the word for traveler in Hindi/Urdu. I grew up in India and since my father was a doctor in the Indian Army, I found myself in a new city and school every two to three years. It was a transitory existence, which I assumed – as any egocentric child – was how the world lived. Seven schools, a couple of universities and many, many homes in many cities later I found myself in a city and home in California, where I have now lived the longest. And the musafir is still here.
It took 25 years for my self-confidence to find a foothold, and 25 years more to ensure permanent stability.
‘Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.’ from Their Eyes Were Watching God
Once inside, I splash my face with water from a plastic bottle. My eyes are red and my lungs still hurt. I look around for my husband. He is helping an old lady get up off the road. The police continue with their lathi-charge. Their batons are being used indiscriminately. I move away quickly – out of their range.
Urdu Bazaar A labyrinth of narrow winding streets just outside the old walled city of Lahore. Horns blaring, cars squeeze past donkey and camel carts loaded with printed material. Books… Read more Charming Booksellers in the Chaotic Urdu Bazaar of Lahore →
Saadat Hasan Manto An Introduction to Urdu Short Stories Manto’s own words about his Urdu short stories were my first introduction to his writing: “-اگر آپ میرے افسانوں کو برداشت… Read more Manto’s Urdu Short Stories and his Obsession with Obscenity →
“We cover the pallets with the copied lines, twisting the reed pens we try to replicate the beauty of the script. Like birds on the horizon, the strange calligraphic forms of Persian characters hover above and below the line, just like Urdu, the language we speak, and Arabic, the language in which we pray. We are gratified by the beauty of the text, the meaning of the lines.”