I was recently asked to write where I would spend my summer. For a few minutes I kept my anguish at Pakistan’s situation aside and wrote the following lines for the NEWS. Indulgent and nostalgic, it was fun nevertheless.
Hackneyed as it may sound but Murree remains my favourite destination for the summer.
Alas, the luxury of spending months at the alluring foothills of Himalayas is no longer available with the day-jobs, and other commitments. But there was a time, over a decade ago, when I lived in Murree for three glorious years. It was May when I moved there with a wild rose bush joyously waving with the Continue reading →
This is a small painting that I created in December 2007. I wanted to paint the names of Allah also used in Sufi Zikr (or Dhikr) – Ar-Raheem (the Merciful), Al-Kareem (the Generous). I did not follow any particular style. In the first place I am not a trained calligraphist and secondly I just wanted to be myself – in expressing the particular reverence for these chants.
There are many other names of God among the ninety nine that are also painted across the canvas in light hues. Yes they have an amateur style but then I wanted to make them a part of the composition. Now I could not have given up the idea just because I am not skilled enough with the Arabic script. Lame? No.
In the picture above, the painting is held by Sadia Dehlvi who is writing a book on Sufism these days. And, this little composition was meant to give her the strength and act as good luck charm too.
For an earlier Zikr inspired painting of mine click here.
The celebrated artiste Vidya Rao from Delhi has sent this tender and profound letter after reading my post on destruction of Buddhas in Swat (and the painting that was inspired by the vandalism). I am reproducing this letter with her permission as it adds to the debate and brings in a multi-religious and multicultural perspective that is close to my heart. Her words can be so moving:
But who can silence Silence? Who can erase Emptiness? The Buddha is, and yet is not, in the stone or metal representations of him. Nor is the truth of Islam contained within the structures of a mosque. It is not the Buddha or Islam or anything such that is destroyed. What is destroyed is the connection to the inner Buddha, the inner light. We are all the poorer for this, because form, the beauty of form, gives joy and love to our lives. The task is to both mourn, work in whatever way to prevent such destruction– but also to see this as yet another teaching on impermanence.
I have been working on this composition for quite a while. I was angered, rather revolted by what the Taliban were doing in the pristine Swat valley that has recently undergone full scale war. What has the peaceful and serene Buddha to do with the war on terror and US imperialism in Afghanistan? I have friends who try and explain that the regrouped and re-energised Taliban represent the angst against the US occupation of the Pashtun lands. Perhaps there is some truth in this. But my Gautam, what was his fault? He only talked of peace in this region and only asked us to traverse and preserve our humanity.
Who are these butchers of culture? What Islam they follow? They have no religion except barbarity and tribal notions of revenge and blood-letting. There is no excuse for the vandalism against our vital heritage – Pakistan will be a poorer place if these mad, roving fundamentalists would remove all the signs of our pre-Islamic heritage and ancient cultures.
So this painting evolved in those days of anguish. I remembered a broken Buddha head that was discovered from Swat decades ago and thanks to my useful library I got the picture. So I took the Taliban flag background, which is tri-coloured (that should be black in my not so humble opinion); and transposed the Buddha on top and to indicate my fears, I painted the star and the crescent on the green portion to represent the Muslim part of the Pakistani flag.
So this is the little story that led to the painting above. My partner likes it and a few friends who saw it, also appreciated it. I have to thank my art teacher for guiding me through the shades and shadows with little [master] strokes here and there..
I plan to do a series on it. But I will have to travel to Swat; and I am not sure when will situation normalise there. In the meantime, I plan to rely on my Gandhara books and twopence imagination.
This is a painting that I revisited and converted its earlier abstract form into a calligraphic experiment. Now the challenge was that in addition to the lack of training in oil painting, I was also a novice in calligraphy. Anyway, the image inside Rumi’s tomb that I posted on this blog earlier as well as the three attributes of the Almighty helped me in putting this together. The letters in the centre are Hu (affirmation of the Divine presence and a Sufi chant) and its mirror image. In Rumi’s words:
Eternity is the mirror of the temporal, the temporal the mirror of pre-eternity – in this mirror those
two are twisted together like his tresses..(translated by Arberry).
This was truly inspirational as I remembered the lines with a brush in my hand. Another little flash was the three words that I have remembered abundantly thanks to a guide. Alas, I am out of touch with him.
The three words, familiar and lyrical, on the right side of the painting represent the key attributes of Allah : Ar-Rahman(the Beneficient), Ar-Raheem (the Merciful), Al-Kareem (the Generous).
Muslim mystics have chanted these names since centuries in the quest to attain inner peace and closeness to Divine consciousness.
With this little feat, I am sort of feeling peaceful myself.
This weekend was remarkable: visions andÂ confusions found their way on a plain canvas and before long I was in a strange dialogue with the canvas – here is the result of this dialogue: Full entry here >>