Dhaka Thoughts: On Love – a conversation with myself

Warning: a long post!!

I have struggled with this idea for a bit and I suppose will continue to do. In seeking to make sense of Love, however, there seems to be some recurring thoughts. So, attempting – I suppose badly – to convey my current understanding on Love – as of today in May 2017:

It is so much easier to think about companionship, relationship or acquiring a husband or a wife, or a life partner as an end goal of Love than to think about the pursuit of Love for the sake of Love itself.  I was to develop my second Vlog about this, but instead, think that writing isn’t a terrible medium!

The societal conjuring of the continual pursuit for the one true Love is something I have learned to let go of.  The ‘English’ definition of Love, has been problematic because of its limitations – and it makes this post a little difficult to read maybe. It was this definition that I have grown up with, rather than other definitions that maybe much more welcoming. The Greeks had some interesting definitions – and although Bangla has its deeply rooted notions of Love, I am unable to unravel that just yet from its notions of ‘Shadona’, which is more about pursuing Love or Truth ( to be enlightened?) than that of the various ‘Sutras’, for example the Kama Sutra which explores the practical aspects of making Love with another or beyond ( perhaps much wiser souls will enlighten me on the journey! ) than the more restrictive ideas of ‘balobasha’.

So, going straight to it – for me, what I have experienced is often Love is seen as a weakness- a vulnerability, there is often a burden of being in Love – this is Shakespearian, its tragedy, it is often a deeply romantic ideas of longing and pursuits.  So, it becomes something that can be easily manipulated.  Sometimes, I think within the patriarchal structure – From experience I have seen men with their of perceptions of Love as a tool to possess and obsess. It links, for me, to a patriarchal definition of relationship, of ‘owning’ the person you may love, of systems where you would be giving ‘dowry’ to the woman, of being the provider.   How does that relate back to me? It perhaps doesnt, but in some conversations with friends who have more traditional values, its difficult to exchange ideas.

Yet, how do I NOT take advantage of someone enamoured by me?  It is so easy to do that, I realise to give in to someone else’s infatuation over me.  I push against jumping into something quickly, and for that I am also naive, and oft punished for not responding.  For people, it seems now to operate in a time constrained phenomena. More importantly, its the attraction and pursuit of Love rather than desire or lust that needs also to be found.  It is this, that I have found difficult, to Love, but not to get entangled in a false promise of the relationship without getting to know someone fully- it creates for me the middle ground of a discourse about Love and emotions, and the inability to acknowledge its Power over us and how it manipulates.  I am not, therefore saying Love is a bad thing, quite the opposite, however, I am acknowledging that my human trait, or perceptions of what Love is, is often misguided with a conjuring of how my society wants me to react to either pursuing or being pursued.

I have seen myself end up in jealous rages, I even wanted to possess forever, I end up obsessing endlessly, overanalysing maybe the details, how to do it better- and in those moments – it seems like it is lasting forever – and also, I realise some people desire that, or those negative emotions of possession and obsessions as a meaning of Love.  At the same time, it is quite amazing the number of people that have wanted to change me, or also changed me (because I gave in – some people may be in shock reading that! (of course to make me a ‘better’ all round human being), or want to possess me, or want to describe needing me as a Love, or be jealous of what I do and who I see.

What has been a good lesson is learning to let go to Love and of Love, to understand the differences of being in Love versus Loving someone.  To say it is ok to be vulnerable at that moment and in that time and to that soul and to myself.  This too shall pass – this quote is oft said to me, and I say to others.  This has been an unfathomable journey of course, and one that requires patience and time. Each Love experience has its journey – sometimes, yes – it can end up being lasting the lifetime of a couple. The stability and security one seeks in ‘Love’, always intrigues me.  For me, Love is a Force.  Can it be the ultimate ‘freedom’, I suppose so.. ?

Companionship, relationships, the life partner, can steady the ship – but Love is definitely the Force.  Does that or is that interlinked with purpose or pursuits of Truth or Happiness?

So, how does that look in my life? a big mess?, a lot of experiments?, and not giving up? Unsatisfied or satisfied encounters?  Is there a point to the  pursuit of Love?  not as a pursuit for a better option, but to acknowledge that yes – you can seek Love anywhere and find it, as long as you have it within you, in the first place!

How to explain that? Without using metaphors? It depends of course on your own perception. Here it shifts away from one kind of Love to another, even in description. For me, Love can be seen as the ultimate part of the pursuit of Truth, or expression of Truth through experiencing Love, in its entirety ( some sort of euphoric, uncontrollable emotion that can be released in actions or words ) or felt when encountering a mutual soul that shares values and ideas at an unconscious level.  It needs to be separated and acknowledged in these different aspects of Love that we seek.

The key here, perhaps for me – taking an approach of the Artist, who is keen to understand and explore his world, his self, is how is that Love making him become more of a human being – across all the aspects of myself. That does not particularly relate to not making the same mistake of falling in Love again and again, but rather, what is it that Love continues to teach me? and how can I invest even more in Love, not in that individual, but the Love itself, and in that, is the thing that is of value.  Does that mean I am not seeking a particular ‘type’ of person to Love? I do not think I am. I have Loved and Love a diverse range of people across ages.  Yet, the pursuit of Truth, of Love, or of happiness, is a very different pursuit to the one often embedded in other ideas -of finding ‘stability’ ‘security’ and companionship, to find a mate to create a family.

so this continual desire to be vulnerable through Love – perhaps seems slightly part of a sadomasochists ritual.  The ability to Love first and foremost, for me, has been to start with the self. In repeating many poets and philosophers (without reference or quotations ) is that you must fill your own soul full of love, to the point it can overspill- this is the Love that you can give freely, without expectation of a return.  So the people that I Love and will have the capacity to love, could potentially be limitless. I must acknowledge the methods that I need to fill my soul with Love.

So – what does that really mean? within the society that I am clearly a part of, within communities that I exist in? and within the cultural upbringing that I have had?

A quick addendum: Having been raised in a quasi Bangla islamic family structure where my father had for a time been in a bigamous relationship – two women and for a period split his time between the two families – was am sure definitely something that made little sense to us as children.  I never thought that I would end up thinking about the idea of polyamory in this manner.

Perhaps those are the underlying references for why I may believe its absolutely fine for us to have as many love or lovers as we desire, as so far as, it is honest.  Where I begin to differ from my cultural traditions, is the need for it to be formally structured into a very simple heteronormative structure of The relationship.  Does that make me into something quite radical? I don’t think so. Although I can accept that I probably cannot have multiple lovers whom I love with the same intensity.  I can also, quite honestly say, when Love does happen – it happens and its journey, or time, tends to be focused on the one soul that I have fallen for. It is from the point of love that I would like to start the conversation of any potential relationship – whether it is friendship, of a sexual nature, or not.

What does that mean for me and its meaning? I can live with many cliches – I live a relatively intense life sometimes – so it genuinely takes time to filter things.  So, in encounters, in romance and in Love too – I am naive.  I don’t realise the emotions that am going through – so the potential filter or check that I would allow for my self to acknowledge things, is oft misplaced.

Having explored and separated sexual love, away from other loves, its been fascinating to think and explore then, what sexual Love is, and what it means to have relationships that may or may not be based upon sexual Love.

And of course, in other aspects – where it becomes blurred is the pursuit of Love as a thing inherent in itself – as a process or path to self-realisation, or the desire to pursue Truth. In this, it can become quite wishy washy – and I have done my best to separate the two.  The pursuit of self-realisation, or ones True self, is, for me, a pursuit of Truth to realise your self as a human, as a being, as an individual and as a part of an eco-system of animals and nature, as a being within a political sphere, a cultural sphere and a social sphere – that is embedded in class, wealth, caste, race, religion, sexuality, etc etc.

My biggest admission, and perhaps a part of my naivety ( as highlighted by someone who may read this) – seems to be that I am unaware of the amazing things happening when in the moment – to not be ‘present’, despite being very aware of the activities going on, as Love develops.  I allow people to take advantage of this nature of my approach to Love. And its absolutely fine, there is plenty of it in the bucket!  Seeing that play out within myself a few times, I dare to question and challenge these particular ideas of Love.

The difficulty in acknowledging that others can love me ( am I loveable? ) is always a paradox – one is the vanity with which we wear our ego – OF COURSE he or she must love me! yet beyond that, how to unpack this idea that Love is quite possibly an emotion that is fleeting. And the other, is our insecurity – How can somebody love me?  For me it has been a mix bag – I am relatively aware of my self and love who I am. Yet, my insecurities play directly into other peoples hand when I realise that they want more. Am I ready for such commitments? and at what cost? And, so, in these encounters and pursuits, what does it mean and what is the role of Love? I can say I have broken more hearts than I realise. Does this boost my ego? It saddens me, instead. I don’t really know how to fully explain that being able to Love, without wanting such strict returns, is a model of ‘relationship’ that everyone fully acknowledges.  Yet, I do not desire everyone! So, in theory, it is fine!

For me, Love takes a while – I don’t know why. For some, it is instantaneous ( I wont pretend that I think they are full of poppycock! BUT it can and has happened. ) For all arguments sake of course, I can say right now, the individuals that I do love, know it.  The journey to here, seems to have been OK (and the few that do know my journey well, will know that it is littered with fantastically fun, as well as excruciatingly annoying moments)  I could imagine it have being much worse, somehow.

I will end here.  I believe Love and life has blessed me in a miraculous way, of course, and I cannot express often in words, the joy that I feel when in Love. So, it is in these moment where my art is often a better communicator.  I can go with the artists of the past, write poetry, or paint a portrait, or whatever. Sometimes, though, the actual words do need to be expressed – am getting better at doing that. The journey of pursuing Love continues. 😀

AND thank you for reading this far ( if you did! well done, and apologies for the ramble!, hope it was a little interesting! )


Dhaka thoughts: Video blog 1: On Shame

This is my first personal video blog, and hoping this method might be more useful in the future as I think about how to improve it.  My eyes dart around a bit, as I tried to work to a loose script ( I kept going off topic, when I tried to freestyle, ending with long meanders about nothing! ) VERY different media to writing, for sure, or drawing.


Exhibition: At Kamalapur, a reflection

On my to do list of readings has been to read again, the brilliant John Berger who recently passed away. (YouTube Link to John Berger: Art of Looking / PDF version of the book online) – I realise how difficult it is to write a review of my own work – so, bare with me! 🙂

I wanted to reflect and review ‘At Kamalapur’ the current exhibition of portrait drawings at the Gram Bangla, 68 Brick Lane, London.

As the artist whose work is being exhibited,  I have struggled to be a little removed from it – to have until now to think about what it means to me to get to part of the process. I recently managed to visit the Picasso exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London- it left me intrigued, perhaps in a way I was not expecting – the image that continues to play on my mind is the one ‘Claude Drawing’ it struck a cord in me – and reminded me of a drawing I did of the children drawing at the station, ‘The site of Drawing’ : a slight deviation, but reflects for me quickly – influences and inspirations that continually reshape the work we do and the meanings we take from them. Time provides, always some scope for critical reflection.


A lot of my occupation within this strand of life, of self exploration as artist in a situated environment has been to force myself to ‘look’, and ‘see’ and ‘hear’ with quite possibly a rudimentary tool set – pencils, paper, charcoals, Chinese ink and sometimes oil pastels.  Why these set of tools? because they are simple, they are honest materials to work with in depicting lines, movements, marks, scratches, shades of light and dark onto paper, they allow for abstraction and focus and the potential to re-work until what I draw, connects with what I think am seeing. Its tough.

‘At Kamalapur’ exhibition finally provides an opportunity to hear about how other people – the public- look and see these drawings, removed away from the site of Dhaka’s main station.  What is it that the artist wants to present, and in this case – represent? ‘I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them’. (Lucian Freud)

The curated space, with eight A2 drawings, (2 figures, 6 portraits) framed strongly in black; and the selection of similar drawings provides the potential to have a conversation. I left it to the viewer to imagine what the life of each drawing maybe about. It has led to interesting dialogue.

I did not have any interest in recreating or curating the experiences of being in the station, as such it was not curated to be an immersive experience. As a snapshot of a project spanning now two years, in various shapes and forms, it really simply acts as an introduction for me, to really think about the purpose of art and drawing and also the intent to exhibit. The obsessions of technique, of aesthetic qualities, of proportion is slowly being left to one side- yet, the significance of them not being lost. Perhaps we are not being critical enough – of its intentions, the ethics and mortality, of such ideas.  The number of times I have left the space emotionally vulnerable has beguiled me, yet, I go back. Wanting to continually push the ways that I see.

Within this particular drawing process, the abstraction to a white paper space, to limited interference – reduced to the face, to the eyes or sometimes the figure. I continue to question how I look at people and what it means to be. The sitters are people, as much as you and I are, and its that human quality, through the technique of drawing, that I am keen to understand. What does it mean to be a human being?  especially on a piece of paper? the question to challenge the potential of the art making process. The drawings are often transitory, of a moment in time of a person’s life. Sometimes, larger than life, often, they still feel romanticised. A failure on my part, perhaps?

However, when work is presented in a restaurant space, in a street filled with so much activity, and madness of culture and consumption, does it work? Or is it that, the romance of the idea – of being lost in such spaces – of having other things to do, despite it being carefully placed? It being the backdrop to a busy canteen of people of eating and chatting? So, how much abstraction and curation is required here? Does the art command itself to be seen? and how will people know? Do I care so much about that? What makes me feel uncomfortable? What prods me to continue on asking and potentially making? Can it be more than emotive? instinctual? The potential to see a truth, an outpouring of love? it is hard to say. Even so, I tried to summarise, the context of presenting these drawings in a space on Brick Lane, in a simple way. In order to allow the viewer to see exactly what it is that I am focused on.  Perhaps, I also need to ask others write a review, and a continual conversation to take place – as build up to a potentially larger exhibition and publication.

The exhibition is free to view and runs until 22- January 2017 from 10am – 11pm, daily.

@Gram Bangla, 68 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RL

Frames were made by John Baker, who runs Workshop 53
Photo credits: Enamul Hoque
Facebook link to more images
Walls were re-painted by amazing help from Salam Jones, Heiner Salomon, Kazi Arefin, Maher Anjum, myself & Shahid bhai.

ABOUT: AT KAMALAPUR

‘At Kamalapur’ is an on-going art project by Ruhul Abdin, and forms as part of a series of portrait drawings of people at the Kamalapur Railway Station, in Bangladesh’s capital, the megacity of Dhaka.  

Drawn from life, in conte charcoal and pencil on A2 drawing paper and studies across sketchbooks, the portraits express what the artist sees, and feels at the time. There is a rigour of revisiting the site, and re-drawing the same sitters, if chance permits.  

There are very limited conversations, or even time for such an activity with his sitters, and therefore, a lot of the portraits will only be a memory of seeing.  Those portraits where conversations have taken place, it is in confidence and in respect to the sitter, to not then expose those stories. 

Concentration is the main challenge, and so is the ability to let go of the drawing, when a sitter decides that they do not want to be sitting for the portrait drawing anymore.  

It is up to the viewer to imagine what the life of each sitter may be.

Dhaka, it is one of the most dense megacities in the world, with a population of over 17 million people. Kamalapur Station is the largest in the country and the most important terminal for transportation between Dhaka and the rest of Bangladesh.

OITIJ-JO 

Oitij-jo Collective, a platform for UK’s creative talents of Bengali and the British-Bengali Community ranging from Literature, Art, Design, Fashion and Music. This exhibition is part of Oitij-jo’s up and coming ‘AKHON/Where is Bengal Now?’ festival.

www.oitijjo.org | info@oitijjo.org

GRAM BANGLA 68 Brick Lane, E1 6RL
Authentic Bangladeshi fish restaurant speciality fresh water fish from Bangladesh. It is the first restaurant to specifically cater for the need of the Bangladeshi community particularly amongst the young professionals.


Dhaka Drawings: Self-Portrait experiment & Thoughts on Obsession, attachment and detachment

And just like that, we let go. I dont let it go to me sometimes, and other times I do. In those moments, it seems unbearable. The very idea of being.

In conversations with my self, and others around me over the past few days I realise that my own obsessions, attachments and detachments can be quite eclectic. For example, the desire to draw compels me at times- an obsessive force that I cannot seem to reconcile with, so I draw. I give in.  An attachment I have developed is drawing in a particular place with similar groups of people, yet am completely detached from their very existence.  I witnessed today some violence – and I imagine, this is a daily occurrence – its an everyday experience for some of these groups of children and people that I engage with on my weekly drawing.

So, explaining that briefly, I realise my other obsessions and attachments and question the healthiness of such things. Wouldnt it be fantastic to just let go to Love fully, and not worry about getting attached or obsessed with it, that when it arrives, its embraced, and when it goes, its gone. Maybe to return, and maybe to not.  I believe principally in the idea of letting go to it, though I wonder if my Ego can handle such a philosophy. From experience, it seems its still a long way to go. Rebuilding after love has gone from the system, or the potential of such a thing can take its toll on the soul.

Yet, I have little desire for material accumulation – I create and make art – and write, once done however, it seems I am looking for the next idea to make or create.  This seems at face value, to me, a process that I want to apply across the realm of emotional wants and needs. I wonder if that makes sense with my desire to create spaces where people can experience certain emotions. My obsession over the years with ‘sacred’ spaces – finding a place to meditate, to think, to contemplate, to be, etc. The sacredness of these spaces leave a particular attachment to me. Yet, I am detached from most ideas of spaces that engage my soul in a particularly challenging way – these spaces of contestation – for me has been mostly spaces where family tend to congregate en-mass and more and more, spaces where noise, arguments and domination take place. So despite having an obsession for all these sacred spaces – the one most important, I seem to be detached from. Whether this particular detachment is healthy, I am unsure.

Perhaps, its to do with my own desire for independence, or the particular emotions that are evoked are not necessarily ones that I want to repeat again..
I enjoy obsessing over the idea of the self-portrait, continually wanting to see myself through my art, possibly because the voyeur in me, or the narcissist in me is curious to see what I make of myself in the privacy of my space. I also consider this blog-space quite safe too, it allows for a non-judgement method of posting and processing ideas and drawings.  Quite possibly, the presentation structure also allows me to quickly edit the thoughts. I have little desire to be ‘daring’ and ‘radical’ in the posting of the blogs. Yet, I can’t help but post drawings that I do. An obsession that I deem relatively healthy.

Another obsession that I have, seem to be the persistence to continue on, despite the odds and sometimes not knowing when to stop.  So, there is a desire to do something beyond its usually accepted level and to push myself. I realise it maybe to seek validation in some ways, both from myself and my peers, in doing something meaningful and purpose-led. However, I will stop for now and revisit this post tomorrow. Maybe I will revise it and the drawing. img_6811

 

 


Dhaka: Reflections on relationships. In the instant.

It seems a bit far-fetched to think to about reflecting on relationships, especially as I have only lived 30 years of it so far. Yet, it is plausible that the experiences we have can and does shape the way we think, behave and react to the world around us.  Today, I sat at the station, and was drawing again, some of the usual people that I draw, and then a young mother with her new born child was about, I was somehow able to ask her to sit for a while with her child for me. here is a link to the drawing:

 Mother And Child 1

More importantly though, the past few weeks – my relationships have been tested. The idea of friendship, family, love, siblings, mentors, colleagues, partners etc. It seems I was somehow lumped into a space filled with the potential of all the relations becoming quite volatile  and all happening at the same time. It made no sense – had I attracted somehow this negative charge of emotions and an eruption of despair appeared? Maybe. I look deep within me, as I reflect now on today’s drawings – the most interesting of which, was the mother and child. I stop to appreciate again the very ability to have debates, discussions and arguments with those that I care about, even have giant differences with. The ability to love, and appreciate spending quality time with people that I care about. We never know really what will happen tomorrow, so cherishing today is important, as much as forward planning is.  I have never been fantastic at forward planning – I do a lot of it though it seems.  However, when the world turns upside down, and all these dynamic relations seem to have become charged, I realise that there is little I can do, other than be true to myself.

Love comes in quite a few guises, recognising them all takes time – and will continue to take time. Yet, conversations regarding emotions and feelings have been the theme of my last few weeks with friends and family. Quite possibly, a re-routing of the soul, or perhaps a liberating set of actions have been put in place. It is too early to tell, unwittingly, I am again exactly where I felt I wanted to be last, in the comfort of Dhaka. In familiar, chaotic sounds and spaces.

In the challenges that have been faced, I recognise one thing, that my willingness to hit the self-destruct button – OR, to put it more bluntly, put up a wall against any further emotional conversations (or potential damage) has not been activated – it came close a few times.  A passive aggressive trait possibly I picked up being in a relatively conservatively dysfunctional south asian family.  I recognise better now when there is attempts to throw in the mix emotional blackmail, guilt tripping the self, and more importantly, to jeopardise the souls potential growth by giving in to these quite horrible activities.  In the moments of sitting and drawing today, I realised that, some friends are right, that this too will pass. A new mantra that I have been able to pick up from a good friend – be grateful, be kind, be mindful – seems to do the trick a bit..

I sat, in awe of this young mother and her child, quite in my own head unable to process what it genuinely means to bring up a baby in the world in this environment. How scary it really must be. And what the fuck can a young mother, barely a child herself can do about it. I cannot ever understand really the nature of the mother in this instance – I can only reflect on my own chaotic relationship with my own mother, her struggles to bring us up as good human beings, and her sacrifices that she perhaps didnt have a choice to make at the time. I was accused of not caring enough many a times in my last trip to London, from friends and family.  I perhaps don’t know how to express that care in a tangible manner – for that, I know a blog post is never enough. It seems words are meaningless and empty at times. The labels we carry – the son that left the house, the friend that doesnt care, the sibling that is neglectful, leave marks, one stroke at a time.  I can’t possibly express in words ( as ironic as it sounds ) what it is to feel all those emotions of rejection all at the same time.

What would I want to feel? I imagine as all human beings – to be wanted, to be loved and to be cared for and to be able to do the same for others. I get it in abundance from my friends and family, so I dare not even think about complaining OR comparing.

Yet, here I am contemplating and reflecting on ideas of extreme unfairness, that a young mother is forced to bring up a child in a public environment, with little to no social protection, health care or support – with potentially little hope of a future for her child… I generalise. It brings forward dilemmas for my soul, in the directions to push.. The role for the artist seems quite twisted. I am not here to write a fundraising application to develop a social protection programme for those at extreme risk – yet, I can question, why isn’t that happening? Why aren’t those at extreme risks being cared for by the giant number of organisations that seem to expend huge amounts of aid money to do good – and what is i that I would want them to do? and who am I to demand such a thing in the first place? another do-gooder from abroad attempting to impose an idea about something or other, ultimately to fail and disappear back to where I have come from – licking my wounds.

My education, my social status, my gender, my passport – all play a giant role in my perceptions and experiences of the world and especially, in the small cosmos of the communities that I have interacted with in Bangladesh.  This check balance is difficult to maintain and I struggle with it in my own way.  My ability to articulate an idea, my inability to sometimes recognise my blindspots, or empathise, and more importantly to connect at the right time, means there is potential for uncomfortable encounters too. What can I do about that? I can do my best to be true as possible to myself and continue being reflexive in my work and personal life. Nothing more, nothing less. As I said to a young cousin a few months back when he questioned about my purpose in life – my answer was that it is to do good honest work – and we have been, on the whole, doing some wonderful things in our own way.

Its difficult to summarise, yet I will try.  Relationships on the whole are extremely dynamic and requires energy from all parties to work. When walls are set up, often they are difficult to take down – especially from my own experiences with people in my own relatively short past.  I have put up plenty of walls in the past, although there maybe little appetite to take those ones down – I don’t want to continue putting up walls in my soul ( How ironic, considering I co-run an architectural practice).  I am learning to accept that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, and being honest to yourself is important, and a lot of the times, things happen that are beyond your control, and thats OK too.  I do what I can. This too will pass.

 

 

 


London: Reflections on Love

As raw as some of the ideas that oscillate around me whilst observing the reality of life in Dhaka, this reflection looks at the potentiality of the idea of Love as a force. It comes in and amidst the trauma and turmoil that seems to be a recurrence in some of the experiences I have had, but also, a reality that I am learning to embrace. Dare I post it was another thought I had. Fear runs amok in many guises.  Here goes anyways. Hope it resonates with others.  I will come back and reflect on this in a few days time.

It is a personal, sacred, painful and enlivening idea, it becomes something that allows the soul to soar new heights – and it also allows for total destruction in its path. It harks things back to the real, and it can render the intellectual capacity void.  It forces an idea, of deep rooted emotions being stirred and forced to reconcile with the reality of life. Making love work has always been a tough call for me.  Not sure if I have succeeded yet..

What is there to process in hindsight? Forgetting, remembering, experiencing, living on. To mourn, perhaps? to say goodbye? to challenge or question the very idea of why? Its purpose? its irrational nature to consume every aspect of thought. I don’t know much about it. I can’t draw it. I can just about string a few sentences that vaguely explains it. Can I dedicate to it? Can I stop and write poetry about it? I suppose not, nothing intelligible anyways. Drawing perhaps is the closest thing to it at the same time, despite knowing its limitations.  How would I go on to draw Love?

This force, continues to belittle, embarrass, scare and make me afraid at times. Yet, I chase it, seek it, bathe in its glory once found. Yet again, the contradiction is that, once found, what next? The obsession, the lust, the desires, how do they calm?  When it is a project, a drawing one, it becomes easy to see the results, to enjoy the process as it emerges and clarifies what it is.. And so even if it is momentary bliss, perhaps disconnected to everyday life, it has its place – elsewhere.  Perhaps the way I have created my everyday, is that this force can only occur in spectacular ways.  In drawing, in encounters, in conversations. It is not mundane, everyday. As much as I try to make it so. To normalise Love into a routine, to nurture it towards something else. It leaves me clueless, and continues to raise questions for my soul. Yet, love is found in the everyday, it is all encompassing, it absorbs and behaves in a way that is in its nature, volatile and chaotic. And yet still, it is also peace, tranquil, still in moments that often seem irrelevant, but make that difference.

Is this force, the only thing that matters? the only thing, once found, is worth holding onto? How is that possible? It requires some pragmatism, it requires acceptance. I often seek it elsewhere, in nature, in meditation, amongst friends and family, its deeply within us too.  We are capable of loving and being loved. So, I push, seek and engage, continuing to seek it inwardly, through this intense process of questioning what it is to love and be loved, how to reconcile these ideas into concrete reality, into art, into experiences.. and, outwardly when it happens, is special and to be cherished. Celebrated if found in connection to another. The frustrations that occur are often self-created. To fall in love is perhaps magical, powerful and forces growth in ways unimaginable.  I question purpose of life and how often my drawing aims to capture, engage with it.

 


Dhaka Thoughts: In quiet reflection

Its been a rough rough 36 hours. Some will have seen the news on the hostage situation and the subsequent deaths that occurred in Dhaka. Its left its print, like all terrorist attacks, heavily on the heart. I saw on twitter, the condemnations, the anger, the frustrations. The news channels blared moment after moment the situation. Surreal, it felt.

I started yesterday  (Friday 30th June) though on a very different tone. I had been to draw at the Kamalapur station. After finishing my drawing session – this time it was 3 portraits of the same young boy, I was intrigued by my difficulty in concentrating.  I was to purchase a small token eid gift for my assistant who sometimes helps out (usually he just sits and draws whilst I draw). I lost my A2 sketchbook in the frenzy of buying a present in Dhaka’s Motijheel- another site of utter madness (we were shopping in Shapla Chattar – a site of controversy that took place on May 5-6 in 2013 ending badly). My assistant was distraught, he was upset, he struggled to eat his lunch..We may have lost it on the way to the bazaar, left it on the rickshaw, maybe.  He meekly asked how much the sketchbook was worth. I did my level best to console him, to not worry about it and that it was not, in any means, his fault. This left a heavy moment in my heart too – despite losing the days drawings, I quickly pulled myself together.

In reflection now – having digested a little bit of what happened this morning in Gulshan 2 at Holey’s Bakery. A day in total loss of what to do and how to process reality, other than by talking and discussing with others what had happened. The usual imagery pops up.  The things that frustrate – a separation of the terrorist from us. They are not muslims, they are not Bangladeshis, They are not us, they do not represent us.  As if the human being that could commit such acts are so alien to us an idea – those of us that maybe religious, liberal, educated, tolerant (isn’t that what society is filled with? I ask myself) then the hate that spews, creating further hate.) It seems in the end they could be any one now. That its perhaps too late already.

How do I process such actions of evil? I separate myself, I deny that they are a part of my society – that they do not belong here. They are alien. And so, we will wait until the next attack. And we will repeat the same process of separation. The denial of extremism, the denial that there is something damaged within society, in many societies, hidden away until its left to erupt again – and, to shock us, again.  I am trying to listen inwardly this time round – and as I do, I seem to hear something that resonates.  The blatant fear that is being planted, and a hatred towards others that are different to me. I must stop that from growing. Yet, how? I dig deeper, I am not here to forgive and forget, and I am also not here to punish. It is, as I imagine with many Dhakaites in Bangladesh – the acceptance of despair as an everyday experience.

Here, I will add – it seems a distraction, but in reality (the many realities of mega-cities…- I speak about those that live in Dhaka’s bosti’s and streets and low-cost unsafe accommodations, those that work unruly hours in unsafe conditions to earn peanuts to just survive, daily. From Dhaka’s rickshaw pullers to its litter pickers to its many women working as cheap housemaids across many many flats and homes, to the extremes of working as sex-workers, drug-pushers and sellers, to menial day labour jobs in unsafe construction sites, breaking bricks, the list perhaps is endless. Maybe its unfair (this is, after all is one of the largest populated megacity’s in the world – with a massive demand and strain on its desire to grow as an economy, hugely under-resourced to provide safe and secure environments for its people – at what cost? and for whose gain? A city filled with factories, with poverty and with opulence for those that can afford it ) The city of despair as I know it, have known it -and in moments have witnessed its grim underbelly – its abuse on young girls and boys, its attacks on boost’s, its lack of social protection or care for its homeless, has taken another step towards its own sheer madness.  I generalise, but its difficult to comprehend how the everyday Dhakaite continue their struggle to survive.  We studied the living conditions of the Urdu-Speaking Camp-Dwelling community in Mohammadpur and Mirpur, its a different world – We separate them and us. Or in fact, I separate too. there is a them and us.  Its too difficult otherwise to continue on. I create my bubble of safety in my head… and perhaps physically too.

I lie here, write and reflect on the implications of all this that has taken place in the last 36 hours, and I struggle to make sense. It maybe is too soon? Yet somehow, I don’t think so. Gulshan 2 was touted as a safe, secure part of the mega-city – and away from the mess and poverty of the city at large.  A feeling of insecurity rises amongst some of us, a daily experience for so many others. Perhaps, there are lessons to be learned (quickly!) and acceptance of the reality that has now been bestowed upon us. Quite like the acceptance that Brexit must take place – its a matter of how and when, not if.

Those of us privileged enough to know better, still fall back to primitive actions too. We fall to base emotions. I fall to base emotions. I accept and then I reflect on the assistant who was so upset that he may have been responsible for losing my sketchbook and at the same time, the news that someone I knew and others knew very well- a kind, decent hard working woman with an amazing attitude towards life, was brutally murdered yesterday, and I feel overwhelmingly at a loss. Feelings that I can’t quantify still in words or perhaps actions. It makes for grim reading. I don’t really know what else to add here. My heart feels heavy. As my friend Mike always iterates – this too will pass.

This blog post is in memory of all those who have gone before us, all those that have struggled for ideas and truth and in solidarity with those that work with us and also those that will come after us.