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! )

London Thoughts : Cutting the Cord(s) of Love(s)

Where am I, now. 

Gently. I am cutting the cord(s) of Love(s)
These are somewhat poetic musings, riddled, more than anything else – and it seems an accumulation on conversations I have had over the past few days with friends, family, lover(s), colleagues and strangers (who have become friends). 

Emancipation is a strong word – it seems I continually seek it, yet never fully embrace it. How bizarre – why choose a masochistic approach? I am often the sadist. My inability to emancipate from religion ( I still have prayer beads in my daily possession ), from cultural traditions ( I am continually embedded back in to family politics ), from unwanted labels that are attached to me, it never seems enough. Embroiled and enamoured, to continually fight against the torrents. Yet, to cut free, in an amusing way, would be reckless. How strange the mind works. To throw my self, into work and art – into becoming ‘independent’, into love, seems tough. Why?  What does it mean to ‘be’ ‘free’?

Frantically I seek meaning in the cords that I already have – the labels that are attached to me – the strings that perpetuate my being. It is frantic. It is in discord. It is troubling. It is dramatic. It is real. Yet, these cords keep me afloat, keep me alive.  The currents of love, however, seem to pull in ways that propel me to behave somewhat ‘irrationally’. 

To start with. BEING, the identity or label has to BE HUMAN – and that must be enough, always – for me.  To humanise every aspect of myself – from my homosexuality to my race, class, my religiousness or lack of, my politics, my size, my sex, my masculinity, or my effeminateness – To label myself just that – Human – I have spent a lot of time deconstructing my various selves.  I see a problem with continual discord. Yet – for now, am content to love being.

My drawings (random selection below) often are working and reworking of ideas – of perceptions and ways of seeing – it is not clever or innovative – it is true. It just is. Fragmentary, of time and place. Of the self, of objects, of places, of people that I encounter.

My writing, as you are reading – you are able to understand – are often an outpouring of a concentrated series of thought(s).

To Love. Here, I am pondering..  What I have learned in this revisit, to love for me is about trust, vulnerability and emotional honesty – I seek it in my practice of everyday life:  However unsuccessfully. I observe and experience it- in my platonic friends, I seek and give it in family, I seek it in my lover(s), in my work and actions, and I return it in abundance OR at the least try, I embrace its role in creating nature, in shaping ideas, in nurturing the soul – it does not mean that I roam around always immersed in it – far from it.  Its much easier to receive, to accumulate, and I have learned to continue to give – to expedite Love – not as commodity (as it does not come with a price tag, and is not finite) is a continual process. Karmic.  To Love, therefore has a profound meaning for me. To love, is an action that is not muddled in religious consciousness, as duty- in cultural attachments as symbols (or trophies) – or spiritual mysticism, -found in ecstasy, or for me – entangled and riddled with familial guilt. To love, is to be – and to practice such an act, requires for me – an interaction with that part of me that is quietly emboldened by life and its experiences.

To acknowledge certain emotions – not at the sake of others. To listen, in order to understand, not to respond and react. To engage again with an aspect of the self that I realise requires continual work. To cut the cord(s) of love(s) in this instance then, is about being ok with the vulnerabilities that love brings with it.  It requires a certain working mind – one that is open and honest.  Being honest – is tough. Yet, tolerance is a word that I have used over the past few weeks – my conversations have forced a certain way of thinking and being again. How to be tolerant of myself? my thoughts? my ideas? my fantasies? my fears? my emotions (including confronting my own anger, in this instance – something I had seldom seen..)

Is it possible through an embracing of love? To not sexualise or eroticise it, or singularise it – to not be related to one entity – but to to love in its entirety or in its capacity to be more— to not be entangled in obsessive lust, insecurities, in guilt, in over-indulged fantasies or fear.

Of course – articulating my thoughts on the blog are not the same, and perhaps hide my inability to act as well as I would like.  The fears and realities will continue to limit me – yet, I try to challenge in my own way. Quite possible that I intellectualise this idea of love too. That is ok. Posibly, learning to accept flaws in me, makes it easier to accept also the flaws in the human being. To love, easily, would be tough. In the constant battle, then, to cut the cord(s) of love(s), I seek to continually emancipate myself from my riddled pasts, in order so that love can emancipate me.


Dhaka Drawings: Self Portrait experiments

On a side note: the concept of letting go.

To let go. To what? To life, maybe.  The struggle I took upon myself was to control my ego, to not let it control my soul.  The suffering to overcome was one of the desire to cling to an idea, object or a person – to let Truth or Love dictate the path, however challenging it may seem to be. It perhaps is the ultimate challenge.

The cycle of the creative process starts and ends is crude, yet relatively true. Yes, the environment and experiences continually change and shape our thoughts – it requires the ability to be willing to experience and accept these changes of thoughts too. It also, happens that the artist in me is able to express a moment or idea in time and space. The constant remaining idea is one of change. So, the experiment here was to draw. and then destroy. and all that remains is a photo-image, and an idea.  The challenge being to fight the ego, to not preserve this as The Truth, but simply one idea of it.  It re-ignites my passion to fully immerse in life.  My perception of myself changes with my continual introspection, my ability to draw and make art changes too, as I gain experiences and push the boundaries that exist within my life. However difficult it may seem to let go, it is still possible.  Trust and letting go to Love is all that I can do. And, I realise that is enough, despite the Ego wanting so much more.


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.


Readings: Tagore – Sadhana: Realisation of Life

The last few days, as I draw, work, play.. I have been reflecting on some of the reading and experiences from the past two weeks. Its been quite an overwhelming realisation of the idea behind mind, body and soul and I thought to try and share.

This triangle of parts that make us whole. The multitude of life experiences that have ranged from extreme highs and lows, continually force me to think. And re-think, human beings are not static machines, our thoughts change, drift, divert away, as we continue in search of Truth. The hats that I wear – as a designer, as a strategic thinker, as a mentor, an artist, a writer, a planner, as an architect (of sorts..) as a friend, as a brother, as a son, as an uncle, as a lover.. makes me overwhelmed, how to balance all these beings within one body? And more importantly, how to nourish the soul towards the Truth, when all these beings are vying for time and attention? Can I ever become the human being I was born to be? What does this being do?

As I read through this book by Tagore, and ponder on why it is I draw, I am continually forced to reflect also on Love. Love in its entirety and its abundance and infiniteness.  But at the same time, the injustice and negative forces that exist in specifically the world around me, and what it is that I can do to improve – to work towards making that world a better place – to achieve goodness…. And the inability for me to comprehend what to do with all this Love – I want to pour it into the souls of the people I draw, I want to share. Its surprising that its Tagore that points me to a realisation of why it is that I dare not look into other peoples eyes. It is not because I see their vulnerabilities, or their truth, but rather my own. The drawings thus, become for me an expression of Truth in that moment in time of what I feel / think, but the outpouring, the end product, I hope, brings joys to those that see it. Technique is slowly becoming irrelevant. Art is beginning to take its shape on the paper.

So, am I able to clarify my thoughts here? What am I trying to say? my overwhelming feelings of joy – that seems to tip itself over into an abundance, makes me think selfishly about this state of being, of being in a state of Joy. Perhaps, Tagore would call this state, being in Love with life itself,, but I am not particularly in love with a person – so I want to draw that distinction. Nor am in a state of happiness – as that is a moment in time, but, Joy seems the right word.  Another thought comes to mind, I guard myself well, I don’t allow many people in, I protect my soul and mind. I think its important to nourish the soul properly, with some real consideration about friends and lovers. Over time they change as do I, and letting go of friends and lovers who no longer can be a part of the life you currently lead is very tough. Last 2 years have forced me to really think about Love and Friendship.

And the drawings are a work in progress, as is life itself. But more so importantly, it has allowed me to reconnect with my soul in a way I was not expecting – Yet, with all the intellect I have currently, I try and make sense of it… But, I realise there is no point in this continual search – because for me, Love and Truth, are one and the same thing, and to have it in abundance is quite something. Does that make me selfish and not want to share it? In fact the opposite, to spread Joy, is really what we are born to do. TO bring Joy into the lives of others through our work, through our Art and through our interactions. Are we thus born to seek? Are we not born to be curious beings? To question and to experiment and to play? and as our environment shapes us, our soul is pulled in directions, often away from Truth – its realising that to reconnect often takes a lot of doing, but once done, it becomes quite overwhelming, at least it has for me. Art, allows me to continue on.

Maybe, this is a little reduced in thought, and people require context – but, having constantly been on the edge of a rollercoaster – in flux (as many diaspora seem to be) I have forced myself to seek Truth, and in return, I have found Joy in what I do, in the people that I know and the pursuit of nourishing the soul and others through Art.

This is quite a personal post, ( as all posts are really, on this blog) and perhaps for some that read it, it will not make sense, but those that know me well, will perhaps smile and I look forward to catching up with friends over time to spread some of this Joy.

Day 35: Dhaka Drawings


As the country (Bangladesh) retracts back to its normal busy self, a two day hartal seemingly goes by without much damage. I escaped into a coffee shop and read for a little while (The Science and Practice of Drawing) as part of my continual learning process. It seems it has become  a challenge for me to do even this.  What am I interested in, with all this drawing? I questioned myself today again.

How do I draw injustice and do justice to the Art produced? How do I show the struggle of everyday life, the inefficiency of the urban landscape, the toil and sweat that invisible souls produce to keep this city beating? How do I portray the beauty and the magnificent human beings that do this work? How do I express my admiration and love for the people that quietly get on with their struggle.  How can I, or we, show these hard working souls that there is someone out there that acknowledges their struggle?

The purpose of Art continues to bring forward thoughts that I am uncomfortable with, it disturbs me to no end, and I am learning to look.  I am enjoying the process of developing the technique and reading about those things that are personal to me. And when I am being introspective, looking at the space that I inhabit, versus the space that others inhabit, there seems to be very different thoughts that emerge.

I fly back to London on Friday morning, and the fear I have is that I will stop drawing when I get there, I don’t have that many subjects. What is it that inspired me to draw whilst being in Dhaka, and that does not excite me about London so much?

I think Dhaka disturbs me, the daily practice of majority of its dwellers, the daily struggle pains me, I can do little about it, it puts me in despair and I hope, through drawing these people, I portray how beautiful they are.  As we continue our work with Paraa in developing our projects, it dawns on me the tasks that we have set ourselves are not small.  We push, because we owe it to ourselves to become the best of who we can be through our art. It will take time.
IMG_1082  IMG_1067 IMG_1081 IMG_1077 IMG_1076 IMG_1075 IMG_1074

Love. Goodbye until we meet next time.

Love. Goodbye until we meet next time. Do I like that I have been forced to let you go? No.  I enjoyed the moments where Love showed me it was ok to just be myself, with someone whose eyes told me all I needed to hear. Someone whose lips connected and whispered and said words that sent shivers down my spine. Falling in Love with someone that was as vulnerable as I, and I believe whose soul touched mine.  Love, granted me no expectations, and I let it guide me blindly, it created desires, and fear, it created an unhealthy obsession for a while and it has made me cry tears.    

Yet, when I encounter Love again, I will embrace it with open arms, not be afraid and nor run away.  It was not easy to let Love go, yet the momentary bliss, those beautiful times together and the safety in being lost with another, was worth the heartache.


Kengo Kuma at the Royal Academy (Sensing Spaces Exhibition)