My youngest cat, the one in the prime of her youth strides elegantly, pretending to be unaffected by the presence of her friend/cousin and age fellow male cat ‘Sheru’ who has been trying to woo her since days – and a day in a cats life means months in our human one – the other cousin ‘Babu’ who is ‘Sheru’s’ rival has also been working hard for Elixir’s (my female cat) love and attention. Elixir is still not sure whom she wants, she teases them both on and off, they bounce and pounce in anticipation and pain, while she goes and sits on her throne/bed i.e right in the fortress/back of my 6 – footer father. She cleans and caresses her gold and brown skin with white patches till the point she becomes sunshine – then she sleeps while the men wait.
Incessantly scrutinizing Tassaduq Sohails’s visual ideals for this piece that I’m writing ; on the occupation/significance of animals in his work, the artist’s bohemian way of life, escapade and love of women, creative visions, all flaunt the idea of the wild i.e. according to the Merriam Webstar dictionary;
- of an animal : living in nature without human control or care : not tame
- of a plant : growing or produced in nature : not grown or farmed by people
- of land : not changed by people : not settled or developed
Yet his narrative is packed for me, I don’t feel free when I look at the free man’s images. They appear to be in a tug of war/push and pull situation. The animals are settled in their own abode but the understanding of the ‘free’ is in question and this dichotomy can make one marvel. I often look at the stories of the cats and ‘dog’ in my home and wonder – are they as free as we believe they are? Sheru and Babu often come home bruised; Elixer many a times looks at me as if saying “I wish there were no men in the world”, my dog Kalu is a friend for the cats but sometimes ‘Manjhali’ an older female cat attacks/grabs him on/from the face, at that point Kalu is more civilized then all the people I’ve ever met – he leaves her in respect, she is a mother- it’s as if he’s thinking “poor cat- what else can she do”!
So one questions, does wilderness also follow etiquette and is there anything as such as civilized…this excerpt from an earlier publication sheds some light on that; “A distinctive feature of his Bohemian life is a daily pre-dawn ritual of feeding fresh meat to kites and eagles on his balcony, preceded by an hour or so at midnight meticulously slicing the meat into small pieces. “If I don’t slice chicken liver, it swells and gags the birds as they try to swallow”. He took to this habit in England where he would go walking through a nearby forest in the dead of the night with a bucketful of meat that he fed to the wood’s population of foxes. Annoyed by their loud shrieks, residents of the area complained against Sohail. Brought in front of the administration he pretended to be a frail old man short on hearing and was let off on the basis that he could not possibly carry such a heavy basket to the forest at 3:00 am” (I Learnt to Paint for Moon-faced Beauties)
The mental impressions that stand out most when viewing Sohail’s work are naked women, bearded men, poised birds and one thing which he uses with true wilderness; color – greens and oceanic blues, surrounding tonality and mixtures that are ‘Sohail-Special’- almost like the magic-drawings we created in childhood by spilling/ loosely brushing dark colored water-based paint on an oil-pastel drawing – the water-paint seeped only into the areas where there was no oil! Viola! There was an undefined, unexpected, division of color … how did it happen…? Just in the same way Sohail’s dialogue with animals also begins with color, it writes their magical story.
Peacocks, crows, pigeons and parrots, hens, horses, donkeys, elephants and monsters, all appear motionless, in contemplation, solitude or silence – with or with their humane counterparts, engulfed in natural havens…as if in a dilemma of their own freedom. “I see the world just like an infant dreams. I pity those who carry their beliefs in small cages” (Once Again With Tassaduq Sohail). While the more I explore his visions…Sohail makes me wonder; I am sure the falcon believes in something too, so does the dolphin and so does the honeybee – what is the scale of measuring a belief?
Bano Qudsia talks about the multi-possibility of Potohar region in her novel Raja Gidh, where it was an ocean and a yogi’s meditation over three hundred years sent the water back to the Arabian sea, while some say it was a forest so thick that even night owls could see during the day. “In his book Love and Death in the American Novel, the literary critic Leslie Fiedler suggests that the central theme of all U.S. literature is the escape of American men and boys from civilization into the wild. Often a reaction to heartbreak, and sometimes in the company of other men and/or boys, this flight is the dynamic at the center of books and stories as diverse as Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville,The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, “Big Two-Hearted River” by Ernest Hemingway, and many more. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild shares the frontier theme with these great works of literature that preceded it, one of which (Walden) Christopher McCandless actually takes with him as he “lights out for the territories,” in the words of Huck Finn” (In to the wild).
While George Orwell makes the ‘Major’ sing to the beasts in his literary masterpiece Animal Farm ; …
Rings shall vanish from our noses,
And the harness from our back,
Bit and spur shall rust forever,
Cruel whips no more shall crack.
Riches more than mind can picture,
Wheat and barley, oats and hay,
Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon that day.
Bright will shine the fields of England,
Purer shall its waters be,
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free.
For that day we all must labour,
Though we die before it break;
4 Cows and horses, geese and turkeys,
All must toil for freedom’s sake.
Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken well and spread my tidings
Of the golden future time.
Thus it maybe said that all existence is a wild-goose-chase …even the mountains and oceans go round in circles and Sohail grabs all of it beautifully without holding on to it, animal and skies, flowers and thorns all are one in the same …
“Into the Wild.” : Critical Essays. Accessed September 25, 2016. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/i/into-the-wild/critical-essays/themes-of-into-the-wild.
“”I Learnt to Paint for Moon-faced Beauties”” The Friday Times. Accessed September 27, 2016. http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/i-learnt-to-paint-for-moon-faced-beauties/.
“ONCE AGAIN WITH TASSADUQ SOHAIL.” LiveRostrum. 2016. Accessed September 25, 2016. https://www.liverostrum.com/once-again-with-tassaduq-sohail/1016752.html.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1954.
Qudsiyah, Bāno. Raja Gidh. Lahore: Sang E Mil, 2006.