Today I was at a friend’s place, at this bookstore-cum-thrift store she runs, and we were discussing the creative process and what makes an artist or a writer or a poet make or write or compose and why do they, then, decide to share it with others. Why would anyone share something so personal with a stranger that they have never met? And we spoke about a “responsibility” that a creative person has to share the creative process with the world, and while we were discussing this, I was thinking about the show I had seen just yesterday at Rohtas Gallery by Aisha Abid Hussain titled A Fine Balance Between Love and Despair, and I thought, she has been writing drawing and drawing writing in this diary which is so personal to her and also the place from which these marks are originating is very personal.
Then she tears out each page and makes it public. And I know that the work is about her parent who passed away, so it is a mourning process. But I did not know Aisha’s parent, and also do not know her herself that intimately, yet here I am, being invited to share the most intimate recesses of her heart. How does it work? How can she (or someone else) share something so intimate, something she would not probably talk about, with me, and how can I still feel her pain even though I don’t know her or her parent that well? I think it is a quality very unique to humans, empathy, that is. Well, animals have it too for members of their own species, or sometimes for others, but it is not as developed as it is in humans. But this is quite ironic too, because, at the same time, humans are responsible for atrocious crimes against other human beings and against the planet in general. Perhaps it is to counter that enormous violent urge, that we have developed empathy as specie. That, then, explains why I would still share the feelings (at least, some part of them) that Aisha felt for her parent’s loss. That would explain how the work would function for me as a viewer. But why does Aisha decide to share it with me? And since we are progressing backwards, sort of, why did she respond to the grief she felt by making these marks. Also, did it help, can it help; if yes, then, on what level? Well there is the obvious reason of making your mark on the world as an artist, and to earn a living (That is a problem too big to deal with here); but why else? Maybe a hint can be found in other spheres of life, which have not been made as superficial as the art world, yet. Mourning, for example, Christ’s death at the Good Friday before Easter, or mourning the battle of Karbala on the day of Ashura is a rite lived together by the community. The work of mourning can effectively be done in the privacy of one’s home, but there is something very human about mourning that brings a community together. Thus, throughout history, mourning a shared loss has knitted a community together more strongly than rejoicing and merrymaking does. So, Aisha brings us together by inviting us to mourn with her, and through that communion we become one body, one soul and one mind. But of course, when I mourn with her, I do not mourn her parent’s death but the death of my own parent, and the certainty of my own death, and my wife’s death, and my son’s death—when I mourn with her, I mourn for every human being that has lost or will lose their life to death, I mourn the certainty of death, I mourn the mortality of humanity, I mourn life itself—and that is true for every work of mourning. I know mourning with her brings me closer to her and makes me more human. But why does she mourn what is certain to begin with? Are we not all living on borrowed time? The hourglass runs out and poof! There goes nothing. I have been struggling with the idea of mortality for some time now. It was very hard for me to accept the fact that I would die one way. I felt very sorry for myself. But after a long process of mourning I thought I had finally dealt with the finality of death. That, now, I could stare the abyss in the eyes, which is a fallacy of course because an abyss is an absence of all sight. Anyways, two months ago, I fell in love. And guess what, coming to terms with my own death was child’s play compared to the knowledge that this person I love infinitely more than myself is bound to die too. What tragic fate! Love has me crucified, and the lover’s mortality is the holy lance that pierces my side. If only I could die in her stead. I know I can’t. I am at death’s mercy. Sorrow fills my being; I become sorrow. I am left with no choice but to exist in this sorrow; the very sorrow that Aisha feels and exists in. To exist in it is to bring into existence that which exists within oneself. Thus, what once existed within her, now finds an existence through her; she empties out her sorrow. She has no other choice. To not empty herself is to allow that sorrow to multiply till it breaks the bounds of her being and pours out on its own, but to reach that point is to die—of sorrow. So she assumes the only other possibility left to her, that is, to pour out her sorrow onto paper.