“The Greatest Love Story Never Told…” ~ Aletter to a friend.
Assalaamo Alaikum Aunty,
I’d like to share a short story based onrandom events from my life with reference to the painting I sold to you lastmonth; the vibrant, multicolored Kalma [First Kalma: ‘There is none worthy ofworship except Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’]
In the year 2002, one year after I graduatedfrom Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, I started experimentingwith alcohol and non-chemical drugs(dope), a combination of substance abusethat chemically didn’t suit the chemistry and biology of my brain and I startedmy unaware journey down the road of what the doctors later diagnosed as ‘druginduced schizophrenia’.
Sensitive and highly emotionally expressivesince early childhood, the bi-polar mood swings and the extreme highs and lowsof energy were waves I enjoyed riding on as both the extremes of happiness vs.sadness would fuel my creativity that I started expressing through art.
It was in the midst of this madness, on the eveof Christmas (2005) and on the brink of a mental breakdown; I wrote down the’Kalma’ on that piece that you have. With my deteriorating mental conditionthat was the result of my continued indulgence in substance abuse over thethree years prior, I, in a moment that can best be described as ‘heighteneddementia’ spent five minutes to typographically execute the Arabic andsplattered some paint around it and used markers to encircle the Kalma, placedin the center of the page, in a continuous anti-clockwise stroke of 7 orangecircles. As the paint on the piece was drying, I remember dancing around theroom with excitement engaging in spoken conversations with voices no one couldhear but me; my audience in the room, I realize in hindsight, were merefigments of my own imagination and symptoms of severe psychosis.
What followed was a series of events in adownward spiral of energy accompanied by personal misbehavior and a continuousperiod of twenty-four hours that mark the darkest day and night that my familyand friends live to be witnesses of. This psychotic episode ended the nextmorning when I had to be constrained, sedated through needles and was admittedto the psychiatric ward at AKUH, Karachi, where I spent the next month and ahalf.
I dont think I need to explain to you the extentof emotional turbulence this caused in the lives of my family and friends whowere all forced to deal with the magnitude of this episode without anyprior knowledge regarding mental health or lack thereof.
I do, however, need to share a glimpse of whatmy mother went through. She went into my bedroom, sat on the bed where Ihad sat the night before painting the Kalma piece i just told you about, andwept to the fading sound of the ambulance that was carrying heryoungest baby’s sedated body tied in ropes to the hospital. It was inthis moment of absolute helplessness and prayers that she glanced at thepainting and read the Kalma. She then picked up a pen that was lying next tothe sketchbook and did what only a mother can; she corrected the typos in theArabic, adding in non-typographic, thin strokes, missing alphabets and ‘zair,zabbar, pesh, etc.’ as can be seen upon a closer examination of the piece…
A decade after this episode; I’m now a husbandto a beautiful, brave woman who has been a pillar of strength from the verybeginning of all this, a true reflection of the virtues that my motherpossesses. My dysfunctional professional career is a testament to the scarsthat took forever to heal through a complex combination of medication andpsychotherapy accompanied by the undying love and support of friends, familyand personal struggle to redeem myself in my own eyes.
In this battle to keep my ship from sinking, Ihave done whatever I could to make ends meet financially. My steady income fromlandscaping in the family business is limited and partially supports ourfinancial requirements; a situation that evolved me from being an ‘artist’ whoobsessed over his own art, who vowed never to sell anything, to a man who hassold every single piece (barring one) he’s ever made in an effort to move upfrom our hand to mouth status in life.
It was the same financial desperation, a fewmonths ago, that obliged me to sell the Kalma piece to you. A combination offinancial desperation and a lack of knowledge about the actual events that makethis the piece that it is today. Knowledge of these events I gained insight toduring my last show that you came to when my mother suggested that I put theKalma piece on display for viewing as she began to tell me the story i justshared with you.
I lied to her when I said that the Kalma piecedidn’t gel in thematically with the rest of the work on display. I couldn’tbring myself to reveal to her that I had in fact sold it just recently(something she didn’t know about).
Aunty, this email, is a humble request toconsider the possibility of returning the piece in your possession which I hadrandomly named ‘The Greatest Love Story Never Told…’ Your gesture of kindnesswill not only add to the historic relevance of this piece in being anexpression of your love for my art and me, but also, will stand as a testamentto my belief that all love stories do in fact have happy endings.
As far as the empty space on your wall isconcerned, it can be filled by not just the abundance of love in your heart,but also by another calligraphic piece that I would like to make just for you.
Much love in advance, MohammadUzair Akram
~ Two Hours after reading this ‘Letter’ Nilofer Saeed returned the painting which now hangs in Mohammad Uzair Akram’s personal gallery in Karachi, Pakistan