A brief History
“It was not far from my early days that I choose colors to vent out my feelings through sunsets and landscapes as they kept floating around unambitious all through these years. The gas barrels were just, as suggested by the simmer that cooked the broth all through the years. I set-up a small studio space which produced not more than one or two works a year. Some years I added more layer, some years I celebrated it. Spreading out some canvases, hanging many. No! I never gave it a serious thought if art could become a serious and commercial affair in my life. All I can recall is the sound of boiling bubbles raising over the brim. My work intended to carry no ambition; it had only been cooking until it was ready to be served. The practice not only strengthened my imagination but also expression. And as I am writing this, I recall that I have been writing long before I was introduced to the world of colors. I recall all the meanings I created through many posted letters. My journal was way more than blank pages, they silently remained there as possibilities of laying out expression, waiting for the birth of a writer within me.”
How I became a Writer
As Kashmir reeled under a period of blackout post August 5, 2019, I moved to Delhi for an Art fellowship. It was my first interaction with an art program, and the kind of space I interacted with was a moving experience in my life to take self-expression seriously.
Few months after the fellowship in March 2020, my journey in literature formally began when I got introduced to the writing festival Times of India conducts every month, where young writers are invited to compile a story on a few given lines by celebrated writers from across the world. I decided to test my skill through that opportunity. A wise man once said to me; the key to writing is not thinking but entering a state of trance where you either see, hear or feel and later learn to smell your stories. I wrote my first story on the same principle, by not thinking anything, only seeing all that was displayed in my dear imagination. It came out very dramatic and full of life, few characters unfolding into many subsequent scenes. I never actually sent that story to Times of India but what that attempt did was strengthen my belief as a writer. Though I have not been able to claim that I am one, but I have been trying to write ever since.
How I became a serious practitioner of writing through Greater Kashmir and how it almost devastated me later:
Then on one fine day I exchanged a long conversation with a friend of mine which magically transformed into a beautiful piece. I sent it forward for a review to someone who strangely suggested me to send it to GK. I did. One Monday I wrote GK an email, attached the story and a photograph, the following Thursday I was overwhelmed to see the story on GK. The belief they had put in my story was very strengthening, and I decided to write rigorously, having a strong motivation that through GK’s widespread audience my story would reach a sizeable number of minds and a few of them might read my story. I kept writing; the second story got published. It was a new ray of hope, a portal into a great promising future. As I gained pace, I wrote again but this time was different. I had to wait for the story to come out through many unending Thursdays. I kept alarms at 4:00 am in the morning, to have the earliest look at the GK reading section in e-paper, it did not come out for a couple of weeks and my will to write slowly weakened. With not much of a motivation in the creative fields of Kashmir, I started feeling all writing and dreams of writing was a delusion. I felt devastated. I had almost lost it after weeks of obsessive waiting when one fine Friday I was randomly scrolling through my Facebook profile and I saw a post by GK that had my story. As much as I was overwhelmed to see it on Friday rather than Thursday, I wondered what if I hadn’t scrolled the page. I would have missed this publication, never knowing that it happened and I would have just waited for the rest of my life. Or perhaps not.
It is 12:52 in the night and there is a stubborn energy on my desk, all the stories I sent to Greater Kashmir have been published and I am writing the next article, I am blessed, I truly am. Not precisely because Greater Kashmir published that story, but because the writer in me miraculously got saved from extinction.
Visiting the GK’s office at press lane, you will see a stack of envelopes laying by the farthest desk, they stay there untouched as the emails stay untouched, sometimes spammed and sometimes missed, some wait for months and some wait for years. They wait for that one piece to get published so they can write the next. Countless envelopes and countless emails are not touched. Maybe they never dared to wait for long. Maybe the writers in their souls were never granted that voice. Maybe, they like me also misbelieved that you need to be published to become a writer.
For them I write my story today and tell them there is a lot more to writing than what we imagine it to be. The key to all creative ventures is simply not stopping and keep going until it finds its own way into the world. We must believe in ourselves while the world may seem standing far away where everyone may try to suggest us their remedies that perhaps never worked for them in truth. My experience teaches me it would have been an unpardonable crime to let the writer in me die only because a genuinely overloaded newspaper couldn’t find space for my emotions. Hence, please keep writing if you feel like doing it and with me, find new avenues where all literature and art could be celebrated and nourished.
Let’s refuse to die.
Tabish Haider Gazi is a practicing artist and entrepreneur