Not a conventional bus ride. But a process of discovering Karachi which has been isolated. Kamila Shamsie once said that most of the novels she has judged for literary prizes talk about the sense of loss. The sense of loss makes you uneasy. It makes you share it. write it. speak it loud. out. You need to ride along W-11 if you are an aspiring writer. You need to feel the sense of loss isolated elders feel. A lingering sense of loss. And in process of understanding, you will put a smile on many faces.
W-11 is Sarah Rizvi’s studio. An IVS graduate who loves to experiment with fabrics and colors. She had a solo exhibition at frere hall sometime back. The experimental paintings showed the vibrancy of Karachi. But the project Sarah and her studio have taken up lately is to visit different old age homes across the city and draw paintings with its residents. The activity needs to be witnessed. Its essence cannot be described in words, or captured in pictures.
This February, coincidentally around a certain date, The Karachi Walla rode along W-11 to Sahara home. The place is near submarine chowk, right after flower shops past Altamash Dental Clinic. Sahara old age home also accommodates mentally challenged. One may argue that it makes the atmosphere depressing for senior citizens. However it has created a strange bond of affection and mutual concern between oldies and the challenged.
The activity started around twelve. All the participants wore studio’s shirts thus removing the boundaries between volunteers and participants. The volunteers unpacked the colors, brushes and other accessories in front of intrigued residents. Each participant was given a brush, a shoe box with a hole at one end and generous supply of oil paints. They were asked to strike the brush inside the box using different colors. When box was opened a random painting emerged much like patterns of their individual life. Later all the participants were asked to draw a painting on a sheet using their imagination. Few drew mountains. Some painted Pakistani flag. Almost all of them put their name on the sheet. The activity was not as mechanic as it sounds reading these lines. A volunteer was exposed to the random thoughts of the participant he was working with. They loved to talk about their loved ones. They took their name and waited for your reaction. They expected you to know their relatives. Probably it gave them an assurance that they were there. out somewhere. away from their life but safe and sound. A reassuring smile that the name sounds familiar made them happy. They chatted, sang, danced and had fun. It was beautiful.
The outcome of the project will be an exhibition. Sarah expects artists to donate their work which will be sold along the old age home paintings. The proceedings will go to the old age home fund. Contribute for the exhibition if you are an artist. Contribute for the activity if you are an activist. The activity creates a bond which will surprise you. Ride along. Please and Thank you.