Twenty two-year-old Abdul Wahab has a secret. He was born with the ability to express himself using a mere pencil and a piece of paper. Ordinary tools for the common man, in Wahab’s hand a pencil and a piece of paper become vessels through which he is able to channel his talent of sketching.
A resident of Zahir Pir City in Rahim Yar Khan district, Wahab has always harboured an everlasting love for the arts. He has sketched many a famous personality; from former president of the United States Abraham Lincoln to noted Pakistani writer Saadat Hassan Manto. His portfolio boasts a unique collection of household names.
“In school, I was unaware I possessed this unique talent. I constantly used to draw sketches of my classmates and friends on the on the wooden slates we used to study,” he reminisces. “I still remember my teacher used to reprimand me for wasting my time on useless activities,” he says.
However, Wahab was forced to leave school due to financial constraints. During this time period, he joined a religious seminary which he left after a few months. “I never had any interest on becoming a religious scholar,” he explains.
Eventually, Wahab rejoined a school in order to complete his matriculation. While studying, he began to watch videos of Qasim Ali Shah, a famous public speaker. “Shah once said that everyone has some sort of a hidden talent. We can choose to explore this talent or you can choose to ignore it. But it always surfaces,” he says.
“It was only once his words had sunk in did I begin to understand their true meaning. I was suddenly motivated to explore my affinity for sketching when I had always chosen to suppress it,” he expresses. “I listened to his lectures endlessly for days on end contemplated my own existence a fair bit. At the tail end of this reverie, I saw a simple pencil sketch on the internet. That awakened the sleeping artist within me,” he says.
Despite his family’s explicit displeasure, Wahab has been sketching religiously for one-and-a-half years now. He receives no encouragement from his family and his relatives who believe that drawing animate things is an act of blasphemy; they say that he is destined to burn in hell for drawing things only god can create.
“My own motivation is the only thing that keeps me going,” he says. With a heavy heart, he explains that he has never been given any appreciation for his work by his family and relatives nor has he won any certificates or medals. My father used to be very pleased when someone used to admire my paintings, but because of my family’s disapproval, he [also] started to voice his displeasure, says Wahab.
“Our society and mind set is still immature. We consider it a sin to hang paintings and sketches inside our homes,” he stated. In times like these, I think of what William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
“In my opinion, there are only human beings that are good and bad,” says Wahab. On the other hand, he reveals that his family has exerted a lot of pressure on him to abandon his art and find a respectable means of earning a livelihood as his father suffers from diabetes.
Despite this, Wahab’s passion for sketching still burns bright. Time and space both cease to exist when I am sketching, he maintains. Recently, I have had to quit my sketching because of some financial constraints, says Wahab. But I shall soon start again, he says. He dreams of the day when he is able to showcase his art at galleries and exhibitions. “The passion to draw within me cannot be squashed. It will remain until my last breath,” he expressed.
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