A car behind him will honk persistently, but Munim Qazi will happily putter away on his motorbike, not hearing a thing. Sometimes, his classmates would burst into fits of laughter at a joke the teacher had cracked but Qazi would look around oblivious, not quite catching their drift.
At a grocery store, he’d mumble his list – the best way he knew how then – but the impatient storekeeper’s replies always seemed like they came from too far away. In this life, Qazi is always too far away to hear anything. So he reads; he reads your words with expertise, catches all your lip movements and understands your expressions and body language with perfection.
His world of unending quietness and constant struggle may seem dark and dull to us; but is it really loveless or without colour? Does he allow his impairment to hold him back?
Not one bit.
As he walks into his former employer Nida Azwer’s studio, his face beams with quiet laughter and eyes dance all around the room. It was Azwer who had asked him to join her team after his portfolio and thesis at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA) blew her away. Even though he no longer works with her, he is invited to the studio for a quick gup with her and the team.
“I wanted the best for Munim,” says Azwer, explaining why he left her team and joined Amir Adnan. “He truly deserves as much experience as he can get.”
At the studio, Qazi is well-dressed with a stylishly trimmed beard. He looks confident as he nods for me to start our interview. I’m not as poised as him since we don’t have a sign language interpreter, and my thoughts run wild: “How will we communicate? I hope I don’t come across as offensive,” I said to myself. And then something magical happens – Qazi makes it all simple. Ten minutes into our conversation and we’re talking about his childhood. I take longer to compose my questions, but he’s quicker with his answers and breaks everything down so easily for me.
He shares the heartbreaking experience of first attending a regular school and then feeling so disheartened that he didn’t want to study at all. Then his world changed when he attended the Anjuman Behbood-e-Samat-e-Atfal (ABSA) School and College for the Deaf.
Soon after, he was studying textiles at IVSAA, one of the most prestigious art schools in the country. When asked if it was a daunting experience to be around students with no impairments holding them back, he explains, “It would’ve been, had it not been for the wonderful people around me. My friends at school helped me in every way and made the experience so much easier.” I turned to Azwer to ask how it felt to work with him. “I’m not going to lie – I was apprehensive at first. But with a little effort, it became easier. He’s easy to work with and is very talented.”
To witness Qazi what he does best – weaving, screening and designing kurtas – The Express Tribune visited Amir Adnan’s factory in Korangi to see the young designer at work. Senior designer Sarah Anees was also present, and gave us clearer insights into Qazi’s current work. His vibrant screen prints inspired by nature were the most delightful.
Anees says that whenever she struggles with explaining a concept to Qazi, she puts it down in memo form. Once he reads what she wants from him, things become easier. “As good an experience as this is for Munim, it’s even better for us. We learn so much from each other.”
Nimrah, a designer for FnKAsia who sits rights opposite Qazi’s cubicle, says: “The best thing about him is that he can grasp concepts really fast.”
“He’s got enough talent to take him places. But he needs to be pushed. He needs people in his life who believe in him,” Anees continues. “I’ve seen that whenever I push him as hard as I push others, I see Munim exceed and excel.”
Twenty-six-year old Qazi cannot hear or speak, but he takes great delight in the pleasures of life. Be it spending time with his high school sweetheart (and now wife) Aliza, and his newborn daughter Kainaat, or working as part of a design team at Amir Adnan, Qazi enjoys life probably a little more than you and me.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.