How losing a father turned a 14-year old into an artist

Srinagar: Crowded by many admirers, 14-year-old Momin Rafiqui, a 10th standard student at the BurnHall School, Srinagar gathered praises for the message (Save Chinar) he painted at an art completion held a Nigeen Club located near banks of scenic Nigeen Lake recently.

Standing some feet away from him, Momin’s art teacher said, “I would snatch his brushes and colours.”

Why would he say that?

The teacher Basharat Hussain, who has been teaching art for 12 years at the BurnHall School said so in reply to a question about Momin’s future in art.

With evident pain in his eyes and disappointment on his face, he said, “If we go by the reality, I would snatch his brushes and colours. Its depressing to see as to how the society treats artists. How are you expected to do something more apart from being an artist? What all you earn and what kind of platform is available for you here.”

“It’s disappointing,” Hussain keeps on lamenting.

Though Hussain believes that Momin has a creative edge over the students he had groomed in his teaching career however he is pained to see the future of an artist in Kashmir.

“I have seen him since he was in LKG. His paintings are realistic and creative. But, I would not force him to be an artist only because I have faced those difficulties and not much has changed here,” Hussain believes.

He, however, praises Momin’s family for lending him the due support to vent out his coloured feelings on a blank canvas.

“His family does not stop him. They have bought him a set of brushes and other tools like professionals have and he uses them very well,” Hussain said.

However, seeing a smile on Momin’s face at the art competition, Hussain observed, “Today he seems happy. He is talking a little. Otherwise, he doesn’t. He is very moody, like a typical artist.”

Apart from his brushes and colours, Momin had some of his paintings with him which were about nature. In one of the paintings, a man is riding a Shikara, on the other, a ship is sailing amidst storms, with sun’s rays on the left, looking like the rays of hope. Butterflies, trains, animals, flowers, forests and mountains are part of his collection, apart from the beautiful calligraphy written by him.

Replying in low pitched, one-word answers Momin told FreePress Kashmir that he wants to be an artist apart from fulfilling his mother’s dream.

Speaking to the reporter in a telephonic conversation, Momin’s mother Tehmeena Rafiqui, a school teacher at Middle School, Mochua calls Momin’s talent a ‘God’s gift’. She, however, believes that a childhood tragedy also had a role to play in the making of this little artist.

Momin, as his mother described, would be interested in art but after his father’s (Majid Rafiqui, 34) death, in a car accident when Momin was just a year and a half old, he changed.

“We were together. He was asking his father to give him something and it all turned haywire. He died on the spot,” said Tehmeena.

Momin’s mind has stored that crushing memory, seeing his father from live to dead in a jiffy.

Recalling the trauma he suffered, Tehmeena said that Momin could not get over the incident in the first three years after his father’s death.

“Papa had blood on him. Papa had blood,’ he would say,” Tehmeena recalled.

She also said that Momin would sit in the corner of his class repeating the same and return back home.

His grandfather Bashir Ahmad  Rafiqui who has also served the Jammu and Kashmir government for years has pinned his hopes on Momin, in whom he sees his son.

“His father would also draw but not much as he does. He was also a government employee. He would not get much time to do so,” said Tehmeena.

She added, “He didn’t see much of his father but remembers faded memories. Because of his well-designated grandfather, he never had to stand in a queue. And I want him to be able to stand on his own feet.”

Tahmeena said that they do try to hide the tragedy, but Momin sees it in their eyes.

“Our life took a leap backwards. So, we have high hopes for him. We do not pressurise him but he reads it in our eyes. He knows it,” she added.

She also said that she never stopped him from painting his heart out and that Momin learnt writing alphabets on his own.

“I never had to hold his hand to make him write. Since I never stopped him, his interest in art is at its peak,” she said.

He wants to pursue higher education and crack competitive exams. However, his mother says that he can never let go of the artist in him.

Momin began by writing calligraphy: in Hindi, Urdu, English and Kashmiri Languages. Tehmeena’s father, Mohammad Shafi Naqshbandi is a calligrapher and that’s where from Momin’s calligraphy came from, she believes.

He would often write on the walls with his tiny fair fingers holding crayons.

At present, he wakes up in the morning and says Salam to his mother. Following this routine, he offers prayers, plays with phone or tablet. He studies more and occasionally plays. But, ultimately, as Tehmeena said, he returns back and starts to read books.

Momin likes solitude. Surprised by the changes in him, Tehmeena said, “Nowadays, he likes to listen to music that too, Ghazals. He is going through changes. Yesterday, he bought some meat from the market. That was surprising for me.”

She also said that Momin has made a friend and stays happier than before. She, however, does not know that name of his friend as Momin likes to keep the details to himself.

Tehmeena believes that he is blessed with good writing skills as well. He has been writing diaries since he was in 2nd standard.

“I buy diaries for him on monthly basis. No one is supposed to read them. He gets very angry. But his words, I tell you, are rolled in emotions. Even we don’t understand them,” said Tehmeena.

Momin is an obedient son with a sister Fiza, a bright student and a great artist in the making. He is a sensitive introvert child who needs encouragement and more than that a platform where his teacher would hand him the brushes and not snatch them from him.

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