Friday, September 2, 2016

The colorful tale of yellow elephant and flying whale

An inspiring story of Fathima Hakkim, the self-taught artist from Kerala

Student life had always been strainful…  Mugging up lengthy paragraphs and formulas were very difficult... Friends and relatives considered her as a stupid girl… Family doctor termed her quirky behaviors as the symptoms of dyslexia... If it was somebody else they would have gave up and reduced themselves to become one among the crowd... But, Fathima Hakkim belongs to a different breed. She decided to challenge her limitations. Her journey so far has not been that easy. She pushed the boundaries and carved out an identity for herself. This is a story of a girl with a fighting spirit that instills inspiration in us.

With an innocent smile, Fathima started narrating her story, "My mother is a teacher and father is a doctor. I have two brothers and one sister. All my siblings are brilliant in studies. I’m the only exception. I can remember a lot of things. If you tell me 100 names, I can repeat those names. But, it is difficult for me to memorize the multiplication tables. I'm also very bad in directions. If I go somewhere, I would forget the direction from where I came from and where am I supposed to go next. It was even more difficult for me to identify colors. In school, if the teacher asks me to color the elephant black, I would choose some other color.”

 “My teachers and parents had a tough time teaching me. Getting punished by teachers and standing outside the class were the only two things that I remember from my school days, as it was part of my daily routine," Fathima continued.

"As my aversion towards studies continued, my parents took me to the family doctor.  The doctor told us that these are the symptoms of Dyslexia. After that, my parents became very concerned about my studies and future. After a long battle with studies, I finished my schooling and managed to join the Architecture course. Within a few months’ time, my professors in college understood my "brilliance" in studies. They called my mother to the college and asked her to discontinue my studies, as they strongly believed that I'm not capable enough to clear the exams. My mother requested the professors to allow me to continue the studies and she also promised that I would work hard and clear all the exams. Even though I tried really hard, I couldn't clear all my exams. I took me multiple attempts,” said Fathima.

Painting: Where dreams get a new glow

It was really surprising for me to believe how Fathima became a talented painter even after having challenges in identifying the colors. Fathima pushed herself really hard and expanded her horizons to the universe of colors.

"At the age of 5, I took the brush in my hand. As I was neither a bright student nor an active person, I had very limited friends. So, I secluded myself inside my room and started spending time painting. Initially, when my parents saw my over indulgence in painting, they were afraid that it would distract my attention from studies. After a point, when they saw me winning prices in school and state level drawing competitions, they slowly allowed me to pursue my passion for painting,” smiled Fathima. 

“Gradually, painting has become the language I use to express my thoughts. Just by seeing my painting one could guess my thought process. I didn’t take any formal training in painting. Whatever I’m drawing today are the result of my continued effort to improve myself.  I have my unique way of painting. Instead of a brush I use my fingers to draw my paintings. I like to draw on wide canvases fixed to the wall or spread on the floor. All my paintings are the extensions of my dream. You can see giant blue whales flutter their wings and birds swim deep inside the blue ocean,” Fathima took us deep into her world of colors.

“When I gained confidence in painting, I started a Facebook Page and published pictures of my new paintings. After seeing my painting photos on my Facebook page, my fan base increased. One of the art enthusiasts from Thrissur contacted me and asked me whether I’m willing to sell my paintings. Till that time, I never thought of selling my paintings. I never thought that somebody would show interest in buying my paintings. That was the beginning. I started selling my paintings. Six of my paintings are decorating the walls of the new house of Ujala company’s MD Ramachandran. Art enthusiasts from Dubai have also contacted me and bought many of my paintings. Out of surprise, I asked them what is special in my painting. They told me that, when compared to other painters in India, my painting style is unique because of my self-training and entirely different thought process in conceptualizing the themes of each painting. That’s when I realized that my limitations are my strength.  For the first time, I thanked my dyslexia symptoms,” Fathima continued.

“By being a dull student in the class I have not given any proud moment to my parents. Now, they are proud of me, mainly because of my painting skills,” said Fathima in an emotional tone.

A precious gift from god

Marriage was another big challenge for Fathima and she was afraid of that life-long commitment. When her parents started looking for alliances for her, she was very concerned about whether her life partner would be liberal enough to accept her in her originality and allow her to cherish her passion for painting. The families that came up with the alliances were happy to see Fathima’s expertise in painting. But, they clearly said that they don’t want her to continue painting after marriage.

After initial disappointments, Fathima found the right match for her. Last year, Fathima got married to Sameer, who works in Canada. Sameer first saw Fathima from her Facebook page. He liked her paintings and Sameer’s family contacted Fathima’s family.  During the conversation with Sameer, Fathima listed down all the negative things about her dyslexia symptoms. With a lot of patience, Sameer listened to what Fathima said. Fathima expected that he would walk back after hearing all the negative things about her. But, Sameer looked at her and with a smile he asked her “Okay. Let us stop talking about negative things. Shall we talk about the positive things,” that is where their relationship started...

When commenting about Sameer, Fathima said, “I consider Sameer as God’s gift to me. Our combination is unique. I’m a dreamy person. Sameer is very practical. Once we both were standing on a bridge. I felt like flying and I even told him, “Shall we fly down together all the way from this bridge,” he didn’t consider that as a crazy thought. He replied saying, “'It will be even more interesting if we fit in a parachute before flying down the bridge’. After marriage, he went back to Canada. Once I told Sameer that, I love to look at the shiny stars glittering on a moon-lit night. On my first birthday after marriage, he sent me a surprise gift – a telescope.”

When we spoke to Sameer, we realized that Sameer is undoubtedly an encouraging husband. “Fathima is a real motivation for people with Dyslexia. She didn’t get the painting skills as an inborn gift. She has rigorously practiced and developed her skill in painting. Now, she has created an identity for herself. It is a laudable achievement. I’m doing all that I can do to motivate her to realize all her dreams.”

Fathima wants her painting to help the society. In collaboration with other artists, Fathima has conducted a painting exhibition to help blood cancer patients in Kerala. She celebrates her birthdays in orphanage and old age homes.

As part of her Architecture course, Fathima had to submit a thesis. While her classmates were very keen on submitting commercial projects, Fathima selected a project that focused on creating a self-sustainable village for abandoned people. In her concept village, each house will have an elderly person from an old age home, an orphan from the orphanage and a member of women self-help group to support them.

Each house will function like a family with a perfect combination of an elder and young person. This would give each person a great relief as they will be part of a family. The women self-help group would help the village to become self-sustainable. The long-term vision of this project and the moral boost it brings to those abandoned people were well appreciated by the government authorities and the external examiners. Fathima's self-sustainable village project was considered as the best project of the year. Fathima would like the government to take this idea further and make it a reality for the benefit of those abandoned people who are leading painful lives.

Fathima has a big dream. She wants to draw more paintings. She wants to conduct more exhibitions. She wants to sell her paintings all across the global. With all that money she wants to buy a big house overlooking the sea. It would be a bright house with a lot of windows. Elderly people from old age homes and kids from orphanages would stay together as a big family in that house.  Early morning and in moonlit night Fathima and her husband with all those extended family members would go for a long walk on the wet seashore. Their laughter should be louder than those rumbling waves.

We have seen artists do painting for a living. But, Fathima is making her life a beautiful painting that is sure to leave an everlasting impression in others. 

1 comment:

glo said...

Whoa. Gorgeously done blog post with an inspiring story. I hope Fathima gets all her dreams.