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The ‘Little Dervish’

Benish Ali

She is big on thoughts. Philosophical thoughts.Poetic expression. Her paintings reflect a mystical Sufi world. “Stairs have a great quality. They make you feel elevated and sunken at the same time giving you a better perspective of life,” she tells me with a smile.

I caught up with Badr-u-nissa at her home. She was dabbling at another canvas on the stairs in a corner--her favourite corner.
At 18, Badr’s work has already been displayed in Australia and Turkey. Her inspiration for painting: Whirling Sufi Dervishes that feature as a motif in most of her artwork. “For me the whirling Dervish represents the soul, spirituality, love, and existence of a Divine force. In my paintings they depict my fire. They enflame and extinguish it at the same time.” I see Badr’s face lighting up as she talks about the Dervishes, as if she actually sees them whirling. 

Badr is a keen reader of HabbaKhatoon, LalaDed, Maulana Rumi and other Sufi saints. “They write life. As I read them, I am filled with joy and colours and these take the shape of a painting on my canvas. Their poems and vyakhs seem to explain life from a bigger standpoint.” 
Badr likes to paint in dark colours. “Red and black always help me express myself in a better way,” she tells me as she gets a little sombre. Her painting style is abstract. “I don’t like realistic painting as I feel abstract art gives a lot more freedom and scope for different interpretations.” 


A 12th standard humanities student, Badr-u-nissa aspires to bring a change through her art. “I don’t know why in Kashmir there is so much emphasis on becoming a doctor or engineer. I see my friends studying science glued to their books and always stressed out. But I see the world through a different perspective through my subjects especially literature.”
Badr’s family has given her full freedom to choose her future. “My family is my backbone. They support me in whatever I like to do.” Her mother, Irfana, calls her a ‘little dervish’. “Badr is much focussed and does everything with a lot of determination. She is my pride,” says Irfana.

Badr doesn’t just dabble with colours. Words fascinate her equally. She writes poetry in English and Urdu. Like her paintings, her poetry is ahead of her age. Her poetry struck me with a struggle to give meaning to life and its mysteries.

With several prizes in her kitty, Badr is big on ambitions too. “I want to have my own art gallery and also wish to visit Turkey to see the Whirling Dervishes in action.” 
Does Badr whirl too? She breaks into a smile at this question. “No! Not as such! But yes inside my head and heart I whirl and along with me the whole universe keeps whirling.”

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