an obituary

Rahla Mohammed Usman

A few years ago, I came across a story on instagram and then when I was scrolling through her account, there was this one picture that impacted me, so profoundly at that moment, that it stayed with me for a long long time.

A picture of her eyes, tear filled, draped in red.

That was the first time that I saw a strong emotion in some one’s eyes, the kind that I had only read about. That was a day I realized again, that my words would speak even after I had gone from the world.

I read all her words, she wrote so well. I read that she wanted to be remembered even after her death.

That was the first time I used my art to do an obituary.

“one day,
everything will
come to an end.
and you will taste
every fruit of your deeds.”

– Rahla Mohammed Usman (@apapermask)

In loving memory of a girl, who will live in me.


years later I will think of an year, of days that failed to make a presence, of random memories, but not a flash of my face, of a time that went missing, heavy with the absence of it // 2020.

And the post, because I am high on words and inspiration to write and make art but swamped with work that never actually gets done.

rat races

For quite sometime now, Instagram feels like a rat race to me. One where I am forced to keep up. One where I might just become hidden and lose everything that I have painstakingly put out there and built. One that makes me feel so unworthy. One that makes me feel so old school. One that makes me feel like I am mocking my relations. One that makes me feel like I have no relations. One that seems to be crippling my talents. Constantly questioning and forever not enough. One with a lot of strategies. One that makes me even fear the idea of going for a social media detox. How will I get my orders? How will I connect with other people? How will I merge back? What if I miss a lot? What if I am never able to recognize it after my break?

Well, every night I promise myself that I will never check my Instagram before I go to sleep. Everyday, after my little victories I think I deserve that. To go to bed, believing that I have done something worthwhile with my time, however little. To go back to bed, hoping I have done my talents a little justice.

It’s messed up. Totally.
I thought I could untangle it, but by far, I have proven myself wrong, every single day.

ministry of utmost happiness

It took three years for the time to be right for this one. This was the first book that Ishak gifted me and he wrote a little note inside – ‘For always staying happy, For always being you’. It’s been a constant conscious pursuit of it both ever since I have known myself – of happiness and of myself.

And like I always believe, that with books, there is always a time for each and every one of them. I think I am constantly telling myself to extend that to everything in my life. All that I dream of, all that I try to make sense of, and all that I battle.

To the rightest of times.


In this perfect alternate world, where the world is peaceful and I am routinely disciplined, my course isn’t this messed up and hell bent on making my life stressful, there is a Delhi. A Delhi which I would go out to every evening after my class. Seeking and seeing, absorbing in all it’s life. I would walk around and around, with no fear within me. I would search within the depths of it’s markets, to stock up on my lifelines. Daryaganj would still have been that footpath laden and loaded with all things words and dear. The laps of histories,  manifestations of stories lived and living, a city so huge, breathing in and in. The city of nine cities that it has lived in it’s lifetime that humans know of, it’s strewn with bits and pieces of its pasts – one of the Lalkot, one of the Tughlakabad, another of the firozabad, of the siri, of the jahanpanah, of the dinpanah, of the shahjahanabad and of the british. But the delhi that you see now is that of a partition – of hearts, homes and souls. It carries all of this in spirit, constantly confused, terribly fused together.

It’s been almost 5 months. 
You see I have a love hate relationship with a city that I so fondly call dilli.

lost homes

Every night, for the past few days, when I get ready to sleep past midnight, mentally trying to make sense of all the work that I am to finish the next day, there is this particular change in the atmosphere of my room, that takes me back to a familiar place, a certain calmness taking hold of me. It gives me that feeling of being back in my room in Riyadh and it takes me back to my childhood, to the place where I grew up, to a home that has been for far greater years than here. I haven’t missed Riyadh in a long time now, but today,  after I finished my Isha prayer, sitting on my rug, my room again transformed into that space that I was familiar with, I suddenly started crying. I miss Riyadh so much. I miss that familiarity. I miss not having what I grew up with around me. I miss this lost sense of home, this incomplete bits and pieces of memories that I am never able to recollect, terrifyingly disappearing off my mind. The most heart breaking thing is that, I will never ever feel my childhood again, Riyadh has changed, all that and whom I grew up with has all disappeared. It will only exist in my memories, which fails me each and every passing day.

I hate this incompleteness of my past, of what I am, of where I come from, this feeling of not feeling whole in a place that is supposed to be your home.

for the longest of time

For the longest of time, I remember a little ten year old, in her favorite book shop, browsing through the titles of encyclopedias, thinking hard, on which she wanted.

For the longest of time, I remember her, watching her father pay almost a sum of 5000 rupees, for all that she had chosen. She loved her dad and she couldn’t wait to get home.

For the longest of time, I remember her setting up her first library in the little room that she had, carefully arranging them in categories.

For the longest of time, I remember her sitting with a book and a cup of fruit yogurt after lunch, wrapped in her blanket, the afternoon sun shining through the sole window to her right. She would read for half an hour and then take her nap.

For the longest of time, I remember, there was this one poster which she had found in a magazine, that inspired her to get going during her school days – the poster of a girl with a graduation cap.

For the longest of time, I remember, even when she lost the will to read and learn somewhere down the lane, she watched her treasured books waiting, not knowing how she had walked so far away.

For the longest of time, I remember, she would buy and buy, all that she wanted to know about, with all that she could afford, with the hope that she would come back again, to the world that she never realized that she had chosen to chase.

For the longest of time, I remember her standing in front of it all, her little space, that made her feel belonged, that made her feel herself.

For the longest of time, I remember and now realize, that it has always been the light of ilm (knowledge) that kept her going. Even when she feels burdened by all that she wants to know, all that she wants to read, tired of telling her heart, that she needs to take it slow, there is a light now, so clear, beckoning her, like it used to.

I now feel like her, this girl who I have remembered for the longest of time.

Barakallah. 🖤

a day of being me

I started my day with this note from her,

U know we met only for once and that too on a very strange gathering where we couldn’t even get to recognize each other though we talked bits and shits. For me you always seemed so poised and self-contained in your works. Be it an art work, or some scribbles its just that you speak what you wanna speak and the accomplishment is always what you are concretely willing to declare which takes so much courage and enthusiasm. I was literally startled at times you acts so sorted, your words so culminating and kind of evolved Ma Sha Allah. I am soo soo proud of you. You are so classy my champ I love you.

And ended my day with this one from another,

“Oh love, I asked for a drop and you gave me the whole sea.”

It’s beautiful, what one can achieve with a little trust and a few words. And also with the knowledge that, we matter.

Yesterday, after a long time, I lived a day of being me.
Thank you (you know who you are).

dilli nights

I drew this for a 2020 Calendar sketch series on Dilli. I could never bring about to finish that project because it didn’t feel right, I didn’t feel well. A lot of things happened in Dilli, the protests, the pogrom and so many things that took a toll. So yeah there is no calendar or anything, but now I know Dilli as so much more than it’s bits of histories.

So here is one, from the unfinished Calendar series on dilli.

This is the library and observatory in Purana Qila from which Humayun fell down the stairs to his death. I had a vision of how it would be on a starry night, reading from there, looking out, with a little breeze.