Jawad Baloch at work.—Photo by writer
Jawad Baloch at work.—Photo by writer

KARACHI: A sketch of Hollywood actor, Morgan Freeman, hangs among other sketches of Pakistani and Indian artistes inside a small workshop owned by Jawad Baloch. The 17-year-old’s workshop in Lyari’s Baghdadi area came into focus recently when some of his ‘seniors’, as he calls them, came to meet him one day and after finding his sketches beautiful, set out to make his work accessible to a wider audience. One of them, he says, shared his picture and work on Twitter and since then Baloch is greeting random visitors wanting to know how they can help him and his work get a larger display.

Baloch is now busy teaching students as young as five and six, the art of sketching. Speaking to Dawn, he smiles every time he is asked about his sketch of Morgan Freeman. “Usually when I draw, it takes me about four to five days to finish it,” he says. “But this one took me a week.”

Other sketches stand out too, as they are either drawn by Baloch’s father, Jan Mohammad, or his teacher and mentor, Prem. Hung together in the workshop, the sketches include a variety of celebrities from Madam Noor Jahan, Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, music composer A.R. Rahman, Naseeruddin Shah, the late politician Benazir Bhutto and spiritual guru Osho.

Currently working on a sketch of Sanjay Dutt, which he had given as an assignment to one of his students, Baloch narrated how he began sketching. “I began five years ago and it’s interesting how my father and I share a similar beginning. We are eight siblings and none of them is drawn towards art. They are creative in their own ways, but not in terms of drawing. The same thing happened to my father. So, when he saw me sketching one day, he urged me to continue,” he said.

Baloch’s father began sketching after leaving school. His grandfather used to repair cycles and since his son was the only one among his children who showed interest in art, he encouraged him to get trained. Jan Mohammad then received training from Sultan, who later married into political activist Lal Bakhsh Rind’s family.

Similarly with Baloch, he found encouragement from his father but found a mentor in his teacher, Prem. He gives equal credit to his teacher and mentor for ensuring that he continued sketching by constantly giving Baloch tips on how to hone his skills.

“He knew that I have talent. I left my studies after completing the tenth standard as I didn’t see a point of continuing. This is what keeps me interested and happy … now that I’m also a teacher,” he says, breaking into a wide smile.

Baloch then pulls out another sketch from a nearby desk of Nana Patekar whom he considers as “one of the best actors at present.” Discussing how much he earns from sketching, he admitted that his earnings are low.

“I usually charge Rs3,000 for an easy one; by easy I mean making a sketch from a photograph. The harder ones are sketches of a bride or any that involve darker shades. I charge Rs5,000 for those. But the thing is, these orders come once or twice a month,” he adds.

Arts and sports went on even when the gang war in Lyari was at its peak in the late 2000s, says journalist Abu Bakar. Kalri, where Jawad lives, used to be a hub of all gang-related activities including road blockades. In such a situation people had made up their minds about which areas to avoid, even those without any barriers. With the general elections of 2013, many people thought the “three MPAs selected in the general elections” would work for the people but ended up being named “the three idiots of Lyari.”

With the Rangers-led operation beginning in September 2013, many of the gangs lost their street power and went into hiding. Although some of them are looking for any opportunity to realign themselves with their rivals in order to maintain visibility.

Choosing not to speak about that part of Lyari, Baloch only spoke about what he wants to do next. “I know I don’t want to study,” he adds laughing. “But I do feel the need to get further training so that I can continue working on my drawings.”

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2017

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