‘Always’ evokes memories of our lives and of ourselves. With the world around us and within us changing rapidly, we got chatting with Ms. Wafa Hamid to discuss what this elusive ‘Always’ signifies.
Anushmita: One story that you always associate with childhood.
Lihaaf. Interestingly, but yeah. Why? Do I need to give a why? Because, I feel that children are normally taken as, not adults, people who don’t understand what’s happening around them, and I think a lot of the institutionalized structures that are there in society are deeply embedded in the consciousness of a child and because they’re never explained to the child, because they’re taken as innocent, you sort of discount that. And somewhere I think that children are much more intelligent than they’re given credit for. And also something that’s stayed with me as a student, that’s very different, that portrays the child as a different figure.
Sanna: Ma’am our theme for this issue is ‘Always’. But do you agree with the concept of there being an ‘Always’?
I think ‘Always’ in itself as a concept is something which simultaneously talks about the possibility and the impossibility of ‘Always.’ Because the idea of ‘Always’ already also looks at the fact that there was something before which is no longer there, right? So somewhere or the other it’s very paradoxical. Because ‘Always’ is a very enduring term but it almost always talks about memory. But the very idea of a memory questions the existence of an ‘Always’.
Anushmita : Tell us about one classroom incident that you’ll always remember.
There’s so many of them. It’s difficult to cite one. I could remember, I mean I have memories of people more than instances, which is not to do with events, but how a lot of ties the expression on someone’s face changes. When you see a student look , like really shocked, or someone sleeping and waking up, or being surprised at what happened. That change is what I remember the most, that change in students. I remember, more than incidents, how students have changed over time, and how their reactions have changed over time. That’s what I remember the most.
Sanna: That I guess connects again to the idea of ‘Always’ and memory.
Yeah, because memory is subjective, right? Because when you look at memory, my memory is coloured by what I remember, and memory is never absolute. So I remember my aspect of what happened. So ‘Always’, my ‘Always’ is what I thought at a certain point of time which might not always be there.
Sanna: Ma’am, so coming to subjectivity. These days we’ve had a lot of debates on a lot of areas. So literature and controversies. Literature always has a lot of controversies related to interpretation and what the person actually said. So ideas of censorship and subjectivity, and enduring literature. How do you see the relation?
I think literature is the least controversial of things. It’s the most fundamental of things to talk about and it is the fundamental basics that become controversial. And when you deny fundamental things, or things that become necessary for existence or co-existence, that’s where the very idea comes from. I think when literature becomes controversial, life becomes controversial. Otherwise, when you look at literature, it’s the least controversial thing, because to me literature, how can you exist in a society without literature. And when existing like this becomes controversial, that means there’s something not great happening. But the fact that there are controversies means that there are people saying things. So it shows that times probably are not as good, but it also sort of gives you a hope somewhere, where because a conversation like this is happening . Also it talks about the fact that people are thinking. The very idea of the fact that people are thinking is hopeful.
Anushmita: A very weird dream that you’ve had.
I don’t remember my dreams at all. I wake up and I only remember, “Oh, I thought of someone”, that’s all. But I’ve had a sleep paralysis experience, where you think your mind is awake and you can’t move. So that happened last year, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve experienced where I’m trying to move and I can’t move… You’re awake mentally but physically your mind hasn’t kicked in. it’s mostly scary, that feeling of being caught up in your body, and not being able to do anything.
Anushmita: Like anaesthesia gone wrong.
Yes, exactly. A lot of my friends made fun of me for that.
Sanna: So ma’am, the next few questions are Rapid Fire.
One piece of writing that you always go back to?
Agha Shahid Ali, always.
Any specific piece?
‘Stationery’. The first poem I was introduced to.
Anushmita : One really funny incident that’s happened while you were teaching.
When I was teaching? I think my classes are like a continuation of one funny incident after another happening, just by my being there. Once, for example, in one of my interviews, which was a meeting with the Principal when I was already working… Because I talk like the way I talk, so he asked me if I was a dancer. I said no (laughing). And he said, “No, because of these gestures, it just seems like your students will have a very entertaining class, just looking at you.” So I see myself as more like a clown.
Sanna : What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Always’? (Besides Alan Rickman)
Always? Neruda. He’s written a poem called Always, which I love. Just remember a line or two, which says “We will always be together alone/ We will always be together, you and I/ …in this earth…” So the idea of we being alone… that’s the poem that comes to me.
Anushmita : Your least favourite word.
I’m not sure. I don’t have a least favourite word. I think situations might annoy me, words don’t really have the power unless they’re sort of pronounced by situations. I’ve never thought about that actually, so I have no clue.
Sanna : If you were to describe yourself, is there anything you’re always ___________?
I’m always changing. I’m never the same. I see myself as someone who’s sort of out of time, out of joint in a lot of ways, because I don’t think that any of the terms that are used to define me can really define me. I’m a professor but I don’t feel like one half the time. I’m a student, but I’m also a professor simultaneously. I’m someone who’s a Muslim but I don’t normally practise any of what a Muslim is supposed to practise. I’m someone who is living alone in Delhi, but I’m very happy being alone. So there are a lot of things that end up defining me- terms- and they don’t encompass me as a person. Also, I’m a very impulsive person, half the time I don’t understand myself, and probably that’s one of the reasons why I think that my being is a changing being.
I like being impulsive, and it’s something that’s gotten me into trouble (laughs) but I wouldn’t give it up.
Anushmita: Okay, very essential question now. James Potter versus Severus Snape?
Snape. Snape is what all of us are. I don’t think we’re James Potter at all, I think we’re Snape- we have desires, we try to suppress them, we want to be someone, we end up being someone else, we express ourselves but we’re misunderstood half the time and we don’t live in a perfect world. Our world is the world of Snape, it is imperfect but so beautiful at the same time.