When she struggles to articulate her innermost thoughts to the people who matter deeply, Arisha Akhir resorts to taking the literary route – writing her feelings in prose. The 33-year-old teacher, writer and poet, often feels that saying something verbally lacks depth. Nothing beats saying something in the written word.
“Sometimes, it’s just hard to tell it like it is, to relate the painful truth. And sometimes, saying thank you just doesn’t seem enough for me ... I have to put it in writing,” said the Piscean.
Writing became a means to an end for her in expressing herself. When her mother (after numerous threats, one would assume) suddenly confiscated her staple reading diet, her cache of Archie comic books, she attempted to exact her own form of revenge – creating stories plucked from her imagination.
“I was always a very competitive child, so when those comics were taken away from me, I decided, I would make up and write my own stories,” she expressed, laughing in incredulity.
When Archie-inspired stories only took her so far, the fledgling writer reached out for the classics while in high school, gorging on the likes of Virgin Suicides and To Kill A Mockingbird. She then stumbled upon Paulo Coelho’s renowned The Alchemist.
Thus began her unending love affair with the Brazilian’s works. Soon after, her reading habits arrived at a spiritual plain, when Persian poets, including Rumi, Hafez and Kahlil Gibran, captivated her psyche ... and soul.
While it may seem far more difficult to the uninitiated, Arisha feels it’s easier to put a piece of poetry together, compared to writing a story because brevity is in order. “I also like poetry because it’s open-ended, and often left to interpretation,” she offered her take.
The KL-born writer has two poetry books to her name, Uncertainty (2014) and Still (2015), both released independently. She recalls how her previous job in the banking line was so soul-sapping that she sought a creative outlet, putting her downtime to good use by writing poetry. “When I had bound that first collection, I ran home to show it to my mum, who suggested the ingenious idea of turning it into a book,” she said, crediting her mother for her becoming a published author today. Her third book, a collection of Malay poetry, Rahsia, should see the light of day by the final quarter of the year.
Arisha also teaches elementary school, where she enjoys the role of storyteller. “Sometimes, I’m also invited to tell stories at kids’ events. It’s fun because I get to wear a fairy’s hat, or ride a witch’s broom,” she said in stitches.
A day in her life can begin as early as 6am, when she drives to school. Midday could find her working on a piece of poetry ... when inspiration strikes, with the day concluding at a recital.
'Art is subjective'
Wearing her heart on her sleeve, or in this case, putting it out there in written form, draws a variety of feedback, from the good, the bad and right down to the ugly. “But I take it all in ... art is subjective after all. And because there are people out there who like what I do, that’s enough for me to continue doing what I love,” she said with conviction.
Ultimately, what keeps her satisfied is human interaction. “Happiness is best shared. I feel that being able to make just that one person smile in a day, now, that’s what it’s all about.”
The year-end bonuses of the corporate world may have dried up, but like her late father always reminded her, “Duit boleh dicari (money can be found).” And so Arisha continues with her passion.