A Lacanian Obituary: Remembering Aijaz ul Haque – Mirror Stage Lacanian Perspective


M. Tariq Qureshi

Aijaz ul Haque was a wonderful person. Alas! he is no more. Mortality is the blessing or the curse attached to all creation. There is the promise of life hereafter but that’s another story. Every individual can be assessed from a Lacanian perspective. However, some fit in better than others. The late Aijaz falls in the category of a better fit. This treatise may be viewed as an obituary or a summing up of a person’s profile.

The mirror stage is the time in Lacanian thought when a child becomes conscious of his being. Humans are remarkably developed at the age of three years. Almost all their faculties which become prominent in later life have already taken shape. The subject of our study, Aijaz, was no different. Mirror stage individuals depict a childlike innocence and fascination for ideals. The child develops the capacity of looking at himself and feels gratified at the self-image. Prior to that stage, he is amorphous, semi formed, malleable, pliable and a thing to be cuddled just as we toy with plasticine. Until the mirror stage, his soft bearing is open to shaping and reshaping. As he lacks permanence, he does not have a real shape. The contours are at best suggestive of what he is going to grow into. Hence his reluctance or hesitation to look at himself in the mirror. There is the lurking fear that what he might see is a grotesque picture, suggested by the subconscious memory harbouring thousands of years of fearful existence. As he becomes firm and capable of standing on his two’s, he develops the Lacanian gaze. He looks at himself and tries to understand each part of his body. Starting from the hair, he goes down. In the process he realises that one particular part of the body when touched, gets stimulated and gives pleasure in a manner that no other part does. The genitals for both sexes become the focus of attention. Aijaz was one highly stimulated bloke.

This stimulation he personified in his two marriages and myriads of amorous shenanigans. To sustain such a life style he became a poet. He addressed the object of his desire (objet petit a) in the Urdu language. My first acquaintance with him was in 1972 when I went for military training to a place known as Lower Topa, located near Murree (according to one tradition, the British gave this name on the supposition that the Virgin Mary took refuge in these mountains when faced with persecution by the Romans). Topa had virgin nature with mists and cloudy skies. There on a flattop was a training school. Aijaz was the English teacher and my course in charge. He was kind, affectionate, sophisticated, opinionated and fascinated by everything that reflected beauty in some shape. He was more Greek than Roman. My course mate Anjum Hassan Syed became his instant favourite. Blessed with a fair complexion like Aijaz, he too was a poet and had a melodious voice. I was not the type Aijaz would really savour. Yet, he did like me and almost till his end he had a teacher’s admiration.

The mirror stage child has a limited but ever expanding vocabulary. Aijaz could use words beautifully; more so in Urdu than in English. Language is like the genitals a stimulating arena. Like the phallus it has to be tapped to become functional. No individual is endowed with an ever-flowing linguistic proficiency. Whether the aim is to write a poem or a piece of prose, the mind has to be triggered into action. So expression is sex by other means. Aijaz was charged with the need to find an outlet for his overpowering emotions. At Topa I found him always erect and straight. In the class he was all kindness and eager to receive our warm embrace for his compulsive indulgence in our well-being. To my last day I shall be obliged to this likable mirror stage character.

Mirror stage people while complete in most ways remain incomplete. There are stages beyond which they have not striven for. For good reason there is this lack which they sustain. By remaining in this blessed stage, they have the advantage of both the worlds. They can experiment in sex because technically they are kids and cannot be held accountable for their deeds. They can reach and penetrate the two genders depending on their mood. Aijaz had extended reach when it came to liking or disliking some one. He could both love profoundly and hate profoundly. I was lucky to be loved by him but there were many others whom he hated. The behaviour that Aijaz depicted could be naïve, subtle and direct.

After Topa I did not see Aijaz much. Our lives and paths got separated. Never did we work together or shared the same location. In spite of that the first association of six months was enough to last some three and a half decades. Of course we were in touch with each other through other means. He would always encourage and advise me to undertake intellectual pursuits. Intellect has a close resemblance to sexual urge. Seldom have you come across an intellectual who is sexually reticent. Aijaz was not a profound thinker because profundity is outside the domain of a mirror stage guy. He was firm, strict and stubborn. When he expired a few days back due to complications of prostrate cancer, there was so much growth that was left incomplete in him. One finds a certain paradox in his demise. The apparatus harbouring his genitals that were his strength became his undoing. What a pity it is that in the mirror we see a deceptive form of reality. It shows less and hides more. In this age of deeper probes, CAT SCAN (computerized axial tomography), PET (positron emission tomography) do we still restrict ourselves to the mirror or is there a need to have a fresh look at growth psychology. When that happens, a second obituary on Aijaz would be in place. Till then God bless.