A LOST COUSIN OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI, MUHAMMED RAFI ENGINEER
ADVISER, AND MINISTER OF SHAH SAUD AND CUSTODIAN OF HIS NINE SONS
The brothers of Chiragh Bibi were all talented people and worked in the Indian Railways. They were involved in various engineering feats, and their talent was used in the coronation darbar of King George in Delhi in 1911. Elahi Baksh was the most talented brother of them all. The children of these brothers were talented too, but none rose to the prominence of Muhammed Rafi. His talent was brought to the notice of the Saudi King, and on Royal command, Muhammed Rafi electrified Mecca and Madina, and even was responsible for an initial rail track on same. Shah Saud trusted him deeply and at time, Muhammed Rafi had the custody of his many sons. Relatives remember how once Muhammed Rafi brought the Saudi Princes to Lahore and they lived in the house of Gulzar Chughtai, another person related to M.A, Rahman Chughtai.
Muhammed Rafi had a house in Crown Bus Stand Lahore, and it was maintained for many years. The paintings presented by M.A. Rahman Chughtai were either stolen or distributed to family, who had no rapport with same. He was also involved with the Pakistani movement and was friendly to Sir Abdul Qadir, editor of Makhzan magazine. Sir Abdul Qadir was father of foreign minister Manzoor Qadir.
The services of Muhammed Rafi were recognized by the Saudi Government and he was blessed with favours many times. Once a Rolls Royce was presented to Muhammed Rafi as a gift, but as he had no money to pay the Customs duty, it went back. He was married a few times and some of his wives and children were on a Royal pension all the time. He also married a Turkish girl and had children from the same wife. Many of their close relatives read this blog and can update details of the family which we may not know. All obsessed with westernization have lost their roots to Pakistan.
CHIRAGH BIBI MOTHER OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI ARTIST
SOME EXCEPTIONAL EPISODES IN LIFE OF MOTHER AND SON
Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar father of M.A. Rahman Chughtai died in 1913 in Lahore and was buried in Miani Qabarastan Lahore. Chiragh Bibi, his second wife, died in 1925, on the 27th of Ramazan. The widow was left with three sons to rear and with no resources at their disposal. The estimated age of the sons at the time of death of their father was around 16, 13 and 10 years. The eldest Muhammed Hussain was on his own from the start. People owed Kareem Baksh money but no one came forward to give same. Gradually the property owned by them started getting sold as was expected in that times.
The rebellion of M.A. Rahman Chughtai was not a rebellion but an assertion of his personality. The parents remember that as a young child , the family was going to a wedding and put on some clothes for the son. The son refused to wear those clothes and when forced to do so, was not willing to go to the marriage. The young son was left crying at the stairs for he was aghast at the clothes chosen for him.
M.A. Rahman Chughtai was as such not adjusted in his teens. His creativity was bouncing out of him and in his seventh class, he ran away from home with some other boys of the mohalla Chabuk Sawaran. The destination Karachi to be part of some theatrical company. It was in those times that Chiragh Bibi made a strange analysis of him. She would utter out loud that instead of him, Allah should have blessed her with a CHATOO WATA (Mortar and pestle), for then at least he could have been of some use. She could never realize at that time what kind of a son she was nurturing, who would rock the world of art in no time.
Chiragh Bibi was so happy when her son became an instructor in Photo-lithography at Mayo School of Arts for Rs 30 per month. But her contentment was for a short period. Irritated with the manipulation of Samarendranath Gupta, Lionel Heath questioned his integrity at matter of a school leave. At the questioning of his integrity, Chughtai resigned from Mayo School of Art and said goodbye to the salary of Rs 30 per month, which was phenomenal for those times. This was the second shock that the son gave to his impoverished mother. There was no other support for the family. But the son boldly said to his mother, not to worry at all. The sun will shine all new in the future.
And it did indeed. A the very first exhibition of M.A. Rahman Chughtai in 1920 at the Lahore Museum, all the works got sold and he was able to raise 2625 Rs. He brought all to his mother and she could not believe as to what had happened to their luck. Indeed Chughtai took care of her mother like a devoted son. Once she was sick and he was by her bed side all night, with a glass of water, she wanted to drink but fell asleep before that. Her eldest son had proved to her the mettle of an artist. Chiragh Bibi was so proud of him and never uttered words against him. In fact it was on her mouth now that with the turban on his head, as he would walk the mohalla, the ladies would swoon at the handsome young man. Strange words for an elderly woman.
A piece of art advice was given by the mother to the son. She said the water you use for painting is often muddled with colour. Always use fresh clean water for your work, and there would no no parallel to your creative output. Well said!
The Wembley show in 1924 brought more finances to the house. But the mother died in 1925. It was his first wife Wazeer un nisa who managed the house now, with two other brothers, their wives and children. A couple Ama Tabi and her husband, Kashmeeri muhajirs also lived with them. According to her wishes she was buried with her husband Mian Kareem Baksh as well as the first wife of Mian Kareem Baksh. In Miani graveyard today the graves are of Mian Kareem Baksh, his two wives and the eldest son Muhammned Hussain. We try to maintain the graves for posterity. We also maintain old utensils used by Chiragh Bibi in her kitchen and even today the atta dough is kneaded in the copper thal (vessel) she left behind. A number of other thals, parats, are there too. Blessings of Allah be upon her who gave the world an exceptional Artist and a very honest person, forward thinking in all ways. An Iqballian to the core of his heart.
AN INTERESTING RECORD IN AMERICAN NARRATIVE OF QUESTIONING MINDS
GUY DAVENPORT, HUGH KENNER AND PAKISTANI ARIF RAHMAN CHUGHTAI
Flashback of the past. A narrative of Questioning minds with reference to Arif Rahman Chughtai, as the Guru of Lahore. Letters of Davenport and Kenner. American iconic philosophers refer to Pakistani questioning mind. And this was in 1974, in the life time of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. A writing career of the person, and an attempt in sharing thoughts with international icons. Well done Pakistan!
Books, research books, poetry books, more than 500 blog articles, and extensive analysis of Pakistan’s history and Art. That is Arif Rahman Chughtai today. There are numerous references of other intellectuals of the world. Sharing them in future.
A WAVE OF PAKISTANI PAINTERS WHO JUMPED ON TO THE BAND WAGON OF THE WEST FOR REASONS
CAN SUCH IMITATION EVER PRODUCE GREAT ART? OR SET NEW TRENDS IN INNOVATION-AL TRADITIONS
ONLY TIME TOLD AND ONLY TIME WILL TELL THE HISTORICAL GAFFE IN ART OF PAKISTAN, WE DO KNOW
ART IN PAKISTAN AND PAKISTANI ART ARE REALLY TWO DIFFERENT THINGS AND IT IS UNDERSTOOD BY ALL
The direction of the Ideology of Pakistan was as clear as crystal. International lobbies understood this well. There was need to displace everything that had ideological mooring. Art was under direct scrutiny. A group of young artists were engendered, imported and forced onto the audience. Their claim was very wide. Western art was to be forced onto Pakistan by imitating it in one way or the other. Even their costumes reflected same in shape of jeans, french beards and smoking pipes. Natural preferences unaccounted. Modern artists wished to give modern images of themselves. Another great change was the shift of water colour painting to oil based works in Pakistan. Various artists handled it in their way, but certainly they were being patronized to upset the existing reality. The 1949 grand show of Chughtai artist upset-ed Shemza. Anwar Jalal Shemza boldly said at Alhamra that he was there to uproot Chughtai artist, and he was heard not by few, but even by my cousin, who tells me the same all the time. Although Chughtai does not take the name, an attendant (guess whom?) of a lecture, he gave at Alhamra, heckled him about his art being Indian and not Pakistani. The reply of the artist was simple, “It was Chughtai Art then, it is Chughtai Art now!”. Did they achieve their goal? They tried their best, now lobbies are trying their best for them.
In Giza Egypt various mummies of Pharaohs are studied every day. Newer and newer research is done. But the mummies are dead. Their art keeps interest in them alive. The Pharaohs left plenty art for study. Pakistani artists of that period left little at all. In recent years western scholarship is working on the remnants of art left by the modern movement in Pakistan. Very little indeed. Interesting I had an opportunity to talk with some of those who are trying to revitalize the mummies of that period of art. One is certainly Ms Simone Wille with her book on Modern Art in Pakistan. She does mention the stereotype of Chughtai’s connection with Calcutta (hundred percent false) but had to mention the concept of Punjab School and Lahore too. I sent her relevant things but she did not avail them at all, for her own reasons. However she did assert Chughtai as ” the first artist to anticipate a Muslim cultural position”, absolutely correct. Gemma Sharpe, a very interesting English girl working in New York is working on modern art, including Shemza, and others. Working on the miraculous power of the kind of Jesus Christ, she wants to blow life in the left overs of that period. Best of luck to her! Shakir Ali the doyen of them all had a heart attack at YMCA on 18th January, 1975, while addressing a condolence seminar on Chughtai artist. He did not recover from that attack, but did utter the words, “If this was done to Chughtai, what would they do to me?” Moyene Najmi too ran a gallery for some time. His able and beloved wife Atiya carried him through various storms. Indeed Moyene Najmi was a gentleman and I met him various times at the Punjab Council of Arts. Ali Imam’s art gallery collapsed, and he made his living selling art of others. But he freaked out many times in his analysis of Chughtai art (the ridiculous conclusion about the bangles on a lady’s arm), and I discussed it with him in Karachi in Indus Gallery, and this was told to me by owner of Dawn, who visited us once here with another lady. In fact he was trying to buy a Chughtai painting from a collector which was a family heirloom in Hyderabad Deccan, as told to me by Nusrat ullah Shah, also originally from same place.
We used to hear all the time a saying of our culture and that was “Dhobi ka kuta na ghar ka na ghat ka”, and we tried to understand the implicit message. There was confusion in many people, their direction was not clear. They were stupefied by environmental pressure. True Masters do not get swayed by circumstances. They stick to their guns (brushes) all the time. The clarity of vision is always there. You can never be a Van Gogh just by calling yourself Van Gogh. Pablo Picasso was an exceptional draftsman, and he mocked people all the time. No relation to any local rebel in art.
Is M.A. Rahman Chughtai no more? Certainly his art is living as he himself would want it. Going forward with time. Dr Iqbal’s Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam is evident in the paintings of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. Evolution of Islamic art through innovation. Cubism, Vorticism, Picasso and what not, were in no way Pakistan. Nor is Post-modernism. Nor any fad that West may impose on us. The list is numerous, the results are zero for ourselves. Our naqashi patterns can make fun of Suprematism any time. Neo-colonialism does not work at all. We went to our roots and evolved with time in newer and newer grafts on the evergreen plant of our art. Imitation can actually never be great art. From Mani to Behzad to Mansoor to Chughtai, we have it all. Blowing horns of other civilizations is a joke on our society.
Dr Allama Iqbal in a comment on Art, simply said:
“O Wise ones! It is well to have a thirst for knowledge,
But what is in art that faileth to grasp the reality of things.
The object of all art is to attain the warmth of life immortal.
What availeth a spasm or two that vanish like a spark!
Without a miracle nations cannot rise-
What is art without the striking power of the Moses staff!”
QAZI AHMAD ISLAMIC HISTORIAN OF PAINTERS AND CALLIGRAPHERS
MOST IMPORTANT SOURCE OF ORIGINAL INFORMATION ON ISLAMIC ARTS
There is no doubt that there is total lack of professionalism related to Art in Pakistan as well as our history of art. Like our landay bazaar politicians, our art historians (with exception of some few in the past) are totally devoid of art knowledge. Coupled with this they have no ability to look at art. The fake journalists who cover Pakistani Art Shows are in the same moronic line as our chief guests who stroll in front of each painting, nodding their heads as thy may have grasped the intricacies of the painting in depth. In fact it is difficult nowadays to even find a VIP willing to inaugurate an Art show. M.A. Rahman Chughtai used to say if he had spent a lot of time in making a painting, the viewer can spend some time in looking at it, to discover its various meanings and symbolism. He cited the example of European viewers of art who stand in front of a paintings for days or even months to grasp its totality, as he himself saw in Europe, mainly London and Paris. The journalists who cover the Art shows have no knowledge of art and are there for the refreshments being served or even actual monetary payments. Many Art galleries in Lahore have such people on their pay roll to advertise their things.
A very original and important source of history of Islamic painting is a manuscript of a book written by Qazi Ahmad son of Mir Munshi in 1606 AD. And he has a lot of things to tell us, and most authentic in all ways. Only three manuscripts known, which were translated by a Russian Scholar. Extremely rare information on painters, and states that Hazrat Ali (Blessings) beat the Chinese Masters at the profession of Calligraphy, gilding and painting. A worthy read for any researcher, very rarely available. We are proud to present an extract for the consumption of those who appreciate art knowledge. Enjoy!
THE JOURNAL OF EDWARD TERRY CHAPLAIN OF SIR THOMAS ROE
TALKS MOSTLY OF HINDUSTAN ONLY A CHAPTER ON JAHANGEER
Cultures do clash, and generate complexities of inferiority complexes, and to wriggle their way out, confuse other nations, by literally distorting the truth. The legend is of the travel of Sir Thomas Roe to Hindustan as the Ambassador of England. The talk is of a journal, which was actually never found and consisted of a portion, some letters here and there. Even a partial Dutch translation. A portion was published, but the full journal was not there. Imagine such an important colonial evidence could only be published in 1899, that is around 300 years after the actual travelogue. In our view it is a manipulated journal. The journal is at odd with other journals of the period. We need not comment on same here. We find actual publication of the travelogue of Edward Terry who was chaplain of Sir Thomas Roe, who visited (or wrote about) Hindustan in 1655 and 1665, reputed to be presented to the Prince of Wales in 1622, and amazing it speaks of the geography of Hindustan and devotes only a chapter to Emperor Jahangeer. Jyotsna G. Singh calls it colonial ethnography and out rightly says:
“I have nothing to plead for this presumption but the Novelty of my Subject, in which I confess some few have prevented me, who by traveling India in England, or Europe, have written somewhat of those remotest parts but like unto poor Tradesmen who take up wares in trust, have been deceived themselves, and do deceive of others.”
There are a few engravings in the journal. Foremost is to comment on the portraiture of Emperor Jahangeer himself. Although at first sight it looks like a Mughal subject (from some miniature), many things are wrong in it. Jahangeer’s hair style is all weird with hair going up to his neck and the crown is all wrong, alienated from the Mughal perspective. The portrayal of Jahangeer with a smelling Rose is to be borrowed from the miniature of the Turkish Sultan Muhammed, which was done by Western artists too. Look a the dagger, a stiletto with no base for the Mughals. It seems that surely Edward Terry never saw actually the Emperor and wrote about him from street gossips as it was fashionable for foreigners to do at that time.
When these foreigners could not get to the truth, they invented tales. Foremost was their dirty mind which slung slanders on all Mughals including the Kings and the ladies of the harem. William Finch accused Jahangeer of having an illicit relation with his step mother and innovated the fake legend of Anarkali. Creating scandals about all the Muslims ladies, and hurling abuses at them. Emperor Shah Jahan was accused of incest after the death of his beloved wife. It seems that their mind was full of cheapness, and they had no access to the Courts at all. Legend has it that some of these people would get to the roof of the church in Lahore to steal a look of the Mughal Ladies in their harem, and a Royal order was issued that they were not allowed to access the roof of the church, which was at a higher place and showed private quarters in the fort. Francois Bernier would follow the caravan of Mughal princesses to steal a look of them. History is reported by him on his own:
It was with difficulty, he writes, that these ladies could be approached; they were almost inaccessible to the sight of man. “Woe to any unlucky cavalier, however exalted in rank, who, meeting the procession, was found too near, nothing could exceed the insolence of the tribes of eunuchs and footmen which he would have to encounter, and who eagerly avail themselves of such an opportunity to beat a man in the most unmerciful manner.”
In fact Francois Bernier was himself was once nearly caught in a similar situation, and narrowly escaped the cruel treatment that other riders in the imperial train had experienced. Determined, however, not to suffer himself to be beaten, and perhaps maimed, he drew his sword, and having fortunately a strong and spirited horse, was enabled to open a passage, sword in hand, through a host of assailants and to dash across a rapid stream in front of him. Stalking a Mughal lady was not without danger.
Such flabbergasting stories as Mughal princess’s lover caught, who hid himself in a cooking vessel (degh). Emperor Aurangzeb had boiling water poured in the degh and the lover died in it, without uttering a sound to save his beloved. Filthy minds, outrageous suggestions.
An objective study needs to be carried out of the activities of these Goras in Hindustan, instead of romanticizing their presence here.