The evening of 17th January, 1975, saw M.A. Rahman Chughtai breathed his last breath, in the arms of his wife Kishwar Iqbal Bano. A robust artist was reduced to multiple issues at the hands of an unkind world. The family was left in a total lurch, with most of his property having been grabbed by tenants, so called relatives and land grabbers. And then a financial vacuum surrounded the immediate family. Lobbies were activated to defuse Chughtai Art forever at the hands of iconic cultural consultants. No way out could be seen.
In the tradition of the last hand shake of Dr Allama Iqbal with M.A. Rahman Chughtai, the artist called me in the morning and held my hand and would not let it go. In just a few days I wrote a small pamphlet entitled YOU DO WHILE I LOOK THE OTHER WAY. I had seen my father cry in his last days, crying not for me or his family, but for the legacy of his art, which he realized was probably doomed forever. Of course we would not let him and his art falter at the hands of the philistines of the cruel wold. But how?
Condolences were received from Chief Minister Hanif Ramay and Governor Punjab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi, as well as Minister for Education Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, besides Prime Minister of Azad Kashmeer. The cultured Prime Minister had no time for any condolence as well as the stooge President of Pakistan. Except for Prime Minister Azad Kashmeer, all the others were manipulating the situation in their favour. Greed enveloped them completely.
Our resentment was obvious. A number of telegrams were sent all over the world to people who had access to Chughtai Art. The result was unprecedented. Condolences were received from many Heads of State, and that included President of West Germany Walter Scheel, Queen Elizabeth II of England, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, Vice President Nelson A Rockefeller of USA, US State Department Peter Constable, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada, as well as people like Secretary General of U.N.O, Dr Kurt Waldheim. This was very embarrassing for the people in power here. Those were the days of telegrams and letters, unlike the fast communication world of today. It took time but the results were effective. The Government in power was confused beyond limits.
Office was started from our home and we named it as CHUGHTAI ACADEMY OF ARTS. A small room was used as office and some people used to turn up. Some for condolence, some with bright ideas. Hardly anyone with words of encouragement. The museum site was occupied by 12 families inside the building and about 200 land grabbers outside the premises. The walls were broken and there was no gate. No electricity, not even water. It dismaying picture, when people would stone our coming, and bring out their dandas (huge sticks) and threaten us openly. The details are horrifying. Suffice that we held our first show on the open lawns in our premises under tents and our guests were numerous. Our Chief Guest was Irish scholar of Islamic Arts Dr James Dickie or Dr Yakub Zaki, converted to Islam. A number of Pakistanis were there, and that included Hafeez Jullundri, Dr Muhammed Baqir, Ghulam Ahmad Pervez, Justice S.A. Rahman, Ibadat Brelvi and many others. Hafeez Jullundri recited the National Anthem in his own words as well as a poem he had written on Chughtai artist, that is CHUGHTAI, ABDUR RAHMAN. The audience wept with him at the behaviour of the government in power. But we were on our way.
Dr Muhammed Baqir had the last word when he said to the audience (sizable indeed): You people will go away, do you realize what this young man will feel when he will be collecting all these chairs. Alone and abandoned. We remember a movie by Kirk Douglas that is “Lonely are the brave”. I was required to be brave to face the future. Forty four years later the bravery is still challenged every day.