TRACING REMNANTS, AND PUTTING A BLUE PLAQUE TO ANCESTRAL HOME OF CHUGHTAI ARTIST
CONGRATULATIONS TO MS FAUZIA QURESHI FOR INITIATING IMPOSSIBLE
On 17th January, 1975, the death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai shattered a lot of concepts in my mind. Year after year I began to realize that both the Governmental structure at federal or provincial level is managed by hidden forces, allergic to Ideological developments in Pakistan. It started from the day one and is there to this day. All individuals who subscribe to the Ideals of Pakistan are pushed towards oblivion. Massive financial backing is there for such anti Pakistani forces as well as the movement in the corridors of power. Even the Heads of State suffer from the same. Any shift to positive work, and their term begins to vanish in thin air.
In the times of President Zia ul Haque, the Birdwood road in Lahore was named after Abdur Rahman Chughtai. Indeed a road without any link to the artist. There were three signboards in it announcing the name of the road. Very soon the outside sign was obliterated. I with my own expense went with a painter and had it written again. Then something more drastic happened. The whole signboard was stolen or taken away. This happened on the other side too. Perhaps the middle one is still here. Then one minister has it written on his gate. No fanfare is given to the road. Advertisements still announce it as Birdwood road, Lahore. No one cares. Honouring national icons is considered a worthless venture.
In 45 years we have held various seminars and exhibition shows, not less than 60 at our premises. I have yet to hear of any federal or provincial level organization to even remember the date 17th January, or any other. Real journalists used to write about him in leading newspapers. PTV used to cover him regularly, even some other media outlets. But no one in governmental structure cared or wanted to do anything (amazing President Zia ul Haque was the only one who actually cared, and tried to do things). It seems the structure is not concerned in any way. But we held on, facing opposition we could not even imagine we would have to face. So when Ms Fauzia Qureshi called on us with the objective of putting blue plaque on the house of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. We were happy but we were surprised. The Wall City authority led by Ms Tania Qureshi wrote a write up about Lahore’s personalities as well as Kocha Chabuk Sawaran, and the name of Chughtai was missing even at this level. Of course I cannot blame Tania Qureshi, as she is reputed to be with a lot of knowledge, but then who blackened out the name of Chughtai from the list. We do not know. But we do care.
On 23rd February, 2020 a grouping will be held at food street, and caravans will be dispatched on Pink Rickshaws to various parts of the city, including the ancestral house of M.A. Rahman Chughtai in Kocha Chabuk Sawaran. Little remains there but things are still remembered. It was not only a place where the artist was born it was a place where people from all over the world came. Imagine foreigners walking in the thin lanes of the city, and asking for the house of the artist. Also imagine the time in Chughtai’s studio with no electricity and the artist working with the light of a plain lantern. This was the reason that the Minister of Education of the British Government denied the knighthood suggested for the artist and replaced it with the Khan Bahadur award in 1934. Financial circumstances suggested otherwise. Older times are not known, but in 1759, the house was worth Rs 50 Ahmad Shahi (Abdali). In 1858 it was worth Rs 500 British Indian. And perhaps around Rs 20,000 in 1920. But during this period it dwindled into 25% of land due to portions being sold by other descendants, or death of ones. We will cover it more soon. The spiritual blessings of around eight to ten generations are there in this small place even today. Allah bless their souls!