A MENTION OF COFFINS OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI AND SHAKIR ALI – VERY STRANGE DISCUSSION IN A LECTURE AT LITERARY FESTIVAL LAHORE
A programme mentions a discussion on three artists; M.A. Rahman Chughtai, Shakir Ali and Sadequain. As usual with our commentators a reference to tradition and modernism. The whole world of art calls M.A. Rahman Chughtai, Modern Master of Muslim Civilization. In fact Jacob Baal-Teshuva, UNO Art correspondent, refers to the confusion generated in Pakistan, by reference to Chughtai as a traditional painter, when he is a completely Modern Contemporary painter. This discussion is not the scope of this write up. It is a reference to a strange discourse there, about the size of coffins of Chughtai and Shakir Ali. This was related to me by Ms Mussarat Chughtai, who was sitting in the audience.
I never attended the funeral of Shakir Ali. I know about his death. On the death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai on 17th January, 1975, a memorial meeting on Chughtai was held at YMCA on 18th January, 1975. There Shakir Ali got emotional when he said, “If they have done this to Chughtai, what will they do with me?” Unfortunately he had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital. He never recovered and died a few days later. Some issues concerning his funeral were there but I do not know the details.
The Chughtai family requested a national place for the burial of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. He was lowered in the streets, through small stairs, by his family and friends. He was placed in a cot on the pavement. From there a van carried him to Miani qabarastan, for an AMANATAN BURIAL, in the enclosure section of Railway Chughtais . For that purpose a wooden casket was bought from the market, and he was buried in that casket. It was not an unusual big casket, just a normal sized ready made one. I do not think there are many people alive who were at the funeral. Most of the well known ones are dead,including many of his relatives and friends. Who would remember the size of his coffin, not even those who said funeral prayers? But I was there through out. A reference was spoken that if Chughtais coffin was a big one, why could not Shakir Ali coffin be a big one too! Absolutely childish and worthless comment on two big artists of the country. Who said it, I do not know. Was the size of the coffins issue of any one actually? Not at all. There is a reference about the grave of Shakir Ali being designed by Kishwar Naheed, who had her verses written on same. More than that we do not know.
A world of differences exist between the two artists. Shakir Ali in his own words refute artists with nationalistic concepts. Some how or the other the allergy to Pakistan remains with such people. M.A. Rahman Chughtai on the contrary was obsessed with the nationhood of Islam. A large difference between the two, but certainly the size of coffins was not one of them. Utter confusion here!