LAST DAY OF ARTIST M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI;
THE FIRST EFFORTS OF ARIF RAHMAN CHUGHTAI:
FIRST CLARION CALL TO PRESERVE LEGACY OF ART.
It was totally unsettling. A note (now literally historical hours before his death) I wrote reminds me that M.A. Rahman Chughtai was not well. He called me in the morning to see me and shook hands with me, not letting my hands go. I was disturbed. I told him there is nothing wrong with him. A cup of coffee would drown his sleepiness etc. But he was sure that he was going. In the evening when we went for a doctor in Samna bad, and it became late, and when we arrived at home, lights were on. Our home servant Arshad Sadokee was there to tell me that my father was dead. Of all things I locked the car and went to my room and where I sat all night. Thinking. What to do?
Full credit goes to my school friend Pervaiz Ashraf who stayed with me all night. And he was also delivering messages to families and friends. It was he who went to the house of Abdullah Chaghatai and did not have the heart to tell him about the death. He just said that the health of the artist had deteriorated. It led to the confusion in the minds of uncle Abdullah Chaghatai that the date of death was 18th January, 1975, which certainly was not so. Perceptions lead to mistakes. Historians have no right to jump to conclusions.
The next day the burial took place as Amanat in the Miani qabarastan. No response from official quarters. We had requested the Government to give a national place for the burial of the artist and had suggested the Hazuri Bagh enclosure outside the Badshahi mosque Lahore. The next day there were gatherings in the house. A team from the Chief Minister Punjab had come to receive the Chief Minister Punjab Hanif Ramay. Indeed, Hanif Ramay came, said dawa for the artist, and WITHOUT MEETING ME OR MY MOTHER, left the place. It was an amazing condolence visit without meeting the bereaved family at all. The conspiracy was on foot.
A plan of action was in my mind. We would not take things lying down, and will fight against all odds. We will detail the happenings with the Federal government, the Government in Punjab and various issues eventually. But this is our reaction. On 23rd January, 1975, I wrote the note “The last breath”, and we sent it for publication the very next day. On 24th January, 1975, we were planning the letter form for our planned “Chughtai Academy of Arts”. We received the pamphlet on the 27th January, 1975, and we started distributing it from a room in our house. People came, each one had their own view. But the massive opinion was to submit to the highway bound dacoits and let them waste sixty years of my father’s work and preservation, nothing at all. A stupid relative with lowest IQ suggested that it was not my job to build museums, and if I had enough money, I would better give same to my poor relatives like him. His mouth was also watering in anticipation of trying to steal things including our property. A previous owner of a cinema on Mcleod road was suggesting that we give everything to India, as they will know how to care for same. I can only amaze myself as to suggestions I was receiving from such people. Nothing patriotic from them.
We were without resources. Our guts were being questioned. The future looked bleak in all ways. My mother had nothing, my sister had nothing and I had nothing. Most of the property was in alien hands. But the will was strong. We were not going to let waste my fathers efforts. I remember for two years as he was sick I used to give a ‘thapra’ on his back and tell him again and again not to worry. But he had already tried many, he had little hope of success from our side. Our determination he could not believe in results.
I had communicated his death to many known foreign heads of States and dignitaries. Response was received from many of them and our archives are full of their condolences. But under threat we sent TELEGRAMS to many of them, to save us from the tyranny of the times. Somebody listened. Somebody powerful nough to kick the butts of people in power. The struggle had begun. Two books are being planned. The first “Legacy of M.A. Rahman Chughtai”. The second the “Legacy of Chughtai Museum”. We hope we can print both for the future. Art and Culture is a minority affair these days. My father’s role was to make it more of a public affair. More people knew of Chughtai art, than any other artist in Pakistan. The word ‘Chughtai art” fell into Urdu lexigraphy as denoting something beautiful. In Urdu movies the hero used to praise his beloved by calling her as Chughtai art. An iconic legend within his life time, the legend of M.A. Rahman Chughtai is ever alive. And we are proud that we too had a hand in same against heavy odds.