WHEN THE SKY REIGNED TEARS OF BLOOD
SUGHRA RABBABI STABBED TO DEATH IN HER STUDIO
One tear that became Zeba Vanek
Rich men do not usually beget very sensitive children. Satiated with their worldly needs, few traverse the path of art itself. Sughra Rabbabi was really an exception. Her heart beat for the cause of the tyrannized people, whether it was in Palestine or elsewhere. She always tried to raise funds for such needy people and her generosity of UNICEF was recognized by the Mayor of San Francisco, who declared 19th January, 1999 as the Sughra Rabbabi day in San Francisco, USA. But we have moved ahead of time, it is actually time to trace the roots.
Ghulam Ali Mandiwala was a very rich businessman of Lahore, and he was in touch with the artist Abdur Rahman Chughtai. We do not know how they got in touch or where they got in touch, but a relation existed between them. Perhaps they met at Governors House in 1934 when the Governor General of Punjab decorated M.A. Rahman Chughtai with the title of Khan Bahadur, and where all esteemed citizen used to be there. In any case there was mutual respect with the two, and the artist enjoyed a very good reputation in Lahore as a person who always listened and gave good advice. The profession of Sughra Rabbabi was consulted with the artist, and the artist was happy with the workmanship of Sughra Rabbabi.
Ozzir Zuby used to have his studio in the Open Air Theatre in Lawrence Gardens, and the story of Ozzir Zuby and Sughra Rabbabi was well known to Hameed Al-Makki, who is now dead. That directly or indirectly, both Ozzir Zuby and Sughra Rabbabi was inspired by the work of the artist Chughtai, is self evident in their work, but obviously they developed their own individuality from that. Even the themes are same at many places. The husband and wife team were both very patriotic and that is well understood. But rugged individualism creates its own problems and the man and wife did drift apart, although we do not know the inner story well.
It is indeed paradoxical that Lahore became the focal point of Sughra Rabbabi and Amrita Sher-Gil, and in their art they met in quest for a modern medium, although personality wise they were very different. Amrita Sher-Gil was a heart breaker, but Sughra broke her own heart. That is seen in her life as well as in her art. Ozzir Zuby found happiness in another woman, Zebun Zuby, who managed his school. By now the area was Karachi and not Lahore anymore. Sughra vented herself in her art. And then one day she fell into the intrigue of material wealth, and was stabbed to death in her studio. How sad! Not enough. A sensitive woman met a most insensitive death. It was more than cruel. The sky burst into tears. And one tear became Dr Zeba Vanek, who has resolved to dedicate her life to her mother, in quest of promoting her. We wish her well!
The present set up in Pakistan is allergic to Art as it is composed of literal nincompoops. But it is worthy to save some artists for our future record (we will give a list one day and the so called pseudo Masters’s names are not in them), and Sughra Rabbabi is one of them. Right now the existence of the National art Gallery is even under threat, and it may become a gallery of IMAGINATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS OF RUTHLESS REGIMES. Allah have mercy on us!