THE FIRST STUDENT AFTER THE DEATH OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI,
MS MARCELLA BEDFORD NESOM SIRHINDI AND 1978 HAPPENINGS
THE BARRIERS OF CROSS CULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION
We take many issues very seriously, and the death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai reminded us of the immense responsibility thrusted on our shoulders. Just a few days after the death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, we printed our first handout. In it we assured the world not only of preserving, promoting and researching the Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, but also providing access of the Art to students and scholars from all over the world. Ms Marcella Bedford had applied to the Pak American Association for funding for her proposed research on Textiles and was working on that. I do not know who or how, but it was suggested to her that she changes her topic for research on M.A. Rahman Chughtai and his Art. The papers came in and they are in our archives. The first letter from her was on 12th October, 1976. Then Marcella Bedford came by aeroplane to the Lahore Airport and I was there to receive her. I was not able to see her alight from the plane but she was in the lounge fine. I brought her in my car to the premises of the museum and it was nearing our 1978 show of 17th January, in which Ms Tamara Talbot Rice from the United Kingdom was our Chief Guest. We provided her accommodation for stay at the museum itself. Everything was exciting.
All details are there in the museum, for we are very exact about our records. We did everything possible to provide to her, all her desired requirements, like books, magazines, newspapers, catalogues, images and what not? And of course interviews in a free atmosphere. She carried a professional camera and we would allow her to photograph her requirements but with a small tab in plastic of CMT, that is CHUGHTAI MUSEUM TRUST. If we look at the bibliography etc attached to her thesis, we will find reoccurred the tab of CMT tab everywhere.
People change. People waver. A diligent Marcella diversified and we pointed it out to her in the best of spirits. Having had access to so many things about Chughtai, she felt that she could proclaim herself as the end of it all. We pointed out that her understanding of Chughtai was based on cross cultural barriers. Many of her assertions were outright wrong and there was nothing wrong about telling her that. But ideas were okay when a person takes credit for that, but facts could not be tinkered in any way. For example somebody had translated a paragraph absolutely wrong for her, and based on that, she was making claims, which had no reality in fact. We all learn more with time and she was jumping in some ways about her conclusions about the artist. Obviously we knew more about Chughtai than her, for not were we Chughtai’s family, we had lived with the artist all our lives and we knew the spirit and Ideology of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. She was unwilling to accept that, so without any malice, our ways drifted apart. We have great regards for her efforts but if the efforts are doing injustice to the artist himself, it was our right to point it out.
A banker from Asian Development Bank brought her as help one day to the museum and I told him she had no concept of her assertion. Gladly he was a reasonable man, went back and came alone the next day. No harm done. So when auction houses start quoting her to me as well as people, who never had access to me, I point it out. We wish Marcella well but it is our foremost right to present facts as well as the interpretations of them. Ms Marcella Bedford came here after a quest for a thesis on Textiles. In Rawalpindi she saw a copy of Amal e Chughtai and felt enamoured with Chughtai Art. Thanks to Marcella for that. She was our first serious student on the Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai at PHD level. We were excited then, we are excited even today. But the white man’s burden is enormous. Knowledge teaches you humility to know more, not arrogance in an way. We taught Marcella things about Chughtai Art, in no way, she ever taught us! These are points to remember. We wish her best of luck in life! There is no malice within us. A scholarly role is to present all versions, at least two opposing ones, for fairness in judgement. At times the dear lady looked so bewildered that she even presented an artist in her thesis WHO CLAIMED THAT CHUGHTAI WAS NEVER THE ARTIST AND HE WAS THE ACTUAL PAINTER WHO DID WORKS FOR THE ARTIST WHO LATER USED TO SIGN THE WORKS IN HIS OWN NAME. We could have died laughing at the idea or we would have lynched that man to a tree for ridiculous statements, but she took even that man seriously, knowing even by statistics it was an impossible statement. Yes we have so much more of her in our records. We will tell more. But one thing is sure. We welcomed her then, we welcome her now. We have nothing against her. We request her to analyze her statements so that nothing is left on record which will prove to be a childish assessment for the future. God be with her all the time!