M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI’S DAILY COMPANIONS OF CHILDHOOD – PLAYING FRIENDS FROM MOTHERS SIDE, MERAJ UD DIN (PAA MAJA)
When M.A. Rahman Chughtai died, I was not a relative-oriented person. Yes, we knew some, but we hardly knew others. One reason was that the relatives were mostly from the side of our mothers, and the relative associated with my father, were not from his paternal side at all. Our direct ancestors were small family people. Although we know of some ancestors here and there, the general trend was small families. Mian Salah had two sons, Elahi Baksh (Natha) and Raheem Baksh. Raheem Baksh had just one son and one daughter. Kareem Baksh and Karam Nisa. Karam Nisa was married to Baba Miran Baksh. Kareem Baksh had one son Muhammed Hussain from first wife and three sons from second wife, Chiragh Bibi. That is Abdur Rahman, Abdullah and Abdur Raheem.
Around 1890s we see loss of Raheem Baksh as well as the wife of Kareem Baksh. Kareem Baksh with one son, was not in a position to cope with life alone. A search for a wife had started. The Mimar family was based on Mohalla Chabuk Sawaran. There was a Railway family stationed in their traditional havelli in Rara Tellian, Lahore. Who got the access to the Railway family? One does not know. There was no relation between the two families. Chiragh din was a craftsman in the Railways, as others in his family. He was approached for the second marriage of Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar, as his first wife had died, leaving behind a son, Muhammed Hussain. The marriage was arranged, and Mian Kareem Baksh was married to Chiragh Bibi. Two families which had no relation with each other, were joined together by this marriage. Even if you look at members of the two families, they look different from each other. A new era started from then on.
Meraj-ud-din urf Paa Maja:
It was early in the morning, someone rang the bell, and told us that “Paa Maja” had died in his home. This was the time when he used to live in his house in ‘Shahi Mohalla’, and had a working ‘Kharad’ of his own in ‘Paisa Akbar mohalla’. I rushed to inform my father, and saw him stunned with the news. In no time, both the brothers were gone to the house of Paa Maja. And it left me, a young boy, to ponder about the loss of a man, who was even my personal friend. We could recall him on many points. He would be there one day before Basant, to repair our kites, put the ‘tarawan’ on our kites, even test same by partial flying, and instructions for us how to wage kite fights in ‘boo-kata’ matches. Then there were the mechanical problems. We were fanatics about our engineering toys, like the ‘Meccano’, for which clips were always missing. He would try to make new clips for us on his kharad himself. But that was a small part of him. He was literally a fun guy.
On any pleasant day, with a blooming weather, he wold turn up and stop everybody from the routine work and proclaim that it was a picnic day. Picnic day meant a day at the canal DEGH, by taking plenty to eat with us, and getting hold of our fishing tackles, and at times even rifle guns for hunting ‘murgabis’. The hunt, whether the flying ducks or the fishes, were cooked there on the spot and eaten, with rotis and nans from nearby tandoors. And all this not in any cars, but just plain tongas to take us there and tongas to bring us back. The picnic was not merely a men gathering, women were included in it fully. It was a family affair.
Initially the fishing tackles were simple strings and hooks, but after his return from England, M.A. Rahman Chughtsi had brought imported tackles from there, and portions of same, we still have even today. We were very afraid of the hooks, and they were not only plenty, but pretty sharp. And we did not even know, how to take them out of the fishes mouth. So our best bet as children was to use empty jam bottles to trap small tadpoles in them.
But the interaction of Meraj-ud-din and Chughtai Sahib was not limited to these encounters. They could play cricket together in Minto Park. They could see movies, dramas, or even dip in the Ravi, when it was not flooded at all. But this relation was a fun relation, and there was deep concern and love for each other. Meraj-ud-din was responsible for one important thing in the life of the artist.
In his visit to Europe, M.A. Rahman Chughtai was lonely without end. A new cultural environment was being seen by him. His impressions of his surroundings, he would put in a letter, written to his beloved maternal cousin Meraj-ud-din. Sharing odds and ends literally every day. A bunch of his letters could have been lost, a bunch still with us. The artist had a plan to compile all this in a book form, entitled “Meraj kay nam London say khatoot”. A compilation was given to a local publisher, but the publisher had new political affiliations and never went ahead in printing same. This new group was allergic to Chughtai as well as Pakistan. History stops and starts with behaviour of people.
There was strong bonding between the two cousins. Chughtai Sahib was the maternal cousin of Meraj-ud-din, and no other relation, except love for each other. The first marriage of Chughtai Sahib resulted in the death of a son. The gracious lady had developed womb cancer and could never have a child again. Meraj-ud-din was worried about his maternal cousin. He convinced the artist to consider marriage again. To make this happen, he proposed the hands of a girl in Amritsar, from a Railway family, and a proposal party went there. But the parents refused the hands of the artist. Incidentally in the reception from the girls side was sitting Bhou Din Muhammed, a senior goods clerk in the Railways too. He took a fancy to the artist, and suggested the party to come to his house for other possibilities. The result just be sheer accident a proposal was accepted for Chughtai Sahib, in this new house, and the girl name was Iqbal Bano. But the artist was so attached to the name Kishwar by now, that he renamed his wife as Kishwar Iqbal Bano. The marriage took place, and that story deserves a blog on itself. These personal information are not recorded anywhere, and we do this for actual record for the future.
P.S.We had a very nice photograph of Meraj-ud-din but it has been misplaced. So we hunted an old negative and it was full of erasures. Ejaz Sarwar volunteered to photo shop it and he did that. Thank you Ejaz Sarwar USA! Till a better result is obtained, this is the only visual image of Meraj-ud-din, the maternal cousin, available with us. Enjoy!