By Fawad Rana
Barely six months after my marriage, economic needs forced me to seek greener pastures and I moved to Saudi Arabia. My eldest son, Hassan, traveled regularly in Pakistan until he was 14, after which we decided it was time to put him to the test as best we could afford in terms of education. now that I was fine. As a result, he studied at the best possible school followed by a top university from where he became an industrial engineer and now works for a major league multinational as a consultant in Canada – a dream come true for him and for us !
In the years that followed, from 2008 to 2014, Pakistan went through difficult times as terrorism took hold. So going home was no longer a priority. But in my mind and my heart, I couldn’t keep a distance. This is why in 2015 I decided to invest in Pakistan and acquire Lahore Qalandars, a cricket franchise, with the aim of contributing to a game that our people love and cherish. To my surprise, Hassan showed no interest and didn’t even join us to cheer on our team for the first three years (it didn’t help that we hit rock bottom every time!). At the time, I felt he had an unflattering image of the country in identity crisis – even though he supported Pakistan when we played India, with the crescent and star flag hanging from his apartment from downtown Toronto.
As his doubts boiled over, I decided to take him to a place in Lahore to show him a side of Pakistan that I thought would make him rethink beyond the vacation getaway. We went to see Arshad Mughal at his house. Hassan was immediately floored and wondered where “this Pakistan” was on the world stage!
By any stretch of the imagination, Mughal is an amazing micro-artist. If the Guinness Book wanted a traveling advertisement, it might just do the trick. But ironically, Guinness – or people who could justify his superhuman feats – stayed away from his doorstep. Why this is so is what makes it such a compelling case study.
Mughal, who mastered the art of creating barely perceptible works – for they are so tiny and delicate that you have to calibrate your movements in a virtually hermetic atmosphere to make them and a microscope to see them – is a man of many parts. lowercase. Even after creating thousands of these pieces – some of which, he says, can be “hidden behind a strand of hair” – he has found few takers to support him financially or even provide him with a platform from which to build. he could have contributed to the advancement of the art. He once worked with the only gram of gold he had for over 20 years.
But at 75, with more than half a century of work behind him, all he has for his legacy is a collection at home in addition to letters of appreciation and various newspaper clippings.
Compare that with, say, the British sculptor Willard Wigan, MBE, whose microscopic art took him to different places – and that’s an understatement. While he may have surpassed Mughal in tipping the scales of the possible, he certainly benefited from honing the craft, finding the most striking platforms before being hailed on the world stage, be it Courtesy of BBC, TED Talk, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien in the USA to celebrate his art or release his wares to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. In 2021, his net worth was estimated at five million euros.
The story of Music Composer Master Ashiq Hussain of Dama Dam Mast Qalandar and Dhamaal: Fame of Lal Meri Pat Rakhio Bhala Jhooley Laalen is heartbreaking. The dhamaal which is the most famous rendering in history was composed by Hussain in minutes at the request of the eminent poet Saghar Siddiqui.
Hussain’s exploits – Dama Dam Mast Qalandar was rendered by such towering figures as Noor Jehan, Nusrat Fateh Ali, Abida Parveen and Jagjit Singh, to name a few – survived him, but the nonagenarian died poor near Bhatti gate of Lahore. Meanwhile, her son, who was also a talented keyboardist, had to sell pakoras at a roadside stall to make ends meet. His son later died of heart failure, but Hussain, heartbroken, refused to seek help from those “who don’t care about artists.”
Ironically, many singers created versions of his signature tune, gaining fame and fortune while Hussain lived in a slum with no electricity and where food was scarce.
I would give Hassan and millions of young people like him an outstanding recent example of Arooj Aftab, Pakistan’s first female Grammy winner, who was elected in April of this year. She landed the coveted trophy for a neo-Sufi version of the iconic ghazal Mohabbat karne wale kam na hon ge/ Teri mehfil mein lekin hum na hon ge by Punjabi poet Hafeez Hoshiyarpuri.
Former US President Barack Obama, no less, has chosen Mohabbat – declared by Time and the New York Times to be one of the best songs of 2021 – among his summer playlist favorites for 2021. This space is too restrained to sum up the inspirational musical journey of the 37-year-old current New York resident, who was born to Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia, but moving to the United States at 19 prepared her for a rewarding career.
Arshad Mughal and Ashiq Hussain remain masters of their craft, but had they not been constrained by bread-and-butter troubles in the dark corners of their homes, they might have had the world at their feet. On the other hand, a fully equipped Arooj and talented youngsters like her are charting their own path to success. Ultimately, what these stories tell us is that in the absence of a soil that germinates the seed and nurtures its growth, we will only occasionally have individual success. What Pakistan needs today is an organized and sustainable system that leaves nothing to chance.
To be continued
The writer is an oil engineer, businessman and philanthropist. He can be reached at: @fawadnaeemrana