Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Remembering Gulgee

December was a very difficult month for me. I lost my father that was personal, but our country lost Gulgee the last icon of our already impoverished cultural landscape. I first met Gulgee in the late eighties when I met him to show few of my amateurish paintings. He was very generous in his encouragement and I still remember he asked me to explore my talent and look into brush and paints seriously. Which I couldn't,
Aur bhi gham hein zamanay mein mohabat kay sewa
Rahatain aur bhi hein rahat-e-vasl kay sewa
 In early nineties when I was posted at PAF Faisal, I visited him several times and we had many long discussions on various topics.Gulgee was a great conversationalist, had tremendous energy and was a vivacious person with great sense of humour. He had beautiful stories to tell. He had immense knowledge of litreture, music, arts and crafts, mathematics, Physics and Dance! He was a competent dancer himself and told me he once considered learning it properly and giving it more time. I remember once we talked a whole evening about Isadora Duncan, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, JohnTravolta, Vijantymala and Panah.

Gulgee was a Peshawari and spoke fluent hindku. He belonged to the Ismailia community . He was an engineer and was once employed with the government of Pakistan. Gulgee was a public school boy, was a Galian as he went to Lawrence College Ghora Galli.So we had public school bond also.

We talked a good lot about painting. Though in his latter years he himself was doing action painting with lot of gusto and passion still he did not think very high of American abstract expressionists and thought anyone with a bit of imagination and good colour sense could do that. He was of the opinion that the shallowness of American painting scene and a desperate need for the heroes in art and the all powerful American art critics made abstract expressionism such a phenomenon. However he liked the free and easy way of action painters like Jackson Pollock, William DeKooning , Paul Klee and many other great action painters.

We also went once to Meerath kabab located in KDA Market Karachi, offcourse the shopkeepers knew him and we were served with the most succulent and delicious kebabs.

The last time I met him was in 2001 when I was with National Database and Registration Authority and was trying to launch Computerized National Identity Cards. We short listed Gulgee, Jahangir Khan, Muneer Niazi, Hasan Sardar and Imran Khan for our launching advertising campaign. Eventually we settled for Hassan Sardar (some of you might have seen those advertisements. I consider it one of my best work).

I also have the privilege to see him paint. It was a joy to watch him, though I think he allowed very few. In 1997 I also asked him to paint something with a PAF or an Air force theme. He was aware about Gp Capt Hussaini and said that Husaini was already doing that well enough.

I was planning to meet him for quite sometime infact I saw him in Super Market, Islamabad few months back but by the time I could reach him he was already inside his vehicle and I thought it wasn't appropriate to shout. Now I am regretting it, I should have made an effort.

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