By: Rashid Sami

 I was in the summer of 1996 when I had the opportunity to meet Maharaj Ghulam Husain for the first time, he was a small sized man, with an unusual style of conversation, laughter and dress sense.

He had a concrete presence which one felt through out that night when Fasih-ur-Rehman, one of his cut-standing students, performed at the PTC. It was a half0filled hall with the same familiar faces one could term as the usual “Art circle”. The programme, was in support of environment awareness and Masaraj, who till that time had not really impressed me, began his speech by saying. We the civilized people have all praises for the regal hawk who files majestically in the sky. but is it really the hawk who ends another life to feed itself, which should be praised, or should praise the future who feeds on the dead, left to add to the filth of life?” Words to think about indeed. And the speech changed my view of the man himself, too.

Unfortunate as it is, people of the third world hardly have the resources or the strength to support art activities. Thus the performers and the artistes have a very short artistic life span and soon disappear. One feels the Maharaj lived his life a bit too long for an artiste, 93 to be precise going through a heartbreak in witnessing an art form so neglected and discarded in this part of the world. And there weren’t many who shed tears when he died.

It was Friday afternoon when I received a call from Nighat Chaudary, a student of Maharaj and a personal friend, informing that a memorial session was being held at the premises of The Pakistan National Council of the Arts. Arriving at the PNCA and expecting a sizable attendance, one was disappointed to see only one-third of the seats occupied and the organizers delaying the proceedings in hope of a reasonable attendance. The invitees included Sajid Hasan. Talat Husain, Sahira Kazmi, Zaheer Khan and all the other flag bearers of at, but no one turned up.

Riaz Chugtai, representing the PNCA. thanked the audience and Nighat Chudary for holding a meeting. Nighat Chaudary in her address could not hold her tears back as the had spent four years with Maharaj as a student and had fond memories of the great man. After describing the feelings Nighat invited Azra Sabir, also a student of Maharaj and presently the Dance Director at the PNCA, to say a few words. “Shahgird, is someone who revolves around (gird) the Shah, and Maharaj was the Shah,” she said.

An emotional speech by Ahsan Ahmed, who was a close associate of Maharaj followed, who related of Maharaj followed, who related how Maharaj gave way his entire earnings from the television play Maigh Malhar to pay for quilts for the poor, and how strong a trust be had on the Almightily. Firdous Haider also described her first experience of meeting Maharaj and the aura of spirituality which he had.

One appreciated the fact that despite poor attendance, there was at least a memorial meeting for an outstanding human and exponent of Kathak.