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Sadequain - the painter of passions
Irrespective of what the ultra-nationalists, religious proselytizers and human rights extremist want us to believe, the reality is that economy is the engine that drives all the forces of life. I don't want to indulge in that rhetoric as the subject of this article is the world famous artist and calligrapher - Syed Sadequain Naqvi, better known as Saduaqian who had migrated from India to Pakistan soon after the Mother India was bifurcated into two nations.

What inspired this article are his marvellous presentations of Urdu Rubayyat presently at Jashn-e-Rekhta festival’s Al-Hasanat Books, Dhyancjand Stadium – New Delhi.

The study of political science tells us that the powers in any form of STATE depend upon economy of the area they rule. For democracies of present centuries or the kings of yonder, the pride and prejudice of the ruling entity has always been enforced through economic levers. Religions and prelates remained intrinsically limited by the common acceptance of truths to which all men were subject. So when abuses of power de jure proliferated, several prophets, apostles of peace and statesmen arose to condemn the negative growth and the distortion of truth. They talked about the fundamental universal standards and constants of wisdom and justice. But the hard fact is - they always needed the economic support to espouse their ideas. At times they succeeded and failed also.

Time is the only constant while rests of the spheres of philosophy, politics and social life as well as religious rights evolve with time. The readers of this article are well aware of world history and march of civilizations. They know that conceptual state is the not the mother but the daughter of the past streams of local powerful tribes, powerful communities, powerful geographic realities and powerful armies. The borders of the nations and states keep changing with the power and clout of running entitie. To bring the change into the cartographic designs, every developing force needs the support of social, religious and economic ideas. We are enlightened about new nationalism, ultra-nationalism and patriotism along with their symbolic insignias.

It was the economy that propelled the British to rule India though they had travelled continents to subdue the local rulers. India was ruled by Mughals when the Whites made their first foray into India. Muslims were dominating the power horizons that time and had come down to the lowest strata of Indian life when these Colonisers left. Some of Muslims in India felt that their social and economic backwardness would be treated if they were to make a separate homeland. To achieve this goal, the proponents of partition of India exploited the sentiment of religion and faith. They got partly what they wanted but the economic conditions of Muslims of India went from bad to worse. The experiment failed miserably with the creation of Bangla Desh. In 1947 and even sometimes later also, a lot of Indians were allured by the illusion of economic prosperity and they left their home towns to explore the new possibilities in the newly created state. As expected, they had to give some moral justification to their quest and the religion was the best alibi. What Moulana Abul Kalam Azad had predicted proved true like rise sunrise.  For these migrants, new slogans and new ideals and ideas were created but the goal simply didn’t work. They are still Mohajirs and insignificant power in the new set-up. Of course, a small crowd of elites, well-educated and some brainwashed individuals got benefit in the new situation. Rest were no better. Some of the lucky migrants were part of creative arts that were fearful of their spaces in India.

These people left the borders but could never forget their home town, their culture and their roots. Physically they were in Pakistan but emotionally they remained connected with their umbilical cord. In truth they were more loyal to their old values than the Indians were who had decided that they won’t move to Pakistan.

Josh Malihabadi, Hafeez Jalandhari, Noor Jahan, Manto, Rais Amrohvi, Joan Aliya and Sadaquain were the few names of the literary giants who went to Pakistan but always found themselves uncomfortable like a square peg in the round hole. It is not to undermine their achievements but quite obvious from their memoirs, interviews and creations.

Artist Sadequain was born in Amroha, an aristocratic township of UP, in 1930. He was an art teacher in a local college. Fame had yet to come to him. Before the partition, the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (1947-1956) that included the likes of M F Husain, F N Souza, and S H Raza was the platform of creative artists of the Indian sub-continent. Sadequain learned a lot about European modernism and its impact on Indian nationalist artistic aesthetics prevalent at that time.

He went to Pakistan and got what he was looking for. There he got the support of State and recognition.

Sadequain is known for a number of world famous murals that adorn public spaces in Pakistan, India and West. His works depict the deep humanist and progressive ideas.  He had interwoven icons and images that highlight the complex state of life that human beings face on earth. His creations are as near to the life of ordinary people as those created by the other great artists of the West. Africa and  South America.

Sadequain’s favoured format as figural representation or abstraction was SCRIPT. He masterfully used his skill at calligraphy and turned it into a medium for public art. He was the man who brought the calligraphy from palaces, elite homes and government buildings to the hovels of ordinary people. From Pakistan he migrated to Paris and stayed for six years. He was awarded the Laureate de Paris award in 1961. He had also produced a set of colour and black-and-white lithographs that accompanied a special edition of the novel. ‘The Stranger’ - a literary masterpiece written by Albert Camus in 1942.

His exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery has showcased ‘Untitled (Meursault at the Window’ in1966, This illustration is done in gouache on card and it shows Meursault standing next to a window and gazing out into the night sky. The character is silent but Sadequain is able to render all his emotional agitation in the figure. He had used every motif in his illustrations with emotion like the chair, the wide open windows, sea, beaches - everything riddled with passion.

He died in 1987 but had left behind his message of love in India also. He had come to India in 1982 and stayed in his mother country for one year. For Aligarh Muslim University, he designed and a large mural for the Maulana Azad Library and an abstract mural in metal cut-outs for the wall at the entrance of the Department of Geography. He had also gifted murals to Urdu Ghar, Indian National Geophysical Research Institute at Hyderabad. As a love for Indian Culture, he made a large mural titled 'Quest for Reality' for the Banaras Hindu University. Another wonderful work  was the collection of  99 panels of ‘The Beautiful Names of God’ inscribed on the circular wall of the rotunda of Indian Institute of Islamic Studies at Delhi. Sadequain Saheb had also prepared several other calligraphic works in India at the Ghalib Academy, Urdu Markaz, and the Tomb of Tipu Sultan.

He was my far relation but I’d never met when he visited India. Today, several members of my family are enjoying the eternal sleep in the graveyards of Pakistan. No, I won’t dream to go and  settle there as a citizen. With all the problems I face, I Love My India. I’m an admirer of art and I know that for creative people, art is religion.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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