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the-south-asian.com 7 August 2000
Page 4 Chakwal – Fondly Remembered By O.P. Dutta
Chakwal – Fondly Remembered
By O.P. Dutta
And yes! The ‘Thanedar’ - a tough man named Mohammad Khan meant business when it came to exerting his authority. His confrontation with ‘Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan’ a minister at the center was almost legendary. It seems that the ‘Raja’ decided to come to Chakwal and address a meeting of the Muslim League party. A delegation of Chakwal residents met Mohammed Khan and convinced him that such a meeting could result in communal tension in the town. As the story goes, Mohammad Khan went to the railway station, received Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, made him comfortable in the railway retiring room and then told him that his public meeting was called off. Raja Sahib told him in no uncertain terms that the Thanedar was talking to a minister in the Central Government. "I know Your Excellency," said Mohammad Khan "but you must realise that I am the one on the spot and responsible for law and order. This meeting shall not be held".
A furious Raja Sahib went back without addressing a public meeting. And surprise of surprise, Mohammad Khan was recommended for promotion by the home department.
It is said that social laws are not enacted – they evolve themselves. The society of Chakwal in early thirties proved it. It all started with an attempted suicide by the grown up daughter of a schoolteacher named Ramsarandas. The daughter was driven to desperation looking at the plight of her beloved father who couldn’t meet the dowry demands of the prospective husband. She decided to end her life to save any further embarrassment to her father. Ramsarandas with his meager salary could hardly provide his family with two meals a day. Where would a dowry come from?
The ‘Chakwal’ commune got together and under the guidance of the wise ones including Harbans Singh Seestani, Master Gyanchand, Trilokinath Advocate, Burhannudin Khoja, Amin Qureshi (he ran the only mutton shop in town) Qazi Omar and Master Budhram, the citizens of Chakwal passed a resolution unanimously to put a limit of Rupees five hundred on dowry to be given to a bride irrespective of the status of the father of the bride. (That would avoid comparisons and keep the disparities under cover). Any one violating the order would be ex-communicated. A seemingly conservative society, steeped in traditional beliefs, was actually a progressive one.
Have we met ‘Hari’? He was a celebrity in his own right. An accomplished tabla player, Hari played with talented musicians such as Bhai Samund Singh Ragi and Prof. Ramanand - a noted vocalist and a violin player. The professor was patronized by ‘Babu Harichand Burma Wale’ – a rich patron of arts. (It is another thing that Babuji could not differentiate between a violin and a sarangi).
Professor Ramanand was so impressed by Hari that he offered to take him along on the tour of the sub-continent with the prospect of fame and financial gains. They say Hari declined the offer. The reason?
Hari, when not playing tabla, used to sell ‘Kulfi’ [ice-cream] to the kids at the local school. When asked as to why he declined the offer, all that Hari had to say was "If you could see the joy on the children’s faces as they enjoy my ‘Kulfi’, you won’t ask me why".
Yet another celebrity and intellectual giant, Manohar ‘Talili', a noted Urdu poet was a veritable source of pride to Chakwal. Talili was his pen name and he too was a practicing lawyer. He would arrange a ‘Mushaira’ [poetry reading by poets themselves] at regular intervals, inviting his contemporaries such as, Nanakchand ‘Naaz’, Trilok Chand ‘Mehrooni’, ‘Akhtar Rizwani, Labhuram Malsiani and Mayal Dehlvi. Mayal Sahib's tribute to Chakwal is unforgettable. He said:
"Yeh, Shaher-e-Gariban hai ya
Dilwalon ki Basti !
Har lab pe tabassum hai to har
Aankh mein masti!
Baandhe chala jaata hai
Mohabhat se bunna jaal
Chakwal Hai Chakwal Hai
Chakwal Hai Chakwal"
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