In this third installment of our ‘Crazy Diamonds’ series, we continue our tributary look at those promising Pakistanis who experienced the flip side of genius – an awkward and often torturous state of being that some describe as being a kind of madness.
He migrated to Pakistan in 1947 (without his parents) and settled in Lahore.
The sensitive 19-year-old was excited by the prospect of becoming a citizen of a newly created country and at once got down to writing a national anthem for it.
Though he failed to get his version of the anthem accepted by the government and state of Pakistan, he moved on to publish a well-received literary magazine.
The magazine was a critical success but a commercial flop. Disappointed, Saghar shut down the magazine.
Unlike most Indian Muslims who had migrated to Pakistan, Saghar did not ask the government to settle him on the properties left behind by the Hindus and the Sikhs.
Instead he preferred to stay in cheap hotels. He paid his rent from the meagre amounts of money that he received from magazines for the poems he wrote for them.
Within a decade his early, youthful enthusiasm for Pakistan had eroded as he saw corruption, nepotism and mediocrity being rewarded at the expense of genuine talent and honesty.
Broke in more ways than one and at a stage where even the fast acting cheap whisky of Lahore failed to keep his crumbling self numb, Saghar discovered morphine.
He bought his daily dose from corrupt janitors of Lahore’s hospitals.
What’s more, when some poets used to find this thin, shaking addict outside their homes asking for money, they would give him a few rupees but only after he had written a poem or two for them.
These poets would then sell the poems to magazines for a lot more money and some even went to the extent of getting them published in their own names!
With both friends and strangers exploiting his genius of writing the most evocatively expressed Urdu ghazals to meet their own greedy needs; Saghar plunged even deeper into a state of despair.
Soon he was turned out by the cheap hotels he was living in and ended up walking the streets of Lahore.
A fan of his once wrote how (in 1966) while he was driving down Lahore’s Circuit Road, the radio in his car began to play a ghazal written by Saghar.
As the fan was quietly revelling in the power of Saghar’s words, his eyes caught a fleeting glimpse of a thin man with unkempt long hair and in tattered clothes walking aimlessly on the side of the road. It was Saghar.
As the world abandoned this genius, Saghar abandoned the world.
For years he could be seen walking and sleeping on the streets of Lahore, living on the food and money given to him by those who took him to be a beggar or a fakir.
Amazingly, he continued to write powerful poetry in spite of the fact that he could hardly utter a single coherent sentence when he did decide to open his mouth to speak.
At times he would write brilliant poems, read them out loudly with a void look in his eyes, then tear the papers he’d scribbled these poems on, make a heap and set the heap on fire.
After 15 years of morphine addiction, depression and living on the streets, in 1974 he was found dead on one such street of Lahore. Exposed to the cold winter of Lahore, he passed away in his sleep. He was just 46.
__________________________________Professor Fazlur Rehman Malik
Maybe this is because for years the image of an Islamic scholar that has been peddled by the state and accepted by society in Pakistan is that of a man with a long beard, speaking Urdu in an Arabic accent (!), or a woman fully draped in a jet black burqa, mumbling moralistic little nothings on TV.
Professor Fazalur Rehman Malik was nothing of the sort. Clean-shaven, well-spoken, always looking sharp in Western suits and ties, and more importantly, extremely well-informed and well-versed in Islamic literature, philosophy and history, he was on the verge of almost completely undermining the role of religious parties in Pakistan when he was forced to flee the country.
After studying Arabic at the Punjab University in Lahore, Rehman went to Oxford University in the UK for further studies.
He was teaching Islamic philosophy at McGill University in Canada when in 1961 he got an invite from Pakistan’s head of state, Field Martial Ayub Khan, to come to Pakistan and help him set up the Central Institute of Islamic Research (CIIR).