There are few places like home where you find yourself mystified by its aura of artistic and literary beauty. These places are not only visuals and spectacles of it but are vestiges of those who have lived there, made their presence felt and left an indelible impact. Their permanent imprints not only remain etched in our mind but are explorable around us.
Such an artist and painter extraordinaire, Shahid Jalal left us yesterday for the heavenly abode. A larger than life character, whose persona not only evoked his soft but outspoken demeanour, but who was also an intellectual, avid reader, a successful chartered accountant, but last and foremost a brilliant painter. He was a humble man, jovial, cheerful, and empathetic human being who was least candid about his achievements but was very approachable unlike other maestros of the art. He was an all-rounder, with a swathe of hobbies which included cooking, travelling, watching movies, and ingratiating with different cultures without any recourse to judgement. His simplicity unlike many of his other contemporaries coupled with a sharp intellect and intuition were hallmarks of his personality. Equipped with an unbelievable sense of humour, Mr Jalal could share tales from yesteryears and astound you with his sharp memory. Born on August 13th, 1948 to Hamid Jalal and Zakia Hamid Jalal, he was the eldest of three siblings which include his sisters Sabiha and the renowned historian Dr Ayesha Jalal.
I was privileged enough to have seen and witnessed him from close quarters courtesy the bond and the close relationship he shared with my mother Nuzhat Manto, who is also his aunt, cousin, and sister-in-law. Mr Jalal’s father was also the nephew of the legendary Urdu short story writer Saadat Hassan Manto and was married to his youngest daughter Nusrat. Married to Nusrat (my aunt) in 1972, both complemented each other and brought the best out of each other. Not only did they share an impeccable bond, but their understanding was exemplary. The fusion of both was reflective in the affection and love they shared for each other. Having virtually grown up seeing Shahid Jalal, I remained in awe of him and the manner, he conducted himself. There was not a hint of materialism in him despite his achievements and successes throughout his life. Honest to the core, but as he once told us that he was extremely ambitious, something we failed to notice personally. Not only was he easy-going, but devoid of any hang-ups, was outspoken and blunt to the core. I observed no notion of pride or ego in him, he was driven by his sociable and charitable causes with The Citizens Foundation with whom he was closely aligned for many years.
Familial bonds are driven by closeness and love, Mr Jalal ensured he helped those around him whether it was family members or his domestic help, he was always present irrespective of the situation. Morally upright and his honesty remained a highlight of his life, whose credentials could never be questioned. Much akin to his father, Hamid Jalal he shared his traits of empathy and kindness but emulated him in many other ways which would have made him proud. His artistic lineage and legacy remain alive and distinct with the contrasting visual aesthetics which were represented in his paintings. The sprightliness and brightness of his paintings, those contrasting colours his observant eyes captured were representative of who he was. His paintbrushes weaved magic and stroked the contours and beauty of nature’s sumptuousness in his artistic canvas. His paintings were a visual delight to see and left you stunned with his repertoire of skills he possessed. Imbued with multiple talents, not only was he a food connoisseur but he was so well-read and well versed in many facets of life, it was nigh unbelievable.
I recall a trip as an eight-year-old in the summers of 1992 to Shogran, Naran and Kaghan in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa. His sense of adventure and passion knew no bounds; he genuinely knew how to enjoy holidays. He took us for long walks in the mountainous terrain around Shogran, we passed forests and our sense of foreboding knew no bounds. His keenness of exploration and revelling in those long walks, having food from a roadside Dhaba and introducing us to exotic new foods was his speciality. Around him, you could never feel bored but his candidness and frankness of tolerating guests for long periods was not his forte. Being an early riser, he was meticulous about his routine which included taking his dog Brandy for a walk, eating healthy food intermittently before lunch which was inculcated by my aunt Nusrat. Also, he used to go for painting early morning to capture the spirit of what he observed and saw before sketching it on his canvas. The Jalal household legendary for cherishing its afternoon sleep was also in-built in him and he derided those who visited or called in the afternoon. He was disciplined in his way and never imposed his will or thoughts on others. Equipped with a sharpness of mind, he never advised anyone of us unless we sought his counsel. Magnanimous at heart and frugal, Mr Jalal never exhibited any materialistic tendencies but evoked humanity and equality throughout his chequered life. A self-made man who rose through the ranks with sheer hard work and diligence, his career and life were an example for all of us on how to climb the ladder of success but not to lose sight of who we are and where we come from.
Embedded with a keen curiosity, he was a joy to interact with. It would be a disservice to not mention my aunt Nusrat, who as Mr Jalal’s wife and foremostly a friend complimented each other throughout their married life. The two individuals could not be more different; Mr Jalal a brash, outspoken, and frugal individual, on the contrary, is my aunt Nusrat, very principled, methodical, and quiet but with a mind of her own. However, I always felt that they were the ideal couple, not only did they have telepathy but the level of understanding and respect they developed for each other was unmatched. As my mother Nuzhat says, both were able to take the best of qualities of each other and forged them to the point of fruition. It is a testimony to the fact that my beloved uncle Shahid was unlike any other individual in our family, he was unique and special to all of us.
Rather than mourn my beloved uncle’s loss, I would like to celebrate his life which was full of accolades personally and professionally. He left an indelible impact on all of us, with his enthusiastic and positive approach towards life. As a father, husband, son, and brother, he vested his duties with genuineness and heartfelt love and retained no bitterness or grudges against anyone. He was like the changing seasons, who was always blossoming, bringing diversity and contrasts to our lives. His happy disposition, charisma, compassion, empathy, and kindness will keep illuminating our lives and those memories that he left behind will keep being cherished, remembered by every one of us. May God bless his soul. Amen.