From Zaidi, with love
by K.M. Sahni
We went to Lahore recently for an ILO sponsored five-nation meet on child labour. My wife came along. She is Lahore born, 7 Club Road to be precise, which turned out to be a rather prestigious address, being the official residence of the Punjab Chief Minister.
Suddenly, I had an idea. Why not drop in at 7, Club Road, to see what it was like? Without a warning to anybody, we took off in the car provided to me by the State Government, our police escort dutifully behind. When we drew up at the bungalow around 11.00 p.m. its gates were closed. The police van sounded its hooter, and the guards opened up. We parked inside, stood on the lawns, silently took in the scene before us, and left.
On day 2, my wife and I went over to Zaidi’s, a famous photographer located at 23, Mall Road. My parents’ post-wedding photograph was taken by the late Syed Mohd. Ali there. The establishment, which first set up shop in Allahabad way back in 1904, is now owned by his son, Shahid Zaidi.
We were met by his shagird, one Mr Yunus, who surprised us by rolling out the old records and, voila, there was my dad’s name in one of his registers which showed that the photograph adorning our drawing room in New Delhi was clicked by Zaidi’s in Mall Road, Lahore, on March 12, 1945, a month and a half after their wedding in Hardwar.
Here I was examining it under a lamp, on November 21, 2006. On an impulse, I asked Mr Yunus whether he could take a snap of ours. When he heard of the connection with my parents’ photograph, he suggested we could go to the Gulberg Shop “where Shahid Saheb sits”, but we said, no, it had to be the same place on Mall Road! So he took us inside, and with great professional ease, snapped us in about a dozen postures.
On Thursday, my wife went and selected the print of our photograph at Zaidi’s, with the promise to pick it up on Friday at 5 pm on our way to the airport to catch the return flight to Delhi.
At 5 we were back to Zaidi’s. Yunus Saheb gave us our framed photograph, and when we asked how much, he said it was complimentary, ‘‘on instructions of Shahid Saheb”. I then requested him to connect me to his owner in Gulberg, and when he came on the line, I thanked him for his gesture, and told him I was leaving a token of my feelings for him - an Indian silk tie and a packet of Darjeeling tea.
I also told him that, maybe, a day would come when my daughter would land up at his establishment on the Mall with her husband, for yet another takeaway to complete the picture, if that is the expression.
Thank you, Shahid Saheb, for rekindling my past, and for holding an opportunity for my daughter in the future.