A Day In the Life of Allama Iqbal
An Interview with Mian Ali Bakhsh
Note: The extracts are from an interview with Mian Ali Bakhsh, the life-long domestic assistant of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. It was conducted by Pakistani man of letters Mumtaz Hasan on 23 September 1957. It’s from “Tribute to Iqbal” by Mumtaz Hasan, collected and edited by M.Moizuddin
Q. When did Iqbal usually get up in the morning?
A. Very early. As a matter of fact, he slept very little. He was keen on his morning prayer. After the prayer he read the Qur’an.
Q. In what manner did he read the Qur’an?
A. Before his throat was affected, he used to recite the Qur’an in a clear and melodious voice. Even after he got the throat disease he used to read the Qur’an but not loudly.
Q. What did he usually do after he had finished his prayer and recitation?
A. He used to sit in an easy-chair. I would prepare his “hookah” and place it before him. He would study the briefs of cases which were to come up in court that day. Now and then, while still at his files, he would have moments of poetic inspiration.
Q. How did you know when he was in his poetic mood?
A. He would call me and say: “Bring my note book and my pencil.” When I brought these, he would write down the verses in pencil. Now and then, when he did not feel satisfied with his composition, he was extremely restless. While composing he would often ask for the Qur’an to be brought to him. Even otherwise he called for the Qur’an a number of times in the day.
Q. What time did he usually go to court when he was practising at the bar?
A. He used to leave 15 or 20 minutes before court time. As long as he lived in Anarkali [his house, which is no longer in existence, was where the New Market, Lahore, is now] he used to go to court in his horse carriage. Later, he bought a car.
Q. How long was he active as a legal practictioner?
A. He was in practice until he got his throat disease which was around 1932 or 1933.
Q. What did he do on return from court?
A. Before doing anything else he used to ask me to help him take off his court clothes. He was never fond of formal dress and used to put it only for the court and that also with effort.
Q. What did he do after changing his dress?
A. He composed verses whenever he felt like it.
Q. Did he sleep in the afternoon?
A. Not usually, but he did so now and then.
Q. At what time did he take his meals?
A. Between 12 and 1 o’clock in the day. He ate only one meal. Normally he did not eat in the evening.
Q. What were his favourite dishes?
A. He was fond of pulao, mash-ki-daal seasoned with ghee, karela stuffed with minced meat, and also khushka.
Q. Did he like many dishes at his meals?
A. No, there were only a few dishes at a time. He was a poor eater.
Q. Did he take any exercise?
A. In the early days, he did. In those days he used dum-bells, and performed dand [a stretching exercise].
Q. Was he interested in games and sports?
A. He was interested in watching wrestling matches.
Q. Was he in the habit of going out in the evening?
A. Getting out in the evening was almost an impossibility with him. In the earlier days when he was living inside Bhati Gate [where he lived before going to Cambridge, England in 1905], he would sometimes walk as far as the platform outside the house of Hakim Shahbazuddin [a close friend of the poet]. Once in a while Sir Zulfiqar Ali [of the ruling family of Malerkotla; author of book on poet ‘A voice from the East’] would come in his car and take him out.
Q. When did he go to sleep in the evening?
A. In the evening a number of friends and visitors used to call on him. These sittings went on till 9 or 10 o’clock. After this he sat alone with Ch. Mohammad Husain and recited to him the verses he had composed during the day.
Q. How long did Choudhry Sahib normally stay?
A. Up to 12 or 1 o’clock in the night. After this Doctor Sahib would go to bed, but would get up for his Tahajjud prayer after he had hardly slept for two or three hours.
Q. And after the Tahajjud?
A. He used to lie down for a short time until it was time for the morning prayers.
[republished with permission from www.jaihoon.com]