It was an honour to have known Khalid Iqbal all my life. He was a man of integrity, a person who was learned, kind and passionate about art. He was also incredibly generous in guiding and helping others. He stood up for what he believed in and in his own quiet, inimitable way made his point.
I was lucky, rather, I was blessed, to have had him in my life since I was a child. He was my friend, teacher and anchor in a world that had left me rudderless. His quiet presence in the background gave me the strength to go on and to believe in myself as a person, and as an artist and to stand on my own two feet.
He was one of the pillars of the Fine Arts Department of the Punjab University and both he, Colin David and Naseem Qazi helped my mother, Anna Molka Ahmed, establish a firm base for the Department. Later on, the National College of Arts was lucky to get both Khalid and Colin as their faculty members — and their exodus was due to me!
Taufiq Rafat, perhaps one of our most brilliant poets who wrote in English, was a childhood friend of Khalid’s. They were in school together at St. Joseph’s Academy, Deradun, India, and friends as kids. Their friendship lasted a lifetime. Taufiq, one can say, was the only person who really knew him.
Another dear friend and admirer of Khalid’s was Urmila Sirajuddin, Professor Sondhi’s daughter. She used to visit Khalid, Colin and Naseem Qazi when they were teaching art classes at the Lahore Arts Council in the evenings. She used to go for her walk in Lawrence Gardens and come and have tea with us afterwards. Colin used to have us all in fits of laughter and used to tease Naseem Qazi calling her ‘clickety!’
By the time Khalid was Principal at the National College of Arts, one could feel that he wanted to devote more time to painting than to teaching and eventually he decided to leave. He painted to his heart’s content for the rest of his life until his health did not allow him to drive or go out.
Whenever I came to see him he would say, “Hi Nut!” and now there’s no-one left to say those words.
He loved painting in the open air and he loved his garden. In the old days one could always find him with his board, easel, paints and straw hat, painting away in some spot that spoke to him; sometimes by himself or with some students. Later, when his health didn’t allow him to go out, he would sketch his beloved trees sitting in his verandah … his favourite spot … the view from his verandah!
He always had a slight smile when talking about any subject under the sun. He was so well read. We were all so lucky to have known him, to have been taught and guided by him. There will never be anyone like him again. He was a unique, giving soul … always ready to give a helping hand or advice when asked. If he took you under his wing, he stood by you for the rest of your life, but there was a line you could not cross with him. There was a reserve that was always present. Even his family couldn’t cross that line.
I miss him so; no one will fill the void.