Meet the scientist who transitioned from developing nukes to creating water colours
A scientist, writer and painter Fasihuddin Toor was born in Kocha Hakeem Inayat Shah locality of the Walled City of Lahore in 1941. He remembers the early days of his life -- cycling from the Walled City to PCSIR Laboratories every day -- where he was employed after doing his masters.
Later, he joined the Atomic Energy Commission of Pakistan.
“After doing my PhD in 1968, I came back. Chairman Ishrat Husain Usmani Sahib assigned me the task of making an ore leaching pilot plant for newly discovered Uranium ore.
“I started working on it. A lot of young engineers joined my team. Pakistani working culture has strange dynamics. I was young, naive and energetic. My seniors would consider me as an over-efficient young man,” he recalls.
The major attraction to work for the atomic energy commission was the foreign jobs, where one would make good money.
“I was working hard but my colleagues were being sent abroad for training except for me. On making a complaint, my Bengali supervisor would say, “We are sending them abroad because they are doing nothing.Why should we send you, who is productive.” “This strange logic and the working culture pushed me to go to the private sector, and I joined Packages.
“I was working under Essential Services Act and bound by a surety bond to the President of Pakistan. Syed Babar Ali personally pursued and convinced Usmani Sahib to send me on deputation.”
He joined Packages and headed their major projects till his retirement in 2004 as the head of Ali Institute.
Babar Ali would say: “We are investing and relying on you for our key projects; you are not supposed to go back to make bombs,” he vividly recalls.
“When Bhutto came into power, the nukes project was accelerated. Usmani Sahib got retired and Muneer Ahmed became the chairman. He summoned back all scientists on deputation. I didn’t want to go back, but it was inevitable.
“Luckily, we were doing a few important projects for the armed forces at Packages. That saved me from going back to the commission and I was exempted from the Essential Services Act.”
While working at Kabirwala Dairies, he got ample time, staying alone away from home, after working hours. He wrote a book ‘Industrial Management in Developing Countries’ in two volumes, Theoretical Considerations and Practical Implications.
“I went to a leading publishing house.They demanded a 60 per cent share in the sale, though all printing expenses were to be borne by myself. I decided to print it on my own and sold all 2,000 copies,” he says.
“It gave me confidence in my writing skills. After retirement from Packages, Babar Ali asked me to write a book on the history of the company. Initially, I was reluctant, but later on decided to go for it,” he adds.
Another significant book to his credit is a collection of Punjabi proverbs ‘Akhaan Lahore thay’.
“I am among the Punjabis who don’t feel shyness in speaking my language. However, as a nation, we are insensitive to our language,” he regrets.
“Working in East Africa, one of my friends Tarlochan Singh Gole made me realise the importance of my mother language and suggested me to speak Punjabi with my kids.That led me to another type of understanding.
“My parents and grandparents used to speak Punjabi and I was quiet familiar with Punjabi proverbs. My daughter asked me to document it. There are numerous books, but I write their translation and uses so that the people who are not fluent in Punjabi can relate to it.
“I started recalling and collecting them from the Lahori folks and compiled almost seven hundred proverbs being used in Lahore.
He was a frequenter to art section of Packages.
“A meeting with Rumi Sahib at art section was always inspiring for me, which helped me regain energies during tough working hours.”
After retirement, he started painting, a self-taught artist with a couple of group shows and five solo exhibitions to his credit, he is painting water colours regularly for almost a decade.
The flowers, foliage, illumination, calligraphy and historical monuments have been his favourite subjects.
While painting monuments in most of his works, he seems like looking for beauty in precision. Working patiently, he captures each and every detail present on the subject, like a miniature painter. He prefers painting detailed close-ups and unconventional compositions. Employing a rich palette, he ends up in colourful visuals which are a tribute to the unknown artisans of Mughal era.
Originally published in Dawn, August 7th, 2016