Posts Tagged ‘MF Husain’

There was an artist who discovered himself even as a toddler. The child that he was, he saw the ancestral home typical of Lucknowi nawab filled with objets d’art that had their origin elsewhere. His father an avid collector had brought everything that was pleasing to the eye: while he searched for more to fill his home the child discovered a world. The fragile porcelain along with fox furs and Gobelins tapestries were his constant companions. One morning he saw them and yet it was as though he was turned inside out in order to see them. His other self played with them and made his eyes see through its arrangement!
It was so unusual that he took a paper and sketched in his child like scrawl what was the true state of his father’s house. His other self was a world of its own. It made order to the other world that rolled on, changing each day and with seasons.
It was an epiphany! in this beatific experience he discovered his soul and it loved order. Many objects that were in gilt and lapis lazuli had vanished! when he filled in blocks of areas with crayons even the heavy draperies that always stood in mournful indolence become charged with a luminance. In other times where the sun had barely filtered through heavy latticed sunscreens he saw light had become subtle; and even shadows had a violet hue nestling against greens and amber! The mystery of nature as though had yielded itself to him through a pencil of light.
By instinct he identified soul and while he redrew the picture of his late father among his collection his soul held the hand to make him once again come to life! He was the true artist who made dead come to life and memory that sought beneath the surface,-and his eyes and hands had done only its bidding.
First time he cut himself loose from whatever were his support and went to Bombay as it was called then he was an artist but art of life was not yet learned. He did whatever came his way and if he had to be huckster he didn’t mind since he did it with brush and colors. The life of lower depths did not drag him down since his soul was buoyant to be otherwise. This life in the dumps freed him from the trap that the petty necessities often make one slave for financial security the be-all in life. Rest of his life he would go on making art of life and art of his soul come together as a sure stroke with his loaded brush on a canvas.
At the age of eighteen he had ventured into the harsh world where man bartered his soul for a mead of praise and cared for nothing except the money that jingled in his pocket. In discovering his soul his mundane world knew what took precedence. It was as natural as it was meant to be. Never more he took note of another man’s word where his soul had spoken.
Consequently he made a pact with himself to preserve his soul as the sole authority and it was non-negotiable. His very own heaven!
Thus it was with him when India got her independence. The electric energy of such freedom made him celebrate his own in such colors and those who saw the result said,’Our tryst with destiny is there for all to see.’ Here is a patriot whom we shall patronize and make him celebrate our national policies visually. Alas our artist was not for a leash around his neck to dance to the powers that be.
His world went about where his paint and canvases laid out his soul’s state of health in cool or vibrant colors.
One morning one Sethji came with an offer. Just after the Mundhra scam it was. He wanted him to paint the pantheon of gods with the faces of many masters he wanted to please. Our artist looked at him as he extolled the Hindu culture and said India without her traditions would be a dark and lonely place. In his mind’s eye he presented a man bound to a corpse for whom he had not paid any obsequies! But here was he waxing eloquent about his debt to the dead and departed. He refused.
Since that day the artist found he was alone. He wished to present his canvases for the art summit that was convened with much publicity. They looked at his entries. They shuddered. ‘Oh no these would raise the hackles at some quarters. ‘We artists need our recognition and money! So they made appropriate noises at his dilemma and wished him luck.
The artist had over the years found his soul for inspiration needed very little. It had made cosmos its rightful place while politician made boundaries and maneuvered constantly he was free. Only he needed privacy of soul and thoughts to make the work hold its own and when it was finished each had a life of its own. His soul had liberated from past and he could move onto something else. Everything that soul could feed on was already absorbed in his four decades.
An artist lives among flesh and blood. Even his detractors all real and yet strangers to his soul, wanted their reality imposed on him!
Every artist who tenders his soul as hard currency would face opposition. In India he had plenty and they hated him for independence of his thoughts. No one had valued his soul as he. Hence their stand hardened. His enemies fought as hard as only they could. They would bring him down and drag him through mud. He escaped to foreign parts where they did not ask of his religion or his affiliations to this political party or that party. He wanted time and peace where his soul could express itself.
When he died after a lifetime of feasting with great masters who were scattered all over,- from Hokusai to Matisse,Picasso, some dwarves made a cry,’Had he loved Mother India he would have chosen to die on her soil.’ Some Jackals who in his moments of peril smelt trouble and had merely turned to other side lamented,’We truly wanted to help him had he asked for our help’
The artist who had lost his mother when he was but 18 months old never accused fate,’why you have deprived me of my mother?’ Instead he sublimated his sorrow ever since in his canvases and his soul had salved his loss. Yet some idiots would want him to paint Mother India after their fashion! The artist was through and through a son of the soil and his soul had celebrated this using the vocabulary of art. He knew it and the art lovers everywhere knew and loved him for it.
If some blind fools throw tantrum who cares?


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The Pulitzer prize winner Lelyveld’s book on Gandhi is sure to raise hell at some quarters in India. In India traditionally saints are served larger than life so much so the fluff from their plaster cast must leave the purveyors giddy. If Mother India is shown in her buff it is outrage but if she is swathed in nine yard saree looking wooden and distant there are those who light incense and sing Vande Mataram. Even as these poltroons sing you can hear meat cleavers being sharpened in their hearts and their souls shut out lest some sense should make singing carry its meaning as well. Those who sing this song of sublime beauty with murder in their heart only make Mother India immolate herself many times over. MF Husain painted Mother India with every right as an artist and as an Indian. But what upset some busybodies was more his religion than his art. Homespun khadi or saffron robes are nothing if the heart has become dead.
Gandhi has been so much reviled even while the blackguards praised him skyhigh. The biographer did not do his job in order to please some or to damn his subject. Let us at least read this book if possible with an open mind before we judge him.
I remember in my high school when I first read Bhowani Junction by John Masters I was shocked by the disrespect shown to Gandhi. It was like someone defacing the Bible or tearing the page from it to light a fire! Time has taught me to take opinions of others for what it is, an opinion.
I have come to revise my opinion of Gandhi as I came to revise on Tolstoy. Henri Troyat’s biography and few others made me realize the great man was far from a saint. But whatever faults,-his pettiness, obtuseness to see the obvious, his vision and life-work is secure. In his faults he is like you and me. He was a man, real. Baring his innermost thoughts in his diary but letting his wife read them may have spelt sincerity in his lexicon but was it prudent? I hope not. Great men also have their weakness when their mind sleeps on the job. WE Gladstone thought he was doing a great service to want to save the ‘angels’ but in working it would not work so simple. Human heart is so treacherous that the great men follows the lead based on some curious premise but sooner or later natural impulses take on the control ( DH Lawrence was right). His diary and his confession at his deathbed we may accept as genuine and that he didn’t sin; but is it necessary to prove nature had nothing to do with it? Gandhi may be accused for homoeroticism and it only makes him human. Another canard, his using his his nieces to prove his self control over his body may or may not be true. Even if it is true it doesn’t in no way detract from his greatness. His lifework of nonviolence as a political weapon makes him a great soul. Forget his fads, his political ideas and opinions. He has been proved wrong as well as vindicated in great many things. He stands 100 percent Indian since his life and its thrust made cultural icons of our past like Buddha, Mahavira Jain and their thoughts relevant in far greater measure relevant for our century.
In spite of whatever revelations the new book may carry Gandhi is secure as far as I am concerned.
He has outsoared the shadow of our night; envy and calumny..’ Nothing that any book on Gandhi may bring out can add or remove even an iota from greatness of his soul. If A Raja is the visible face of Indian politics Gandhi was and still is the conscience of India that I think of a geographical entity and people that populate it. Here we have national life in its vision and in its working. These can never be reconciled so it would seem.

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