Wednesday 12 February 2014

The cutting chai Hussain Saab and I never had.

If you have seen him once you can never forget him. The car before me pulled to an unexpected halt and a man literally hopped out, long flowing kurta, bare feet, grey haired and like a child jumped in the air to catch a bough of flaming Gulmohar in full bloom. Two try’s later he touched the sight that had bewitched him to stop and just as abruptly he got into the car and whisked off leaving me with an indelible memory of an irrepressible ‘manchild’, M.F.Hussain.

His humble beginnings, Souza’s destined walk under the ladder and India’s greatest find, the Progessive Artist’s group and his pivotal role, his horse, his muse, his larger than life persona, his iconic lifestyle, his multi dimensional interests. His hues are many and there will be a global rush for art historians to chronicle his life and times. Many who have known him will pen their interactions and tributes.  As you read you will find that mine is more thoughts that I feel could have crossed his mind in his last lingering moments. Continuing from where I left…
Many years passed between and I saw him on many occasions, at parties and exhibitions. The energy his presence exuded was always infectious. It was as if life was challenging him to be a grown up while all he wanted was to be a child, an adorable naughty child. On all occasions his vibrance was just like the Gulmohar in full bloom.

Seeing my love for tea his daughter Aqueela once said ‘you share this passion with my dad’ ever since a ‘cutting chai’ meeting was on the cards.  Our paths were not to cross but I can hear the conversation we never had.
I look around and see the purity of white around him, clean air, sprawling spaces and I say London looks like a beautiful place for your health and creativity. His eyes have that faraway look oblivious of his surrounding or my presence as if speaking to himself. Space is not geography, it lies in the heart and India has shut that door of my space. I have to smile and show gratitude to London but how do I silence the weeping within?

I feel like the child you saw in ‘Taare Zameen Pe’ standing in the corridor, punished, humiliated and yet entertaining himself in the corridor that has become his classroom. I see myself in him ‘Dard hota hai dil mein, kaise kahun, kise kahun’ (There is pain in my heart how do I say it? Who do I say it to?)
Indians love me they come here and spend so much time laughing, sharing, talking. But India has spurned me like a step child. The country is the largest  secular democracy in the world however I have been marginalized. When idol makers sculpt the gods at one stage they all stand nude, photographs are taken, what is wrong.  From time immemorial an artist is trained to see the purity of form in the nakedness of things. Seeing nudity in the nude lies in the eyes of that beholder and I have been punished.

Here I am not homeless ‘beghar nahi hoo’ “he who has lost his mother when he is a child never knows what to call home”. I do not know when and how India became my mother, my home. This time when my mother died I was not a child anymore. The sadness is that she is alive for others but has turned her back on me. How can I come to terms with this reality?

I know I have been gifted with some magic in my fingers and the world loves it. The body that holds these fingers are getting tired waiting, wanting. Soon it will leave me. When I see that day, I laugh and cry together. Laugh, for India will suffer amnesia and do a passionate ‘Tandav’ dance of pampering on my grave and immortalize me calling me India’s Picasso maybe. They will want to carry this cold lifeless being that I will become for a respectful Indian burial and I will cry just one more time for my Mumbai Falooda that I never got to have.
The cutting Chai had gone cold it still remains un drunk, maybe another time another life.

Written By Mithu Basu
Curator and Founder - Dolna

Image courtesy - Arindam Sarmah

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