(Death in Exile for M. F. Hussain – Picasso of India)

Riddled by a series of court cases pertaining to his controversial paintings, Maqbool Fida Hussain (1915-2011) died in a London hospital on June 9, 2011. His paintings sold hours after death at Christie’s South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale – far above the € 10,000 – 20,000 estimates. Indian government offered facilitation if the family wanted burial at home.

The capacity of the great painter was distinct and spirited. I am sure just the same remained right up to his last days on earth. I look at the wealth of meeting Mr. M.F. Hussain a couple of times: once in Mumbai and the other time in Dubai. On the first time when my husband and myself saw him walking by himself on a Mumbai road, we pulled our car to the side and requested him to come to our home which was only a short distance away from us. He valued our invitation with absolute spontaneity; as regards the visit, the maestro with his easy-going regal style, walked up and down the length of our drawing room, keeping a kinship with the walls where he saw his own work and viewed the paintings of his contemporaries with a subtle smile. Nearer to the exit door, he asked me to get paper and pen. In a matter of moments, the great painter had established goddess Durga seated on a lion. Methodically, he put his signature, the date, and as I admitted my delight, his parting words to me were, ‘Because you did not ask me to draw – I wanted to leave this for you’. In between time, I had the chance to keep in touch with his painter-son, Shamshad and one of his other brother. Many many years later, we met Mr. M. F. Hussain again at an event decorating his works at Capital Club, Dubai. In a large space full of eager watchers and listeners, the grand old man – Picasso of India and myself went through the same memory lane of long ago. In a click, he was quick to recall that Sunday afternoon of Mumbai. The nostalgia is too special, too precious for me and I had to share it with my readers.

Geeta Chhabra

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