M. F. Hussain leaves priceless collection to Karachi Press Club
India’s world renowned painter Maqbool Fida Hussain, better known as M. F. Hussain, has left a priceless cache to Karachi Press Club. The treasure trove comprises a couple of paintings that Hussain, often affectionately referred to as India’s Picasso
Hussain’s immovable priceless “wall” legacy to Karachi Press Club includes a painting of three playful horses and a calligraphy that reads ‘Ya Rub’ in Urdu or “O God” in English. Hussain’s well known affection for horses comes alive in the long masterly strokes of the three magnificent beasts that portray them in all their glory..
Hussain, whose natural talent helped him rose from the ranks of the thousands of movie billboard painters eeking out a living to help bring movie-crazy Indians to cinema halls, to India’s most sought after and the best recognized artist across the world, signed the ‘horses painting’ in English as well as Urdu along with the date- September 10, 1992. The other painting was either not signed and/or dated or the eroding plaster across the outer parameters of the painting has eaten up the signature and the date. The first assumption seems more likely guess as there is no trace of a signature and/or date amidst the flaking cement.
Hussain the master painter uses just three colors- blue and gray, and black just for the outlines, to bring the three mischievously playful horses to life in all their magnificence and playful glory. The master’s simple but elegant brush strokes, the hypnotic use of just three colors and the positioning of the subjects, in this case the three horses, have an impact not only on an art connoisseur but also an otherwise ordinary mortal- an impact that could be experienced but not explained.
Hussain has A verse of famed Pakistani revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated not only in Pakistan but across the world including UK last month, also makes part of the horses’ painting at Karachi Press Club. The verse roughly translates “I will keep on nurturing the mast and the pen”. The translation of the second line of the one of most famous of Faiz’s verse, which was not painted by Hussain is “And will keep on narrating whatever befalls my heart”.
The calligraphy painting is a single color painting. Blue, dark blue, is the describing color with dabbling shades of black and gray. But dark blue is the most prominent color. Even those not familiar with Urdu, and for that matter Arabic or Persian, could be moved by symmetry, design, mathematical dimension..
Abdul Hameed Chhapra, a veteran journalist and one the most senior member of Karachi Press Club, profoundly remembers M. F. Hussain’s working on the legendary paintings at the Karachi Press Club. Mr. Chhapra, who was a witness to Hussain’s frenzy and passion at the Club, calls him ‘dervish’- a saint, a godly man. “Despite the world fame he was the simplest of the men that I have ever seen. He had no airs whatsoever; the fame has not spoiled him in the least. He worked barfoot.” Mr. Chhapra, a five-time elected president and twice elected vice president of the Club, is all praise for M. F. Hussain, who died in London on June this year in self-imposed exile after he was forced to leave his native country amidst a threatening uproar by Hindu extremists for indecent paintings of Hindu goddesses.
Hussain had lived in Dubai since 2006 after receiving death threats from Hindu hard-liners in India for painting Hindu goddesses including Saraswati in nude.
Hussain, started out as a poster artist for India's prolific Bollywood film industry but his natural talent helped him rose to heights that no Indian painter has ever reached- at least as yet. He became a world known artist and even his pencil drawings carry price tags of tens of thousands of rupees while his paintings became status symbols for Indian elite millions of millions of dollars.
Hussain’s flowing white beard gloriously matched by white hair that never left him till his final breaths; his round eye glasses; his perpetual shoeless feet; his fascination with white and black and dark clothes- traditional Indian as well as western, made him an instantly recognized icon not only in India but internationally.
His passion for horses started earlier in his career and though somewhat lessens as he gained fame it never entirely dried during the later stages of his distinct and famed career. Born in a poverty Hussain’s never-ending bond with horses started with the proximity to neighbors horseshoe fastener and a horse-cart (tonga) driver respectively- in Indore India. The childhood voices of horses’ snarls and the horseshoes kept haunting Hussain throughout his life- sometimes more sometimes less but never completely leaving him.
Hussain expressed a desire to return home many a time during the last few years. He was buried at Brookwood cemetery at Woking in Surrey, south of London on June 10. His coffin was pulled in a black Mercedes hearse his coffin as his family followed in a Rolls Royce. Billionaire Indian entrepreneur Lakshmi Mittal was one of four dozen mourners present to pay their last respect to the legendary artist. His family declined the offer to flow back his body to his native India for seemingly apparent reasons saying that Hussain wished to be buried wherever he died.
Husain's funeral prayer was offered at an Islamic centre in Tooting. His coffin was left opened for a couple of hours to let the mourners, and there were many of them including Labor Party leader Lord Ghulam Noor, to catch his last glimpse. Hussain is survived by four sons; Shafqaat, Shamshad, Mustafa and Awais and two daughters Raza and Aqeela.
M. F. Hussain has played his long inning well and is now gone but Karachi Press Club keeps enjoying the honor of having him painted the two separate parts of wall in the Ibrahim Jalees Hall on the ground floor the primary venue of press conferences that let the mighty as well as the low, the powerful and the weak, the brute and the oppressed air their grievances freely.
In a way, M.F. Hussain will keep on living at the Karachi Press Club notwithstanding the fact that many of its members, particularly the young and the new, don’t even know the significance of these priceless pieces 19 years ago by a ‘dervish’.
However, the significance of Hussain friendly ‘gestures’ at Karachi Press Club should not be missed by people of Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers and long perceived by the world at large as “traditional enemies”. Hussain’s cache to Karachi Press Club implies a warm bond of heritage that the peoples of India and Pakistan shared for centuries. He succeeded where policy makers of the two countries have failed.