IT was photography that connected Suresh Sharma and Nek Chand, establishing an instant rapport between them. “It was in late 1960s, when Nek Chand was still building the Rock Garden, that I began visiting the space with my camera, documenting its progress in photographs, without any specific purpose in mind. That’s how our relationship began,” recalled Sharma of Indiano Studio in Sector 17. Their friendship grew over the years.
Going back in time and reliving many special moments, Suresh recalled how in the 1970s, Nek Chand was invited to France to showcase his work, his first international invitation, and it was Gurbaksh Rai, the tourism director then, who reached out to Nek Chand, providing him with support to promote his art in France.
“I decided to prepare around 50 prints of his artworks in 10 by 12 sizes, facilitating a projection of the work in France in the form of a slide show,” said Sharma, who remembers Nek Chand for his simplicity and generosity.
It was a relationship without any expectations, just mutual love and respect. “Once when I was ill, Nek Chand had sent me shahtoot and flowers daily for weeks.That will always have a special place in my heart,” said 71-year-old Sharma, adding that whenever any dignitary or guests came to Rock Garden, Nek Chand would tell Sharma to join him.
“Though an untrained artist, Nek Chand was an excellent landscaper, sculptor and visualiser. He never used a paper and pen, but his ideas flowed with brilliance. He was an extraordinary artist,” said Sharma, and added how Nek Chand would gift things that he had created with his hands – be it sculptures, drawings or small pieces of art made with recycled cloth, bangles, tiles.
“My most precious possession is a bead necklace which he had gifted me. He would roll the beads out of clay and when still wet, would make holes and then bake these and make necklaces,” Sharma said.
He also showed a postal stamp with Nek Chand’s art, issued on September 23, 1983.
“I preserve it with care and love. Nek Chand would gift so many things to his friends and relatives, inspiring them to love and appreciate art and also preserve his memories forever in their homes and hearts,” said Sharma, remembering that a copper bell that he had got for Nek Chand from Delhi Emporium found a special place in his home and now decorates Nek Chand’s office. “He valued gifts and the tradition of giving,” said Sharma.