Years before he gained recognition and made his mark on the global art map,MF Husain was a frequent guest in the Somajiguda neighbourhood of Hyderabad. In the tranquil home of art connoisseur Badrivishal Pitti,he painted some of his most acclaimed series,like those on the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Later,the artwork painted in this nondescript room was to travel across the world. But there was another pursuit of Husain during the same period,which got lost in time. In between wielding the brush,Husain had spared time penning his thoughts on paper. In carefully painted calligraphy,he shared his observations and dreams. It was his diary one in which he wrote uninhibited and named it Harf va Naksh.
These notes have now resurfaced. The yellowed sheets from the 60s will be shared with art aficionados on the eve of his first death anniversary on June 8,in an event organised by the foundation established by one of his closest friends,SH Raza. Befittingly,reading out from pages of the hand-written book at the event,which is being held at India International Centre,Delhi,will be another friend and fellow member of the Progressive Artists Group Krishen Khanna.
It is a tribute to Husain. We will be sharing his words, says author Krishna Baldev Vaid,who had the book in his collection for over 40 years. It was artist Manish Pushkale who reminded him of it last month. I was giving away some of my books when Manish spotted this, says Vaid,who had received the copy from Pitti in the 60s. He was very close to Husain and I believe Husain must have requested him to publish the book. At the outset,the text seems random but after close observation,I feel these were the letters written by Husain to his Czech lover,by whom he was smitten at that time, adds Vaid,flipping through the pages that has text in English,Urdu and Hindi,interspersed with sketches. At the ceremony,Vaid will read out the text in Urdu,while art critic Prayag Shukla will narrate the words in Hindi and Khanna in English.
Vaid is unsure if the work was published for public distribution,but Pushkale believes there were numbered copies of the book. There were less than 10 copies,one of which was with Husain, notes Pushkale,adding that his close friends and family are unaware of its existence. No one seems to know of this marvellous work. He was one of the most prolific artists who did so many things that its difficult to keep count, he says. He adds that by sharing the book,he hopes to unravel another facet of the masterhis love for writing.
The best way to remember him is through his own words, says Pushkale,putting together the pages of the book that have scattered with time but are valuable nevertheless,for they belong to an artist whose contribution to Indian art is indisputable.