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Saturday, December 20, 2008


Today, I went to the recently opened Museum of Islamic Art in Doha – a fantastic collection of art from Europe, Africa and Asia. A collection that would be only half of what it boasts now if we in India had learnt to take care of our treasures.

Though we love to talk about our rich culture and heritage, all that we are capable of now is splitting hairs over religion. We have scant regard for the richness we have inherited. Just look at how we treat our archaeological sites.

Let me stop the general rant and talk about what really bothers me.

It’s the Maqbool Fida Husain Collection. That’s what upset me.

I can come to terms with the wonderful collection of centuries-old jewellery and daggers and pottery that we have lost to people who better appreciate it.

I think it’s quite wonderful that M F Husain – an Indian – is the only living artist commissioned to do a collection for the Museum, which will include artistic representation of the 99 names of Allah.

The above is his representation of the Last Supper.

But I can’t accept or digest the fact that we’ve lost him due to our intolerance to a country that doesn’t even pretend to be secular or tolerant.

How can we force an old man out of his own home and country? Our temple sculptures and art are far more provocative than what he attempted. We are so intolerant because he happens to be a Husain? Not a Srinivasan or Arjun or whatever…

Please don’t start with ‘would he do this to Fatima or Khadija or …’; that is nonsense and shirking our responsibility as reasonable folks; Till we decided to make an issue of it, Husain was only known as an Indian painter, a great one at that, with a quirky passion for Bollywood actresses.

We, because of our intolerance made him a Muslim painter.

He was so obviously crazy about all things his country boasted of – from Bollywood to whatever else. Yet at 90 he has to live in a foreign nation?

Reading the legends in the Gallery made me want to scream out loud…

Under the title (not of the painting) Controversy and Comprehension hangs the painting below:

And next to that is this legend:

Read it carefully…

In the 1990’s some of M.F.Husain’s works provoked controversy due to the representation of naked Hindu goddesses. However, the admiration he earned from the International community provided protection that afforded him a barrier from the controversy.
The State of Qatar, in its wisdom and tolerance, offered M.F.Husain a residence in Doha. Here, the painter has initiated an important…

…in its wisdom and tolerance?

Let’s forget how ironical that sounds. Let’s just focus on how it reflects on us.

India, the melting pot of cultures and civilizations, couldn’t provide protection to its artist, its citizen, its national treasure.

And worse still, we lose him to a country that doesn’t allow the residents to display (non-Islamic) religious icons in their cars, and only recently deported dozens of families who had dared to congregate and pray in their homes – Indian Hindus and Christians all.

Isn’t it sad that we Indians for all that we like to boast of are not really any better than them?

It makes me angry that we allow ourselves to be held to ransom by a small group of deranged folks… repeatedly. If it’s not the 10 terrorists in Mumbai, then it’s the MNS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, the Jehadis… we allow people with vested interests to dictate the terms. We don’t protest, we even justify it.

Meanwhile, we continue losing our treasures…


Shyam said...

Yes yes and yes again. I wish these upholders of Indian "culture" would see themselves for the hypocrites they are.

Deeps said...

An award awaits you here
Do oblige me by accepting it:)

Hope you,O& plus reached safely.
Take care

sindhu said...

Another award waiting for you...You will have to take bow twice! Hope all fine...

mg said...

couldn't agree with you more. how is the bump?