His legend will grow
How can he be gone? The man who never grew old? He strode across the firmament of Indian art for three quarters of a century like a colossus. Always one step ahead of his detractors, Maqbool Fida Husain continued till the very end to re-invent himself. Apart from a brief illness, he went out like a light, incredibly, at the age of 95, still at the peak of his abilities, his fame, his charisma.
I am glad that he never had to suffer the ignominy or disillusion of diminishing creativity. Long after the little people who tried to belittle him with threats and fatwas have faded without a trace, M.F. Husain’s legacy will remain, his place in the history of Indian art assured for posterity.
The Husain narrative encompasses so much more than the dismal failure of the Indian state to honour this legacy in his lifetime. His major preoccupation, as I observed it, was that of the true karmayogi — to work ceaselessly, to make manifest that fecund repository of visual inspiration that lived within him and moved with him on a restless journey between continents. It’s to diminish the artist in him to give undue importance to the piece of paper that might have identified him as being of this nation or that.
Yes, it is India’s loss that he was no longer here with us, the loss of the greater Indian artist community. It is true that he missed the dhabas and dusty Indian streets where he had walked barefoot for decades, drawing inspiration from Bollywood or the great myths of India; but he had moved on. He had moved on beyond regret and recrimination. Any maudlin steps that may be taken now for a “posthumous rehabilitation” will not only be too little and too late but will almost be an insult to the greatness of a man who has been a legend in his lifetime and whose iconic stature will only grow in the years to come.
Anjolie Ela Menon is one of India’s leading contemporary artists