It was purely co incidental that I could get an opportunity to meet the bare footed painter of international acclaim, M F Hussain, at a restaurant I frequented often, close to K C College, near church gate. The year was 1990 when I was working with a franchising company with its regional office situated opposite K C College.
Today, since past 4 years, he is in exile in Dubai in fear of his life resultant of his infamous nude paintings which desecrated the Hindu god Saraswathi. Probably it was unintentional but the damage was done and no art gallery is willing to take the risk of displaying any of his paintings. He is afraid to step in to Mumbai, a city where he use to walk bare-footed all over. MF Hussein was born in Pandharpur, close to Nashik, but he embraced Mumbai as his home long back, nearly 8 decades back. (Hussein is 94 years old now!) He does not know or fails to acknowledge the fact that the political parties rule the aam aadmi psyche now. Opportunism and sheer competition among political class has got the city defrayed on unconstitutional practices with growing intolerance. No, it is not acceptable any longer to condone free speech or freedom of expression through paintings. What, M F Hussein? Definitely he cannot gallop in to the city on his ‘horses’!
MF Hussein came to Mumbai city as ‘absolutely very broke’ young…very young painter to paint film hoardings to earn a livelihood. Neither he believed nor did we that one day he would become so famous with his paintings on Galloping Horses. But the city embraced him just like it did with every citizen who is dropped in the ‘melting pot’ called ‘aamchi’ Mumbai now. MF Hussein should know that he has to come back (if allowed) to a city that is no longer as resilient as it was and there are many shiv sena variants of different colors and names! Even, if the congress in power at the center and the state, the least the political heavyweights can do is just sympathies with him. When they cannot display his paintings, can they give security to him?
But the 94 year old painter wants to come home to Mumbai. Can we welcome him?