India’s best known painter Maqbool Fida Husain, under attack (and almost in hiding) for portraying Hindu dieties such as Durga and Saraswati in an “uncharitable light”, has spoken out in an interview to CNN-IBN’s Akanksha Banerjee in London.
Cryptically, the 91-year-old, described as the “Picasso of India” by Forbes magazine, draws an analogy with children in his defence.
“If children in the house break things, you don’t throw them out. If you hold on to petty things, you won’t grow,” reads the translation of his Hindi quote.
If you listen to the audio carefully, though, you will hear words like “chote cheez” and “normal” in the same sentence. Is Husain saying that he may have made a “small” mistake, and that it is time to forgive and forget, and allow him to get on with his life after his apology?
Husain, who has had to virtually flee the country and live in London and Dubai, to escape goons threatening his life and limb, also perplexingly claims the controversy has not “affected at all”: “I am working like I normally do.”
And, in the 60th year of independence, he doffs his hat to the nation from afar.
“We’ve built a culture which is called composite culture. This is unique, which you don’t find anywhere in the world. That’s what we are proud of. In the West, they are only now recognising this. Their eyes are open now.”
A fortnight ago, on America’s National Public Radio, Husain said that art is always ahead of its time. Remember, the horrified reaction to the Impressionists when their works first appeared. And, he adds:
“Mostly people are ignorant. What is the language of painting? They’re ignorant. It’s so difficult to make them aware but time will teach them.”
Husain says his intention was never to offend, but he stands firm on his right to paint what he wants.
“I don’t use the word regret. There is no such thing. When you love somebody, you never say sorry. It’s with love which predominates.
“There’s not a single line, or even a dot, which is done with hatred. There is no hatred. It is pure love.“