“What’s your name?”
“Kashif,” I replied.
Before I could repeat my name, his friend intervened.
“Makbool Fida Hussain,” he said, emphasizing each of the three words of the famous painter, as he turned towards his friends, laughing.
[Lucknow University, 1993]
May be he was trying to tell his friend that this guy’s name is as foreign as MF Hussain. What difference it makes whether he is named Kashif or Maqbool Fida Hussain, at the end of the day both are foreign names. You don’t need to waste your time trying to understand and properly pronounce these names. No matter how much they claim to be Indian they will remain foreigner to us. So a famous painter or this stranger in front of us can be lumped together and understood just on the basis of their name.
Much water has flown in river Gomti since then but situation is not much different. MF Hussain, born in British India but couldn’t die in Independent India. Just like Bahadur Shah Zafar, he was denied death and burial in country of his birth and inspiration.
First time I saw his painting was in Jamshedpur. It was late 1980s, Tata Steel has commissioned Hussain to paint for their annual calendar. It was my first exposure to modern art and I was impressed by those simple lines and colors and how they were spread out to depict figures and ideas. It was uniquely modern and Indian.
Hussain is rightly described as super star of Indian art scene. His fame gave exposure to Indian modern art and artist. He was son of the soil that India should be rightly proud of.
MF Hussain thought himself as an Indian and painted figures from Hindu mythology that being an Indian, he correctly identified as his heritage too. But in the end Hindu fanatics prevailed and made it clear that MF Hussain is just Maqbool Fida Hussain, a painter with a foreign name, a Muslim.