‘Meeting’ MF Husain in London

Christmas Eve 2008. London. At around 7.30 pm that evening, you could have found me at Hyde Park with two friends, Bharath and Krithika. Three Indians with varying degrees of homesickness. Hyde Park was more crowded than usual that day—apart from the casual visitors and walkers and joggers, it was full of revelers at the Christmas Fair being held at the Park. We, too, joined the revelers, but after some time found it unbearably noisy and decided to leave.

We took a path that appeared to have fewer people and after some time found ourselves in the Kensington Gardens. As we were walking along and chatting about that and this, I suddenly noticed a building in the distance all lit up and covered by what appeared to be extremely colourful graffiti—at least from where we were standing.

Curious, we decided to investigate. As we walked closer, we discovered that it was not colourful graffiti, but paintings that were hung on the exterior walls of the building. They were glowing in the dark and against the silhouette of the building, it was a sight to behold.

Photograph: Sylvain Deleu. Photo Courtesy: http://www.serpentinegallery.org

The exterior walls of the Serpentine Gallery showcase MF Husain’s works

And what an architectural frame! They could not have described it more aptly. It was amazing to see these works of art displayed the way they were, outside the confines of a sterile, gallery interior. Once I got over the unexpected shock of seeing Husain’s works displayed as such, I was able to just stand back and enjoy them. Even though it was quite cold that evening, just looking at the pictures warmed me up.

Reds, yellows, oranges and blues. All my favourite colours in one frame

Allowing Husain’s vibrant and colourful paintings to surround me with their warmth, I felt some of my homesickness dissipate, and suddenly cold, grey, sunless London was bearable. I sent a heartfelt, but silent thank you to MF Husain for making me feel happier than I had felt in days.

Yesterday, when I read of MF Husain’s death, I immediately remembered that evening when he, or rather his paintings, helped me tide over homesickness. For someone who was hounded in the country of his birth, forced to give up his citizenship, publicly declared his homesickness and yearn to come back to India—I wonder what comforted him and kept him going.

R.I.P. Maqbool Fida Husain.