12/03/2006

Petition to honor MF Husain with Bharat Ratna

Its been a year since I wrote my piece on M F Husain. Things have turned out so bad for the artist that he is now on a self imposed exile and resides in the UK. Here is what some of his critics want out of the whole issue:
  • The Hindu Personal Law Board had announced a Rs 51 crore reward for beheading the artist.
  • A local leader in Gujarat promised one kg of gold to anyone who gouged out Hussain's eyes.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, ex-Congress leader Akhtar Baig, offered nearly 20,000 euros to the person who would chop off Hussain's hands.
Sounds scary to hear these in 21st century India. Weren't we told that the Taliban is restricted to Afghanistan and Pakistan ? To his critic's surprise, there has been a petition floating around addressed to Abdul Kalam asking him to consider honoring the 91 year old artist with a Bharat Ratna. Some of the notable signatories are Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, A. Ramachandran, K.G. Subramanyan, Jogen Chowdhury, Laxma Goud and Paritosh Sen, Shyam Benegal, Mira Nair, Ebrahim Alkazi, Amiya Bagchi, Irfan Habib and most recent being Shashi Tharoor. Here is what Tharoor has to say:

Looking at the Mahabharata-inspired work in this exhibition, it seems to me that Husain is simultaneously honouring and appropriating the epic. If there is a message to the work that features in this exhibition, it would be that of the continued relevance of the stories, issues and images he has derived from the Mahabharata. That, in turn, is a twofold message: first, of the need to re-examine the received wisdom of the epic in today's India, to question the certitudes, to acknowledge the weight of the past and face its place in the present; and second, to do so through a reassertion of the epic's dharma, defined not as religion but as the whole complex of values and standards — some derived from myth and tradition, some derived from our history — by which India and Indians must live. In offering his vision of the Mahabharata to India and the world, Husain has paid a fundamental tribute to his own civilisation, one which he has, through his reinvention of the past and his reimagining of the present, immeasurably enriched. He deserves the Bharat Ratna.

In my opinion, one of the main person behind the Hindu-Talibanisation of this issue is the former Rajya Sabha member, Praful Goradia, whose book "Anti-Hindus" has been used by hardliners like Sanatan.org and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti to smear MFH. In the interest of avoiding repetition, click here to know about Goradia's involvement. I have also been trying to get a copy of the peitition sent to Abdul Kalam. Will post it if I manage to .

Selvaraj Thevar: The Aircraft Engineer from Dharavi

BBC special reports has a nice piece on Dharavi, Asia's largest slum. If you are bored of the recent media obsession with Sanjay Dutt story ( or "saga" as they call it), you might want to read this instead. Click on the image below to read about their personal stories and struggles in life.


Name: Selvaraj Thevar (46)
Occupation: Aircraft maintenance for Jet Airways
Earns: $260 (£140) per month - sole earner in family
Home: One room tenement shared with wife and son
Time in slum: 27 years, but hopes to move out


I can kind of identify with them as I had a couple of friends from Dharavi whom I used to visit quite regularly until my undergraduate days, or rather until I had the time to passionately take care of my fish tanks. Yeah, there are lots of good, professional, "exotic fish" breeders in Dharavi. And many of them help maintain show tanks in luxury five star hotels for example. Hope to catch up with some of them once I return back.