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The Art of Painting the Canvas Black

Perspective is something that the not-so-smart journalists like yours truly tend to avoid. My early gurus always told me to report facts and never look beyond what one sees and hears. Being a wire agency hack, this served me well for the first 15 years of my career. Thereafter, it became a habit!

Though I left active journalism a decade ago, I am now conditioned to blindly follow whatever I see or hear on telly and read in the rags. And so it was that I alternatively believed that India had done a gross injustice to M.F. Husain and that the painter deserved what came his way from the saffron sena.

As if the news channels weren’t doing enough and more to keep the Husain saga alive, my friends began bombarding me with e-mails containing letters written by Christian teachers, Hindu zealots and Muslim intelligentia. Having gone through their perspectives, my mind went numb trying to figure out why all of them sounded genuine.

Was I losing all sense of right and wrong? Or is it that there is actually no right and wrong carved in stone? An advocate friend in Delhi passed on an Op-ed which further confused me – not a difficult proposition given that my natural state of mind can be described as a confused one.

The article spoke of the right to protest and the right to reject the reason for the protest. So, one could raise a voice against something but needs to accept that one has done one’s job by raising one’s voice and if nothing changes, so be it. Sounded defeatist to say the least.

So, if the Brits had ignored the Gandhis and Bhagat Singhs, the Queen of England would still be our ruler. If we accept this logic, it follows that more than the protestor, the success of a protest depends on the decision of the one who is “protested against”. For, he can either accept the protest and change or remain unmoved.

Sounds absolutely hair-brained! Having said so, I ruminated some more about Husain’s departure. Will I miss and his paintings? Does it really matter to me whether Husain has an Indian or Qatari passport? Alternatively, does it matter if Husain continues to draw nude pictures of my Gods?

What the heck? Answers came thick and fast and it was uniformly in the negative. Husain draws a monkey with a dame on its tail. I am fine. He calls the painting Hanuman and Sita and I am offended. But, why the hell am I so keen to believe his words that the painting indeed depicts two characters that I was taught to rever by my grandma?

Is Husain a bigger influence on me than my grandmother? Did he lug my chubby self around and feed me mid-day meals when my parents were busy chasing their career dreams? Was he the one who told me stories and put me to sleep when I was scared of the dark and power cuts (surprise! surprise! we had them in the 1970s too!).

Again the answers were a resounding NO. That being the case, why am I gutted when a painter decides to call his paintings by some name? Honestly, I wouldn’t want to buy any of his art coz I never understood them. So, why is it that I am so keen to believe Husain’s word over that of my grandma’s? Anyways, both didn’t have a clue about the actual looks of Hanuman or Sita! I believed Husain because I was made to do so by the constant rabble rousing.

Okay, so an elderly gentleman has shifted base from my country and moved to another to paint. But, more than half my friends from school did that to earn money. And all of them are doing well for themselves and contributing to the economic growth of their adopted country (read the USA).

Isn’t that something more worrisome? Losing the smartest of our brains to another country because the systems to keep them back aren’t in place even six decades after Independence. Will the rabble rousers consider calling back the likes of Vinod Dham, Vinod Khosla, Kumar Malavalli, Indra Nooyi and many more who can probably make a bigger difference to India’s economy?

Shouldn’t we be protesting the brain drain? Or are we happy to be known as a country that lets out its best for the development of other countries?

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