HUSAIN'S WORLD OF SUPPRESSED LUST
During his later life, Husain was beseeched with many controversies. A news item appeared one day that the Bombay: Police had registered an F.I.R. against painter Fida Husain for depicting Hindu goddesses, like Saraswati and Durga in the nude in his paintings. A number of so-called intellectuals came out with statements of protests against the FIR. The reaction of Husain himself, who was in London at that time, was very sharp. He said with indignation that all those who were campaigning against him were stupid and that the agitation against him was politically motivated and at the root of it was the fact of his being a Muslim.. A few days after this, a few activists of the Bajrang Dal in Ahmedabad burnt some of his paintings. Husain lost no time in issuing an apology from abroad.
Husain's apology was a great disappointment for me. I could never imagine an artist roaring like a lion in defense of his right to artistic freedom, but in the very next breath bowing down timidly in apology.
Honesty of intention endows an artist with such confidence and determination that he would stick to his guns under all circumstances. He may break for his cause, but would not bend before anyone, be it a monarch or God himself. In this context, a reference to a poet of the medieval age, in the time of Emperor Akbar is relevant. Akbar was fond of inviting poets, artists etc. to his court and confer on them his patronage. Poet Kumbhan also received a call from Akbar to present himself in his court. Kumbhan went there, but returned with a conviction not to go back to the court again. He could not compromise his poetic candor of freedom with the sycophantic atmosphere of the court. When a second call from Akbar came, Kumbhan did not go, but sent him' a poem, which translates:
What has Kumbhan to do with Sikri (Akbar)? Whose sight causes pain?
Where one has to bow in humiliation, And where one forgets God's name.
A poet has nothing to do with Sikri.
While sending this poem to Akbar, it must have occurred to Kumbhan that he could be beheaded for defiance of the King's order, yet, he did not care. Therefore, Husain's apology casts a shadow of suspicion over his honesty and being a genuine creative person.
Another question that strikes the mind again and again is whether the sole reason behind protests against Husain was his being a Muslim? Would there have been no protests if a Hindu had depicted these gods and goddess, so wantonly? Is obscene portrayal of Hindu gods and goddesses in consonance with Hindu tradition? Are these controversial paintings acceptable to the masses of Indian people? To find answers to these questions, I studied the available paintings of Husain as well as his biographies. These studies bring to the fore the lecherousness, as one of the main traits of his personality and creativity.
Lecherousness entered Husain's life at an early stage. He told his biographer Dhyaneshwar Nadkarni that his first feeling of attraction towards women sprung up at the age of 6 or 7 when he saw the naked legs of his stepmother. Later, when he observed his stepmother's breast, feeding her baby, the image of female figure made a deep impress into his mind. At the age of eleven, when he was an apprentice to a tailor, a beautiful sweeper woman of 16-17 years became the second woman to fire his imagination.
At sixteen Husain played hide and seek with the daughter of his domestic maid, Butul, and wrote love letters to his friend's sister, Suraiyya. Such behavior is natural in adolescence, but with the passage of time, in normal persons, the raging exploding passion clams down and a kind of maturity and control sets in. But it did not happen with Husain. Even in his eighties the lustful desires in him had clouded his vision like that of an adolescent. His body had grown old but not his mind. His mind and intellect had remained prisoners of his suppressed sexual passion. That is why on one of his paintings done at the age of 80, showing a women and a bull in a near-copulation posture, he signed his name as ‘Mac-Bull’, instead of ‘Husain’, as he normally does. Even a most ordinary person possessing some intelligence would see that in the portrayal of the woman and the bull, Husain wants to convey that the bull in the painting is he himself and that sexually he is as strong as the bull. His signature on this painting thus exposes his real personality.
The reasons for the distorted and sick mentality of Maqbul Fida Husain are clear. His mother died when he was four or five years of age. When he was six, his father brought home a second wife. In that small,tiny dingy chawl type one-roomed house, when his father was indulging in merry- making with the new bride, Husain must have seen erotic scenes and heard sounds, which, even though, he might not have fully comprehended at that time, would have left images in his sub-conscious mind, too deep to be eroded. The impressions ingrained on his immature mind gave a specific direction to his personality that could not be changed later on..
Due to the 'purdah' system in the lower middle class Muslim families, there is little inter-action between males and females. Such atmosphere is suppressive of normal sexuality. Husain grew up in this kind of atmosphere. It is an important factor in influencing his mindset. That is why even in his eighties he betrayed a suppressed sex, which appears in his works and personality regularly.
Husain was a member of Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) from 1986 to 1992. During these six years, he did not utter a word in the House, perhaps because he did not have the capacity to speak. However, he could not remain quiet also. A devil's workshop continued to operate in the idle mind. He drew a number of sketches in the blank space of the Rajya Sabha stationery. Here is an example: In the Rajya Sabha letter pad he drew sketches of two old members who, even though sitting in the house, were dreaming of the bare body of some youthful woman, under the heading “matter under consideration”.
There is a saying that a thief sees thieves in others. Similarly, the perverted mind of Husain too cannot think of anything beyond the naked body of a woman. It is but natural to occur to him that the 'matter under consideration' of all other members must also be the naked female form.
Many stories of Husain's love affairs are current. His biographer Ila Pal has published in her book a portion of Husain's love-letter to a beloved of his. This letter is intercepted with sketches of female physical anatomy. In fact, it will be a glaring example of how Husain's love relations started with the woman's body and ended with the woman's body. An excerpt from that letter is reproduced here.