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The train that hatched a saint

40 acrylics on canvas by Sunita Kumar of Kolkata that collate a slice of contemporary spiritual history are on public view at the British High Commission.

art and culture Updated: Mar 26, 2008 02:24 IST

Previewing on Wednesday and on public view at the British High Commission on Rajaji Marg from March 27 until April 10 are 40 acrylics on canvas by Sunita Kumar of Kolkata that collate a slice of contemporary spiritual history.

Kumar, born a Lahori, studied at Loreto Convent, Kolkata, where Mother Teresa first worked as a Geography teacher. After Kumar was married to Davis Cup doubles champion Naresh Kumar in 1961, she took up social work with Mother Teresa's Shishu Bhavan and Nrimal Hriday welfare projects, eventually becoming her official spokesperson and accompanying her to her beatification ceremony at the Vatican.

Kumar also evolved meanwhile as a self-taught painter whose forty-year friendship with MF Husain was a major influence on her own style.

Says Kumar, “Husain loves tennis. Our friendship began most dramatically, when I met him at a Delhi party and invited him to join us for the finals of the national tournament. Vijay Amritraj was playing ‘Mal’ (Malcolm) Anderson and Husain proposed that if Vijay won, he would give me a painting and if Anderson did, I would have to give him one of mine. Luckily Vijay won and Husain gave me a large, beautiful oil of a horse. That was the start of our collection.”

A consultant to the French luxury brand, Hermes, Kumar also spends a ritual month at Wimbledon each year. Invited by the British High Commission to exhibit her paintings of Mother Teresa and Hindu deities, Kumar is particularly enthused about her image of the ‘Toy Train’ to Darjeeling from Kolkata, since it was on just such a trip that Mother Teresa heard an inner call to leave the Loreto order and work amidst the poorest of the poor.