After knocking about ‘barefoot’ in his Bugatti for four years in exile in Dubai, 90 plus and naughty M.F. Husain may be headed home. While for most of us the return of the outré artist, whose works of Hindu gods and goddesses with less clothing than the moral police would like, would vindicate our liberal, secular ethos, for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its offshoots, the news will be greeted with trepidation and horror.
These well-known threat detectors strived with might to ‘save’ Indian culture every time the artist exhibited his works. Their democratic methods of protest included beating up the organisers, vandalising the paintings and issuing bizarre fatwas against Mr Husain. And, then the ultimate assault on our culture — there arose from among the Hindus those who either spared no thought for these paintings or upheld the artist’s right to paint in whichever way he wished. Now it is a bit beyond even the energetic VHP to terrorise all of us pseudo-secularists, so they had to make do with dire warnings that Indian civilisation was in danger of collapse at a very glance at Mr Husain’s art.
Unfortunately, we are still chugging along as is Husain in his many Bentleys, Ferraris and Bugattis, all of which he calls art installations in his garage.
Let’s hope the messiah of the masses, Prakash Karat, is not reading this. There is one question, however, that our VHP brethren must answer and which they have avoided all along. Why are Khajuraho and the Kamasutra showcased as India’s contribution to culture while poor Husain’s canvases threaten it? The right answer will get you a weekend at the VHP’s moral education camp in a hill station. So let Mr Husain return and we’ll settle all these issues once and for all. We suspect that at the end of the day, the cliché ‘different strokes for different folks’ will prevail.