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Even when they don’t border on the hagiographical, obituaries often tend to observe an old rule: De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2008 00:09 IST
Amitava Sanyal

Even when they don’t border on the hagiographical, obituaries often tend to observe an old rule: De mortuis nil nisi bonum. But what sense does it make to ‘speak only good of the dead’ when the dead themselves never conformed to the conventional rules of ‘good behaviour’?

What if they were the black sheep of their own milieus and loved to flaunt that status? Who would we serve — the dead or the living — by highlighting the whites, hiding the blacks, and doing away with the greys altogether?

The contrast becomes even more glaring when we remember artists whose colourful private lives were as much a topic of animated conversations as their multi-hued artistic creations were lauded. There’s no point denying a Ghalib his visit to the prostitute’s kothi, or a Van Gogh his excess at the absinthe bar.

Here is an uncompromising look at four artists whose passing this year has left us with deep, echoing voids because, through their stirring arts and exhilarating lives, they infused so much life in us all.