'He lived a busy life but never missed a single namaaz' | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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'He lived a busy life but never missed a single namaaz'

mumbai Updated: Jun 09, 2011 23:53 IST
Aarefa Johari
Aarefa Johari
Hindustan Times
Aarefa Johari

The spacious compound of Badr Baug colony in Grant Road (East) was deserted as usual on Thursday afternoon. But inside the handful of old-style buildings surrounding it, most doors stood wide open with elderly residents walking in and out, talking about the man who was their neighbour, favourite relative and one of India's most celebrated painters.

The 110-year-old Badr Baug is home to a community of Sulemani Bohras and the place where artist MF Husain lived for more than 40 years of his early life.

This is where he started out as an anonymous hoarding painter for Hindi films; it is where all but the youngest of his children were born; it is where he shot to fame as a painter and threw some of the most lavish Eid parties for celebrity friends.

But nearly 50 years after he moved out, his old neighbours - around 55 inter-related families - remember him as the humble, barefooted family-man that he remained throughout his life.

"He was the warmest and most helpful person I knew," said one of Husain's nieces who did not wish to be named.

"He always gave me chocolates when I was a child and also helped our family financially when he could."

This niece is a resident of the colony's Yamani building, in which Husain had a small flat on the second floor.

"Not many people know this, but one off khalu's sons fell from this building's roof and lost his life at age five," she said.

At the height of the painter's success, Badr Baug residents grew used to the presence of film personalities such as Tabu, Urmila Matondkar and Madhuri Dixit walking in to chat with Husain.

"He threw parties for Ramzan Eid and Bakri Eid that had the media swarming in," said another close relative on the condition of anonymity.

"Till his last years, he made it a point to visit us whenever he was in Mumbai."

There are just 5,000 Sulemani Bohras living in the country today, and Badr Baud residents are proud that Husain was among the most famous one of them.

Pointing to the small Sulemani mosque at the entrance of the colony, his niece said, "He lived a busy life of constant travel around the world, but he never missed a single namaaz."