It was around midnight outside Bangalore airport when I spotted a lanky figure in demins and a blue shirt, holding something that looked like a stick from a distance. A closer look revealed it was a five-and-a-half-feet long paintbrush. I quickly checked his feet to reassure myself. Yes, MF Husain. I went up to him and told him how well I was acquainted with his works and it was a pleasure meeting him.
I admit my credential as a journalist helped in starting the conversation. I also told him that I have not seen a smarter octogenarian in my life to which he smiled and accepted the compliment. He was polite and after a very brief exchange of courteous greetings, I asked him the two things I always wanted to ask. First, why does he choose to remain barefoot? And the second, has he ever used the brush that he carries or is it just his style statement? Yes, very foolish, but I was young and innocent six years ago. He laughed and replied, “You know, I love mother earth and always want to stay in touch with her.” He was silent for a moment and looked down at his feet and said, “If you want to feel the earth, you do can it even while standing on marble or concrete. It helps me stay connected with nature.” His reply was deep and I was staring at his face and trying to figure out what he meant. But, like a true journalist, I reminded him of my second query.
“And about the paintbrush? Yes, I use it of course. You will understand why I use it if you look at my paintings from a distance.” This reply was deeper than the first one. I was about to ask how it looks different but stopped myself thinking it would be too naïve to ask such a great artist.
I took his autograph and bid him goodbye. I kept his autograph very carefully inside my wallet. His autograph gave me the feeling of owning a tiny bit of Husain’s pen strokes. The 15 minutes spent with him gave me a memory of a lifetime.