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'Husain's death was peaceful'

Last updated on: June 10, 2011 00:26 IST

'Husain's death was peaceful'

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Sheela Bhatt

The legendary painter wanted to die in India, old friend Anil Relia tells Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt. 

 "M F Husain's death was peaceful," says art dealer Anil Relia, the legendary painter's Ahmedabad-based friend.

Husain will be buried on Thursday in a cemetry, located 30 minutes away from London, Relia said.

Speaking exclusively to Rediff.com over the telephone from London, Relia said Islamic rituals were being conducted before the painter could be taken to his last resting place.

A condolence meeting will be held at the Husain museum in Ahmedabad on Monday.

Husain's youngest son Owais, who is also a painter, is supervising the arrangements in London. Husain's other children -- Raeesa and Mustafa -- were in London while his eldest son painter Shamshad Husain is expected to arrive in London anytime soon.

Relia, who published Husain's autobiography Dadano Dangoro Leedho Teno To Mein Ghodo Keedho in Gujarati and Urdu, was called to London by Husain last Friday. Husain was living in his flat in Curzon Plaza on Curzon road in central London. Relia has a home in the same building.

Relia gave Rediff.com a first-person account of Husain's final months.

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Image: M F Husain
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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'He was everything to me'

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"I met Baba when he was making Gajagamini. I made the graphics for the film. He was so impressed by our studio in Ahmedabad that I made limited editions of his paintings and all his other graphics-related work.

He was my friend, philosopher and guide. He was everything to me. My wife and children would tease me if I didn't meet him for 3, 4 months. He had so much energy that anyone who met him would get energised.

I have traveled with him to Paris, New York, London so many times. The great thing about him was that he never spoke in negative terms. He had a way with words. He would express events or feelings in positive words only. That kept him going all these years.

Lately, he felt tired, but he was on his own journey. When he started painting he would get engrossed. So many times his legs would pain, but he would not know till the pain became unbearable.

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Image: M F Husain
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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'He wanted to make a comedy film with Vidya Balan'

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He was so positive that when he was 94, he told me about a project that "will be over in five years! Don't worry!" He wanted to make a comedy film with Vidya Balan. Husain called me last Friday and asked if I was not busy I should fly to London.

I arrived in London on Tuesday morning. I went to his house, but he was not in, so I thought let me rest. In the evening when I went up to his apartment I was informed that he has been hospitalised. He was admitted to the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea. The hospital is considered one of the best for lung and heart disease.

I rushed to see him. He was talking, and in good spirits. He asked, "Have you come alone?" He talked about a coming event in my family. We also discussed business. His friends from London started coming in. I pressed his hands. I found them cold. When I think of that moment in retrospect, I get the feeling that Husain was ready for his death.

I really regret that I left the hospital, promising to see him the next day. In the middle of the night I got the news that he was no more. He died in peace.

He had expressed the wish that whenever he died, the rituals should be completed without elaboration and quickly.

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Image: M F Husain
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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'He surely wanted to come back to India'

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I must have met him more than 25 times in the last five years. I can tell you he surely wanted to come back to India. He was very keen to return. He was not unpleasant or traumatised about the protests against him only because he knew the people who opposed him and India so well.

Still, he wished he could return soon. My book has a chapter about his journey from India to Qatar. Husain used to say MF is a brand, but Maqbool is a different man all together.

Baba told me last month, "I would like to die in India." He said in Gujarati, "Mane evun game ( I would love that)." A couple of months ago, he called at 1 am. He surprised me by saying that, "I am coming to Ahmedabad by the 2.30 am flight from Dubai. Keep my swing and tea ready." It was really a big surprise.

He said he was serious. He would stay in Ahmedabad only for a day. He loved the swings in my house in Thaltej. He said he would go back quickly to the Gulf, so there would not be any issue.

He enquired about Hiralal, the tea vendor. But in a few minutes he called to say that he had only his Qatari passport with him. To fly on dual citizenship, he needed both his Indian and Qatari passports. He didn't come to Ahmedabad as he so earnestly wished and planned. Each time Husain came to Ahmedabad he would visit his great-grandfather's grave in Saraspur. He would go there and offer prayers.


Image: M F Husain
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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