“Lakhu”, Gouache Watercolour by Mumbiram, 1985

“Lakhu”, Gouache Watercolour by Mumbiram, 1985

Lakhu was born in Karachi, now in Pakistan. As a young man Lakhu left Karachi to escape the Hindu-Muslim carnage that took place during the partition of India in 1947. Mumbiram met Lakhu for the first time in 1985 one day in the early morning hours in the Mandai Market place near Mumbiram’s atelier.

Mumbiram has recounted that meeting in some detail some years later. Lakhu was in a state of wild excitement. He was carrying a broom in his hand which he held high as he made wild and loud pronouncements that were nearly incomprehensible. Mumbiram was reminded of Nietzsche’s ‘Mad Man in the Marketplace’, who pronounced that God is dead. Beginning that first meeting Mumbiram and Lakhu developed a very close friendship that Mumbiram has recounted in the article ‘Who’s afraid of Friedrich Nietzsche?’ published in the Pune Digest in 1989. Ironically Lakhu, who left Karachi to escape from Hindu-Muslim riots, died in a minor Hindu-Muslim riot in the slums of Pune at the hands of youth who mistook him for a Muslim. Mumbiram was inspired to write the article to pay his tribute to this very precious friend that he had lost. Lakhu had been a cartpuller in the local hardware market area. His cart was the only thing that he had. He slept under it at night. With Lakhu Mumbiram could share rare moments of philosophical discussions. For him Lakhu was a gentleman and a friend with whom he could share the creative world of an artist. Lakhu was visiting Mumbiram’s studio regularly. He always brought as gift things like stone utensils, broken clay lamps, which he found along the historical Nagzari stream etc. and emptied his “booty” quite happily on the floor in front of Mumbiram. He was one of the few people Mumbiram would allow to watch him painting. The legendary work “Forest Women visiting Krishna and the Gopis” was one of the paintings Lakhu witnessed in its creation. Mumbiram will always remember the great talks with Lakhu about who is a Gopi and who is a Pulindi. Mumbiram has recounted the making of this painting of Lakhu in great detail. One day Mumbiram had met a young women from Israel, named Rachel (pronounced Rakheli in Hebrew), who said she was also an artist. Mumbiram invited her to make a picture which was when Lakhu had dropped in. Mumbiram gave her all the paper, paints and brushes. Mumbiram’s watercolour portrait of Lakhu was completed in no more than 30 minutes. Rakheli was still working on the pencil layout. Mumiram worked directly with his brush without any pencil work. The gang of Mumbiram’s rag-picker friends had also dropped in and crowded Lakhu from the left and right. That’s why Lakhu is seen with his shoulders shrinking. Lakhu was a gentleman. This painting is one of the best examples of Mumbiram’s hands-on-approach to painting. Mumbiram himself cannot believe that he made such a painting. It was a Leela. This is how Mumbiram has summarized his account of Lakhu: Lakhuji cartpuller, adored by the rag-pickers, inspiration of the artist, like a transparent rendering out of earthy gouache colours, he was handsomely unknown all his days.
After changing hands a few times the painting is again in the artist’s personal collection.

“Kusum brings her Mother Sakhrabai to visit the Artist”, by Mumbiram, Charcoal, 1984, Pune

“Kusum brings her Mother Sakhrabai to visit the Artist”, by Mumbiram, Charcoal, 1984, Pune

Sakhrabai had migrated from rural Mungi-Paithan to Pune as a teenager with her father and family and settled in what would become an urban slum. They were from the Matang (Mang) untouchable caste that salvaged bones and skins from animal carcasses. Kusum was her eldest daughter. Kusum went into the city with other girls in the neighborhood to collect paper and plastic refuse as well as metal scrap from construction sites. It was an adventure fraught with danger for teenage girls. Kusum was the leader of her group. A tall dark, strongly built, attractive teenager. She had a variety of suitors. That included a young Englishman that was once a disciple of Osho-Rajneesh, a Muslim boy from a neighboring slum besides a fellow rag-picker who dressed as a girl. Kusum’s father had already got a boy from his relatives to marry her. Kusum had driven that boy away. Kusum had kept all this from Mubiram the artist who also liked her. Kusum and her gang became regular visitors to Mumbiram’s atelier at the downtown vegetable market place. He was hospitable, gracious and generous. Kusum kept it like that. He was the kind of man to take mama to meet. Nothing hanky panky. Here Kusum is seen sharing Mumbiram’s art with her mother. Kusum has been Mumbiram’s favorite muse and inspired many a classic of Rasa Renaissance Art. This charcoal rendering has been included in an anthology of Mumbiram’s other charcoal renderings depicting loving couples sharing their book reading experience. This anthology is titled ‘Book Readers, Love on the Gutenberg Galaxy’. The charcoal rendering is in private collection in Australia.

”Not by bread alone – Kusum making chapattis”, by Mumbiram, Charcoal, Pune 1990

”Not by bread alone – Kusum making chapattis”, by Mumbiram, Charcoal, Pune 1990

This extraordinary charcoal rendering by Mumbiram is one of the prime examples of Rasa Renaissance Art. The artist and his muses have a real life friendship that is reflected in the art. Kusum is making chapattis -Indian flat bread. Her mate is keeping her company by reading to her from a book -most likely his own composition. The expression on Kusum’s face shows she is listening, even amused. The Hibiscuses, the Moon, the revered Tulasi plant and the peacock are ‘alambana’ objects that create the atmosphere conducive to the emotions (rasa) being expressed. Making the chapattis is one of the humdrum chores in every Indian woman’s daily routine. The magical touch of a rasik artist has given it the spin to make it a juicy memorable loving experience. The consummate skill of the artist is so mature that it has taken a back seat and let the drama of the situation take center-stage. This charcoal rendering has been included in an anthology of Mumbiram’s other charcoal renderings depicting loving couples sharing their book reading experience. This anthology is titled ‘Book Readers, Love on the Gutenberg Galaxy’.

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