“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.