Gulammohammed Sheikh is an Indian painter, writer and art critic who has been a major figure in the Indian art world for half a century. His artistic career is closely associated with the renowned MS University of Baroda in Gujarat where after gaining his Master's degree, Sheikh went on to teach in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and where he was appointed Professor of Painting in 1982.
Well, it is a small town, if one were to use that word. It must have been, I think the population must be around 30 to 50,000 at that time. It has grown larger over the years. I was born in a sort of lower middle class Muslim family. We lived in a kind of a, what shall we say, a small place which was part of a kind of a, we call it a Khadki, which meant that five or six or 10 families lived together, and there is a common kind of a ground in front, and it was covered. It had a sort of a, there were houses in front and there was a doorway on the left. Two rooms. Four brothers, one sister, all older than me, and I think that served to be fortunate for me and I feel in a strange way grateful that I was able to study further. I was able to get out of that place whereas my brothers all, after their matriculation, that is finishing the school, they all sort of had jobs, usually government jobs. You know, they all went in for... My father was a self-made man. He, I think, learnt English on his own. He served as commission agent for a while and also did odd things but eventually even became involved in local politics, even stood for election in the municipal committee. He tried to do his bit, you know, for cleaning up the extremely poor and very, very dirty place where we lived. Well, it’s not unusual in India to find such places where there is no toilet. You live in a house where toilet facilities is not known. But, like many families, we also found it sort of in a way going out, you know, to relieve ourselves a kind of an outing. My earliest memories of wandering around the river, riverside, which was nearby, it’s a dry riverbed, looking at vegetations and in a way learning to dream of sort was part of that routine. You know, one went out. Everybody in that sense went out. At home it was very simple. The family went through difficult times. At times father had no job or no commission, just after the war, but I know that he travel at times, you know, for whatever commission, whatever kind of work that he was doing, and he would come back occasionally with money and there will be great jubilation and we’d all be sort of eating good food. But at times, you know, one went without. It’s still difficult for me to understand how five of us fitted into that, you know, two-room. In fact, it was one room. It was divided in the middle with a kitchen at the back where mother would be cooking and three brothers older than me who were all studying. A sister unfortunately was not educated. I find it slightly difficult but that was the time I suppose my father didn’t think it appropriate at that point of time to educate a girl because an educated girl at that point of time might have found it difficult to find a groom. Even boys were not educated but he saw to it that all my brothers were educated. You know, matriculation was a big thing. So, they all joined government jobs, I being the last I remained around.
Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.