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The Birdwood Library and Ravishankar Raval


My teacher and mentor Labshankar Raval
Gulammohammed Sheikh Artist
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But my great friend and mentor,teacher was my, one of my teachers in the school. His name is Labshankar Raval. He wrote poetry under the pseudonym of Shaayar. Shaayar means in, it’s a Persian word. It means poet, and he was very handsome. He had long hair and he walked around... and literally he was sort of, I think people stood up and looked at him. And he had a beautiful voice. He sang. I think when he joined the school, he came from I don’t remember which town but he joined this school where I was studying and I think as part of the sort of initial joining programme, he was supposed to conduct a class and he recited a poem and he sang. I was literally thrilled with that. And I used to scribble myself. I used to write poetry. And we became great friends after that. And then he would say, ‘Well, let us meet and write together’. He had a little room in the school and on Sunday I would go there and we would both write. I would go to his place and eventually, until I was there, until I did my matriculation, I had a very close relationship with him, he with his family, a very strong strict Brahman family. I would still be given, when I was served tea or water, in different utensils. But I was absolutely thrilled when he came home. It was not common for a Brahman to visit a Muslim home. Even if he visited, it was not common for them to either drink water or have anything and my, Bhabhi, that is my brother’s wife, served him tea and he drank tea in her house. So, it was in a way, you know, what I’m trying to say, that there was that kind of a cultural whatever... bond which broke the divide, which went against that kind of a separation and also, because, you see, it was not only the religious separation, it was also the economic separation because Muslims were very poor. And also at many other levels, you know, you found that you could still manage to enter into each other’s territory. So, in school I... there was a, what you call, we used to call it hastalikit, which means handwritten and hand-painted magazine. I became regular contributor to that, even paint that. And then Labshankar, my mentor, had an idea that why don’t we do our own magazine?  I said, but where?


What age were you then?


I must have been 12 or 13. And then he said, okay, why not? We both decided we will do a magazine, put it in the public library. We made it, I think, monthly and then made it a fortnightly and I would paint right from first page to 12 pages all the titles and even a frontispiece, a painting, and then also sometimes my poems. And then we collected two or three other friends, a chap called Mahasukh Gandhi and some others, and then we ran it for... I think that was around the time when I was in high school, and we even made it a fortnightly and at one point of time there were two libraries and they said one was not enough, so we made even two copies. It was fun.

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.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

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.

Duration: 4 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2008

Date story went live: 17 November 2010