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Moments of change and making friends (Part 1)


Differences between Surendranagar and my life now
Gulammohammed Sheikh Artist
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It was a different world that I entered into, but it was a world that I desired and I feel comfortable in. It would have been literally impossible for me to have lived in Surendranagar after being exposed to the world that I belong to now, the kind of liberal, you know, world that I live in, order... the kind of situation that we belong to is still not available in small towns in India. You would be, sort of, in a way branded as a Muslim and you might even, you know, it would be sort of a pressure from both sides that you will have to behave as a Muslim with a Muslim name, which is something which would be a very difficult thing for people who are educated, you know, to... they will not understand it, you know, and it’s sort of almost mediaeval that you would not understand that.

But at the same time you never angrily rejected your parents?

No, what I am saying is that it’s my family, or in a way a set of roots, you know. Something, you know, which is part of my make-up. I can’t wipe off the 18 years that I spent there. I do not think there is any, even there is, I don’t think my subsequent make-up is devoid of that earlier make-up, you know. It is part of it. So I, and since that world also doesn’t reject me fully, it allows me a space to enter. I also feel that there is space for them in my world, and I make that space for me, and I think that space in which we traverse where we have a communication, and it’s very beautiful at a human level. You know, I am like, if I go with my children to that place, they are so delighted, you know, you know, and even if I attend a marriage in the family, they will be forever grateful that, you know, this highly educated, you know...  and these boys and girls, my children both Kabir and Samira know it, and they reciprocate. So in their own way they open a channel of communication with them, although beyond that there is not much that you could do because we have to understand the constraints. Life, you know, is very different at two different places. What is interesting is that they understand that, and they do not demand from us, you know, the kind of life or the kind of whatever, you know, the life that they lived in, they might, you know, people perhaps would expect you to do certain things, and which they don’t expect. You live your life, we live our life, and you know, if we can communicate at that level and be sort of happy, and I think that is something which is very, very, very genuine and very honest. So, I like to keep that contact alive. I do not want to sever it from my life, even though it may, you know, in my present life, may not figure very prominently. And in a way, it is also something where when you think of your life, you know, in retrospect, you think that that experience of those 18 years is not something which was in vain. You know, it is something, you know, there are beautiful moments; there are beautiful things that happened. I gained so much from that experience. But at the same time, let me explain that my family in that sense doesn’t mean my immediate family. It’s also my friends. You know, all the people, my teachers, you know, and some of them I am still in touch with, both in Surendranagar and elsewhere. And in a sense, coming here also was to make another family, and that was a family which art created for us, and in our fine arts college, you know, the small institution, was like an extended family, and we have that relationship even now. I know that I taught for... since I taught for so many years, I literally knew names of all my students, hundreds of them, and the extended family is worldwide now. I can find them in Mexico, I can find them in the United States, in England, there are so many in England, and a number of them in India. Every place I go to I find somebody. It’s like meeting a family member. It’s a very beautiful kind of a bond of sorts because in fine arts we lived like a family, not only that we worked together in the studios, but we had our... like our functions together, our, like we had a fine arts fair in which the whole college participated. We made objects, we made books for children, we did all kinds, we made toys, and you know, this continues. We travelled together to different places as a kind of a... it is called a study tour, but we went to different places, sometimes faraway places, and we lived together for sometimes a fortnight, and these are some of my most cherished memories. You know, all the friends that I travelled with, they have, many of them have remained friends. Like some of them are lifelong friends, and all students with whom I dealt with, many of them are personal family friends, those who are teaching now in the college. So in that sense, that family and this family, though they are different, in some way make for me a larger family.

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: 6 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2008

Date story went live: 18 November 2010