“Go­ing back can some­times be fa­tal”

Chandi­garh-based artist Malkit Singh shares his in­hi­bi­tions on re­mem­ber­ing things from past.

India Today - - FEATURE - _ By Sukant Deepak

THE MAIN DOOR OF HIS apart­ment is open. One just walks in. He later says that there is noth­ing to steal in his house. “Well, if a thief breaks-in just for art, he de­serves to take it all,” he says.

Artist Malkit Singh might look frail af­ter his re­cent open-heart surgery, but of­fers to make tea while a half empty bot­tle of John­nie Walker Red stares at us from a rack. “Small plea­sures of life you see. Af­ter all, one has to keep the heart beat­ing,” he smiles.

The meet­ing is re­gard­ing his re­cently com­pleted paint­ing which is mak­ing waves and is be­ing ex­hib­ited widely, in­clud­ing gal­leries in Mumbai and Chandi­garh. Ti­tled ‘Wait­ing’, he has tried to recre­ate the pro­ceed­ings when he was on the op­er­a­tion ta­ble. “The doc­tors had sharp in­stru­ments, the tech­ni­cians kept look­ing at me. Sud­denly the women staff ap­peared to be rudaalis.

It seemed they would start the mourn­ing rit­ual any­time. My heart sank,” says the 74-year-old.

Orig­i­nally con­ceived as a se­ries, Singh says he might stop at one paint­ing. He re­mem­bers his trip to Ja­pan just af­ter the Tsunami. When he asked the or­gan­is­ers if he could paint the tragedy, they re­fused. “They said they didn’t want to re­mem­ber the bit­ter­ness of the past, the rage of the ocean. How can you not? I see the deep wound on my chest ev­ery day. Some­times I open my shirt and look into the mir­ror. Who knows what all

I see the deep wound on my chest ev­ery day. Some­times I open my shirt and won­der, who knows what all was taken away.

was taken away.”

But how can an artist like him es­cape the past, the one, whose ul­tra-mod­ern apart­ment’s ev­ery corner has im­ages from his vil­lage Lande in district Moga “You know, ev­ery­one I knew in my vil­lage has passed away, all my friends. But I still go there reg­u­larly. I see their houses, the places, the labyrinths where we hid, the cor­ners that shel­tered our gos­sip. I also visit the fields where I had scat­tered the ashes of my de­ceased family mem­bers. I don’t know if any­one will do that for me.”

‘Wait­ing’, which strikes out with red colour, of­fers lit­tle re­lief and makes one silent. The colour does not de­pict rage. “The uni­for­mity is sup­posed to re­mind us of the dan­gers that lurk be­hind cre­ation of an at­mos­phere, where di­verse voices are not wel­comed, where the pow­er­ful are scared of even a minute tone of dis­sent.”

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