I don't know if there is a word for the feeling for, how one feels after learning a lot good about someone who passed away. ‘Haku Shah’ it is for me. Gandhian Haku Shah, the eminent Indian painter belonging to the Baroda School passed away on March 21st, in Ahmedabad. His memorial meeting was at the National Gallery of Modern Arts (NGMA) on April 13.

My big brother of photography Parthiv Shah, Haku’s son, looked grown up, suddenly. In the memorial Parthiv would go on missing his father, telling us his father never ever scold him and how his workplace was an ajayabghar (museum) to the young Parthiv, who would listen his father tell stories behind each one of the hundreds of objects that were part of the studio. Parthiv's son Anant, after losing his dada-ji looked sad but spoke like a true Gandhian that Haku Shah has made him. His younger sister, performing one of the songs that her dadaji had made her grown up singing to, looked all imbibed with Gandhian values that are so not present anymore.

One is not very happy when going for a memorial meeting. Cab driver, dropping me at NGMA, says, 'koi badi meeting lag rahi hai...bahut pade-likhe log aaye hain’. And I felt calmed.

Walking towards the hall, Haku Shah’s photo smiles on a wall that reads ‘Remembering Haku Shah (1934-2019)’. As I enter into the hall ― realizing that the memorial has begun. Except for 5-6 seats towards the end rows, the hall was full.

As I stand in the corridor seeing Haku Shah remembered by so many people,  which unfortunately has become a rare sight...how busy are us Delhiites – especially when it comes to remembering an artist...an author – Delhi, no time even to mourn?! Moving closer to the stage, realizing I must document this and take photos, I could appreciate that people did love Haku Shah, a lot, as the in-flow of attendees would not stop till the evening is over, and the small hall, NGMA might not have been expecting this large gathering; us busy Delhiites ?!

Vidya Shah, Delhi's own singer – I like when she sings Faiz – Haku's daughter in law, Parthiv's wife accompanied by two musicians, one on tabla and other on harmonium, will come to the stage — she had a bad throat — to pay her tributes, she told how Haku was fond of Kumar Gandharva and how he’d have his bhajan playing in the background, while he’d work. She would sing two Kabirs, Jhini jhiini and ‘Naiharwa humkaa ne bhave’ which is my favourite and when I thanked her for singing it, she told me that this was Haku’s favourite as well. A must listen, wherein Kabir tells us how, all the while when we are busy in this materialistic world (naihar: bride’s maternal home), our soul longs for the ‘final destination’ so that it can become one with the god...Haku Shah’s must be one now.

Haku was the first person from the art world whom a visibly emotional art historian Prof Parul Dave Mukherji had interviewed, long back. She would tell us that how Haku not only gave her, a newcomer, the opportunity to interview but also invited her to his home, made her meet his family and have food with her...and I was wondering, how impossibly rare it is.

Veteran designer Rajeev Sethi, the man behind the transformation of Mumbai airport, will not stop praising Haku Shah and his importance and how crucial isHaku Shah to the rural arts of India. With Haku Shah’s book ‘Rural Craftsmen and Their Work’ in his hand— which Haku co-authored with  German art historian Eberhard Fischer — Sethi told the mourners this is what Haku Shah did in 1970, five decades back. Making me realize that it is Haku Shah who is one of the men behind NID, the celebrated National Institute of Design Ahmedabad, later, museologist Dr Jyotidra Jain in his tribute confirmed this thought of mine. Jain, a respected, art and cultural historian who had also been the Director of the National Crafts Museum, spoke and shared his memories, for long. In fact, I had to later ask him what was it that Haku will make a note of, on bus tickets, something that he told in his tribute. “Minor details, like, how a potter (kumhar) told Haku that he becomes one with the mud, when he is making it ready, mixing it with his feet, and will ‘feel’ that mud and he are ‘one’ and how it matched with the Indian philosophical idea that we all are made of mud and how we all eventually become — one with the — mud.”

IAS, Sujata Prasad remembered Haku’s three art practises: Art, Design and Craft. Artist Manu Parekh talked about his long association with the artist, and how Haku spotted Ganesh Jogi and that why it is because of Haku that Indian craft could meet art. More visitors were coming, followed by more chairs for them to sit on. NGMA DG sculptor Adwaita Gadanayak was present in the memorial along with Director Ritu Sharma, as NGMA hosted the memorial meeting at their auditorium. On my way back, I was thinking, now NGMA will know Haku’s popularity and it will help them, as they are to host Haku’s show soon.

Remembering Haku Shah: The eminent Indian painter belonging to the Baroda School passed away on March 21, in Ahmedabad. | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari
Photo: Parthiv Shah

Artist Manu Parekh  | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

Parthiv Shah | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

Parul Dave, art historian | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

NGMA DG sculptor Adwaita Gadanayak | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

 Vidya Shah sang two Kabirs, Jhini jhini and Naiharwa humkaa ne bhave. | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

From left: Mirai Chatterjee, Vidya Shah, Rajeev Sethi, Adwait Gadanyak, Parthiv Shah, Shree Kulkarni, Director Bac raw Hema Chand, Asha Rani Mathur. Third raw: Juta Jain, Parul Dave, Dr. Jyotindra Jain | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

Dr. Jyotindra Jain | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

NGMA Director Ritu Sharma and Aditya Arya | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

The small NGMA hall might not have been expecting this large gathering.  | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

NGMA DG sculptor Adwaita Gadanayak was also present at the memorial meeting, along with Director Ritu Sharma | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

Parthiv and Vidya with son and daughter | Photo: Bharat S Tiwari

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