Husain's cousin remembers him being inquisitive about his late mother

Tears well up in the eyes of 86-year-old Khudabuddin Sharifoddin as he remembers his association with the iconic artist, his cousin, Maqbool Fida Husain, who spent his formative years in this pilgrimage town in western Maharashtra.

Husain's last visit here was in 1995, when he received the Pandhari Bhushan award, instituted by a local organisation.

“Then, he came to my house, had lunch and rested for a couple of hours,” Khudabuddin said.

“He asked me what his mother, my mother's sister, looked like, as he had lost her at an early age. He asked me where the ‘kabr' [resting place] of his mother was located,” he said, talking to reporters at his house at Kalikadevi Chowk, in the vicinity of the famous Vitthal temple which attracts lakhs of devotees.

Not all old-timers here, however, have tales to tell about Husain. Shivaji Kalekar, 76, who runs a tailoring shop here, says, “1915 is a long time ago. I was born in 1935, but I don't remember anyone by that name from my younger days.”

Husain spent his formative years at Zaariwada, a 100-year-old ‘wada' (house) located in a narrow lane in the heart of the town.

Painted on a bull

During his 1995 visit, Husain had revived his bond with his birthplace. That visit, unlike Husain's roots, is clearly etched in the minds of many of the residents, especially those of the younger generation. To the delight of the nearly 10,000 people who crowded to watch him exhibit his deft strokes, Husain had drawn a sketch of a beautiful woman, in 10 minutes flat, on a bull!

As may be guessed, the drawing was of his muse, then the reigning queen of Bollywood, Madhuri Dixit. For days, the locals had paraded the bull about town.

A local painter, S. Pataskar, recalls Husain's last visit here. “It was as if Pandharpur had come to a standstill. Around 10,000 people gathered to see the master at work. Husain mingled freely, shook hands with people and spoke in chaste Marathi.”

Pataskar said he heard Husain enquiring about Zaariwada. “During an interaction with the locals, Husain referred to Zaariwada, saying, “Main yaha rahata tha” (I used to stay here).

After receiving the award, Husain went to the Vithal-Rukmini temple for a “darshan” of the deity.

Pataskar said it was a matter of pride for this temple town to see someone born here achieve the global acclaim that Husain did.

It was ironical that Husain was summoned by a local court in 2006 for “offending the sentiments of the Hindu community.”