Artist’s plea for assistance

Artist Fatima Ahmed, partially paralysed after stroke, at an old age home in Mehdipatnam on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: RAMAKRISHNA G

Dusk is eternal at the Old Age Home.

I am a slice of that dusk; bedridden,

Wilting away in a musty corner,

Of my room.

The above lines are from a poem penned by Hyderabad-born artist Fatima Ahmed. A known name in the realm of modern Indian art, her paintings had been acquired in the past by national and international museums such as the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, the Birla Academy of Art and Culture in Kolkata, the State Library of Stuttgart in Germany and the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan.

Now, the 86-year-old is at an old age home in Hyderabad, bed-ridden with partial paralysis following a stroke she suffered three years ago. The dismal environs of the old age home, where some of its inmates battle mental health issues, haven’t bogged her down, yet.

Ahmed is among the prominent modern artists to have emerged from the city, and authored the semi-autobiographical book ‘In Haleema’s Words’ (Rupa Publication, 2012). “I have gone through ups and downs in my art career. After the paralytic attack, my savings have gone towards my health expenses,” she rues, disclosing that her monthly medical, caretaker and fee for the stay at the old age home amount to an average of ₹60,000 per month. A few of her well wishers have been pitching in to help, but she hopes the Telangana government could provide financial assistance.

When contacted, former IAS officer and cultural adviser to Telangana government, K.V. Ramanachary pointed out that the government has been helping artists and others who are in dire straits through the Asara pension scheme. “The monthly financial assistance, depending on different categories, ranges between ₹1,000 and ₹2,000. In special cases, a one-time medical assistance of up to ₹2 lakh is provided,” he says.

However, a rehabilitation scheme seems like a tall ask.

Ms Ahmed, meanwhile, holds on to hope. Her father served as a collector during the time of Hyderabad’s last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan. After schooling at Mahboobia Girls High School, she wanted to study art, which was frowned upon by her family.

She wanted to break free from restrictions that society placed on women back then, and enrolled in the College of Fine Arts. “Good girls were married off at 18. I refused; so I was labelled to be of ‘loose’ character,” she reminisces.

After her parents’ death, she moved to Bombay in the early 1960s and later to Pune. Art took her to London where she spent two years and later, she travelled the world, all journeys widening her understanding of art and culture.

Ahmed vividly remembers the excruciating paralytic attack. She was in Pune then. “The medical attention wasn’t enough in the initial stages, which worsened my condition.” She was then brought to Hyderabad and has since then been at the old-age home. A staunch believer in the teachings of Osho, she says it helps her find strength and solace.

Her plea for financial aid also comes in the wake of the pandemic, making it tough for art business. “I think 12 of my paintings are yet to be sold. We don’t know when the art market will revive and we find buyers,” she says with a smile, through the bleakness of it all.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 8:01:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/artists-plea-for-assistance/article34155053.ece

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