My friendship with Satish Gujral feels eternal—did I know him for fifty years, or a thousand? I first met him around the early 1960s. S.H. Raza, who had already won the Prix de la Critique, visited his show, and we all wanted to know what this established artist thought. Satish described taking Raza around in a very funny manner. “He came to the first picture, and”—Satish pursed his lips, imitating Raza grunting. “At the second, he mumbled, ‘Hmm, hmm’, melting a bit. He came to the third. ‘Ae gal hui!’ he shouted.” Now we’re talking!
Satish had a great sense of wit and humour—perhaps more so with me because I was Punjabi, like him. I also had the patience to get past his lack of hearing. Punjabi was his first language, and we would crack jokes, rib each other. He’d say, “Tu bada badmaash hai!”
When he talked, there were no whispers involved, no sotto voce. He was direct and forceful—that was his stamp. Unlike, say, the American action painters who depended on the way the brush functioned, Satish created his imagery with great determination. He developed a style which was very overt and big. I wouldn’t say this had a direct relationship with his lack of hearing, but he did choose this particular territory. There are no tricks involved whatsoever, no side effects.
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April 13, 2020