RMS -I Have A Part Of You With Me !

It was a cold December night in the year 1982.I had been in Rai for more than a year and had already made a couple friends ,good enough  to have been able to have a drink and food with.One of them , Virendra Ahlawat was ( and is still ), a bachelor and did not have much of a home – a bed and two chairs, a “begonia”to make tea , two glasses.The other was married and had a home .We frequented his house sometimes to have “ghar ka khaana” which was always made in desi ghee ,and rum .

On that December night , his wife had gone to her maternal home on a weekend , and we hit his place to have rum.He loved his rum with hot water.Since  his wife was away  , we went to a favoured dhabha  on the GT Road to have aloo matar ,and tandoori rotis .We were trudging back on the highway after dinner .It was cold .It had rained – there were puddles.It was past midnight.

Suddenly , Ram Mehar ( I called him RMS – Ram Mehar Singh Malik ) slipped and fell into a puddle.I teased him  ,

“you have had one too many Ram Mehar.I told you not to have the last one”!

He looked at me, smiled ,lifted and extended his right hand, and asked me to help him get up.

I did what he asked for  .Suddenly , the child in him took over .With a jerk – he pulled me down into the puddle .I tried to get up – he wrestled with me.By the time I was able to extricate myself from him my coat and trousers were baked in grimy and sticky mud.

“ Ke tanne bhi jyadaa pee raakhi se”? he asked tauntingly !( have you also had a drink too many)?.He continued

“ Bhai yeh toh accident se .Koi bera naa kib hoh jayeh”( I fell because of a accident .You never know when it can happen).

That was RMS Malik , the great painter , and a great friend of mine.A child at one level – and a dreamer at another.His paintings adorned the walls of the Rashtrapati Bhavan , Haryana Bhavan , all Haryana Tourism Resorts and many other  places

He was born in 1947 in Village Farmana Khas ,Rohtak ( which incidentally is a important Indus Valley site ).By the time he passed away on 14th November 2009 , he had set up the Art and Craft School in Rohtak, the Department of Fine Arts at the Rohtak University ( which he headed),the Smriti Art Gallery ,and his crowning glory – the artists abode in Morni Hills in 2005 called “Mehar Kala Kriti Thikana” .He was the recipient of numerous awards – but he was least bothered about them .He did not go sometimes to receive them- he told me once to receive one on his behalf!!

His career started from Rai.I was attracted to him because I have always been attracted to painters and musicians.I used to walk into the art room and spend most of my free classes with him.In the evenings , I would drop into his house often.He was diabetic – but did not let that bother him.At times I would find him in his garage – a drink by his side , the easle in front of him , and numerous paints and brushes.He could find the relevant brush and paint in that sea of disorder .He painted recklessly – without fear of spoiling a painting …..he was not someone who would draw, look , paint a bit and look , make alterations , look again ….He would swish with his brush – his eyes as if ablaze with fire.There was a aura about him – which he did not know about.But a aura ,I could feel.He was raw and rustic – I knew where I stood with him.Like most great artists – there was nothing fake about him .He was what he was.

I asked him what made him paint rural landscapes which he did with such ease. He answered “ I am a rural man.I have the picture and images in my mind of “gai, gobar, and gaon.I haven’t been to London or New York .What else do you think I can paint about – baawli poonch!!”

Yes ,that’s what his paintings were all about.Gai , Gobar , Gaon .

He died very young – 62 years of age in the year 2009.I never met him after he left school (he left  maybe in the year 1990?).I heard his voice for the last time in the year 2005.He was in Jaipur for some seminar.He called me on my cell phone .I was in Delhi.He was disappointed that we could not meet.I berated him and told him that he should have at least informed me that he was coming .He told me he wanted to surprise me !!I told him to stay at my house which was open to him , or in the guest house of the school .He shot back  and said that he was not short on accommodation and that he was staying in a 5 Star Hotel ! “Maneey -toh taney-tey-ghanna-milnaa chahoo -se”( I just wanted to meet you desperately).I promised him that we would meet soon.

That meeting never took place.I was hospitalized subsequently and was fighting a battle first for survival and then recovery to normalcy.RMSs condition deteriorated due to diabetes.He breathed his last on Nov 14 2009 – Childrens Day.

For me – his life is a celebration.He was a star who achieved great heights in painting from a state known for its agricultural and war skills.He rose to the top of his profession starting from a village .He did not speak  English but I could relate to him and his persona , because his basics were more overpowering than what he acquired in the form of social mannerisms of the society we lived in.He was a dreamer – like most artists and could not understand why painting was not a compulsory subject in board exams.He is easily in my top 10 most admired friends of mine -a human being who made my formative life very meaningful and joyful.

I end this obituary with a incident.Over a drink , I told him once to paint a portrait of mine for me.I told him that I will display it on the wall of my room throughout my life.It was the only time I had requested him for a painting He looked at me, was quiet and then after a thought said

“I don’t do portraits.But I promise to paint you when you are old – Kain with white hair will make a better painting than Kain with black hair”

“ But there is no guarantee that I will live long enough to have white hair” , I said.

He was quiet again! And then replied “ Dost ,you will live long enough  to have white hair.Just pray that you have enough hair and  I am alive to paint you.I promise I will paint you then”!!

His son Manoj  presented me RMSs last painting.The white in my  hair have erupted.And I still have a thick mop of them.But the painter who was supposed to paint me has departed.

But I have a part  of him with me for keeps.A painting of beautiful sunflowers.Whenever I see it , I can  see RMS sitting and painting furiously – with a glass of rum by his side ! I hope I continue to have a thick mop of hair when I die.I am sure RMS must be waiting to fulfill his promise to paint me.He was not the kind of man who did not keep his words.!

Rest In Peace RMS.It has taken me 10 years to write your obituary.I wish I never had to do so.I rather I had a painting of yours of me with white hair !!!

But I shall wait !



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