Meherbai and Meherwanji went on a long romantic drive all over Mumbai on a wet Sunday morning. It was drizzling and everything looked freshly washed, nice and clean because of the rains a few days ago.
Suddenly, Meherwanji saw a horrible, tubular wonky structure in the middle of a park and asked “What’s that?”
“It’s a sculpture,” replied Meherbai. “Probably, an artist conceived it, shaped it out of some scrap steel and painted it”.
Meherwanji: What a strange piece of sculpture! Did a car hit it? Or maybe a truck?
Meherbai: Certainly not! It is just ahead of its time, hence you fail to appreciate it!
Meherwanji: You know what? I am reminded of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Emperor’s new clothes, the story of a King tricked into buying exquisite, invisible garments that he wears, until a little boy loudly asks why is the King moving about fully naked! Similarly, this sculpture is all ‘bunkum’ and you find it aesthetic? Just because an artist / architect is famous doesn’t mean, we should applaud anything and everything he creates! In fact I want to put a board under this metal monstrosity with the words ‘Very, Very Ugly’. Alternatively, I want to destroy it.
Meherbai: How dare you think of such offensive graffiti? Are you a road-side ‘mavali’ or what? Respectable people like us don’t do graffiti!
Meherwanji: Then why did you write ‘Meher loves Meherwan’ at every public place on our honeymoon?
Meherbai: That was the yesteryears. Today I don’t condone defacing art, nor do I believe that all art should be pretty and safe. Sure, art should lift, provoke and transport you but it should be honest. The intentions of artists whose work aspires to shock (like Picasso) are as transparent as those invisible garments worn by the Emperor. Just as transparent are the intentions of architects who design attention-grabbing buildings with no consideration for their inhabitants. Did your parents never take you to art-galleries as a child?
Meherwanji: No, my kaleja. I never had a privileged childhood like yours. You were fortunate enough to read the best authors and study Western music, the piano, violin and pieces from composers like Beramji-Beethoven and Chanjibhai Chopin…
So, over the next few weekends, Meherbai took her hubby to all the trendy art-galleries where he quickly learnt art-speak and buzzwords like impressionism, blue-period, cubism, expressionism, artistic-sensibility, spatial, organic, mediums, colour-gradation etc. In short, he became an authority on art – Ekdum Kelvai Ney Kand!
Merwanji even started painting a portrait of his wife, the love of his life. Every day, Meherbai would sit on the sofa, wear her huge Burma-Ruby and diamond pendant and pose like Rose from the movie, ‘Titanic’. When it was finished, Meherbai was aghast! What’s this? This is not me! It’s maiji, my mother!
Meherwanji: It IS you! All girls look like their mothers when they grow old. Come on Meher! You were just over 20 when we married, now you are well over 70, so naturally you look like Maiji! And Maiji is quite pretty even at 90, especially when she puts powder and paint to look what she ain’t!
Meherwanji proudly displayed the painting on their spacious drawing-room wall when Maiji walked in and seeing the painting, gushed all over her son-in-law. “Arrey mari jaaon mahra jamai par thi! Mahroo painting banaviney display kidhoo!”
“Hush Maiji” said Meherwanji. It’s not you. It’s Meherbai!”
“Oh yes!” said Maiji. “I look years younger than your wife with all my walks, jogs, yoga, soup and sprout diets, expensive cosmetics and facial exercises. Everyone in our Cusrow Baug Colony asks, Who is the mother and who is the daughter?”
Meherbai heard that and chose to pamper her mom saying, Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Maiji was quite flattered and immediately said, “After all, I was the beauty queen of Chikkalwadi when I married your father at 19.”
Soon, the obnoxious next-door twins Jaloo and Aloo entered and looking at the painting asked, “Maiji, is this your grand-mother’s painting? Behest Bicharaney!”
Needless to say, as soon as the twins left, Meherbai and Maiji ordered Meherwanji to remove the painting and sink it, a la Titanic, in the Apollo- No-Dariyo. Instead, Merwanji took the painting, dumped it in the attic and then forgot all about it.
A few days later, Meherbai and Meherwanji visited the British Council to view a documentary on contemporary art and paintings and learnt that some of the works fetched thousands of Pounds at London’s Southeby’s auction. Immediately, Meherbai felt an eureka moment and thought about sending Meherwanji’s painting to her cousin, Lady Jerdaloo in London, who ran the famous Nirasha Art Gallery there.
Meherbai: Mehelli, attar ghari tamaru painting attic ma thi ootaro and send it to my cousin, Lady Jerdaloo. She will display it in her famous art-gallery and who knows, some eccentric millionaire may take a fancy to it and buy it for thousands of Pounds. If Picasso’s cubes and circles can fetch millions of pounds, why not your painting?
There was no arguing with Meherbai. She was like Salman Khan who said in one of his movies, “When I make up my mind, main apni bhi nahin sunta hoon.” And so it came to pass that Meherwanji carried the precious painting on his head and walked out of the house promising to send it to London; just to humour his wife.
Actually, he sold it to a jari-puranawala for Rs. 200 and bought himself a big bottle of beer with the money (to be had with Afternoon Dhansak.) As you are reading this, Meherbai is still corresponding with cousin Jerdaloo on the computer and getting a two-word reply for the tenth time, “WHAT PAINTING??”