One of the first places Raisa Husain visited in Kochi on Saturday was a small hotel on a bustling street in Mattancherry. It was the same hotel where her father, the renowned artist M.F. Husain, dined during his visit to the city in 2001.
The artist, pleased with the porotta and mutton curry, presented the hotel owner V.K. Musthafa with a drawing, one he has treasured to this day.
To Raisa, her father’s friendship with this hotel owner is no big surprise. “He has eaten at restaurants in every part of the country. He would eat out seven days a week,” she said.
Annoyed by his absence during meals, Raisa would ask him to stay home for lunch. “What is here? Just the TV and the same people,” he would reply. “When I eat out I can see different people.”
Husain, India’s most celebrated artist, was hounded by controversy for several years. His paintings representing nude figures of Hindu goddesses provoked the ire of many in the country.
Their protest, attacks and death threats forced him into exile. When he breathed his last in Dubai in June 2011, he had accepted Qatari nationality.
The artist, however, had great love for India’s people and places. “For my sister’s wedding, he invited all his favourite restaurant owners, pan walas, taxi walas and chai walas,” said Raisa.
“He was crazy about chai,” Musthafa, known in the city as ‘Kayikka,’ quipped in.
Musthafa’s Kayees hotel in Mattacherry is something of a landmark in Kochi. People come from far in wide in search of the famous ‘Kayikka’s biriyani.’ It is his fame that brought the artist to his doorsteps, seeking tasty mutton.
Kayikka vividly remembers the day the legendary artist visited his small hotel.
“He came in the morning and the biriyani wasn’t ready yet. He was very particular about what he wanted and we didn’t understand what he was trying to say,” said Kayikka.
But the artist needed no words. He drew a picture of a goat and pointed to the thigh. He was duly served porotta and mutton curry. Pleased with his meal, the artist gifted Kayikka with another drawing. A copy of both drawings is still put up at the hotel, which is now being renovated. The originals Kayikka has kept safely elsewhere. Saturday, however, was a special occasion and the paintings came out of their safe to meet the artist’s daughter.