An evening of learning with a Guru : Shri Jagdish Mittal

January 12, 2014

A few years ago, when I acquired some old paintings that I knew nothing about but loved enough to acquire, I was directed to speak with Shri Jagdish Mittal from Hyderabad if I wished to understand these paintings.

I was a ‘noob’ in the world of art and this was my first impulsive step into this world. And so I dug out the details of Jagdishji from the net, called him up and we established a rapport.  He examined the paintings that I had acquired and affirmed that they were indeed collectible and of value to the world of historic art.

My first acquisition transacted totally on the basis of my eye  – without any support from my knowledge – had been affirmed by a noted art historian and scholar. I was thrilled!  Jagdishji and I had one or two discussions at that time and I resolved to visit him & his wife Kamla Mittal someday.

“Someday” came in the form of a work trip to Hyderabad in Jan 2014. And I scheduled an evening specially for a meeting with him.

I arrived at their home at 6 pm and was delighted to find that he was very similar to other octogenarians that I revere – my very learned father-in-law – late Dr. Bhagirath Mishra and Shri Pukhrajbhai – a noted numismatic expert and now a dear family friend. The character of these gentlemen is very similar – austere, sharp, humble, and learned. And the immensity of their knowledge combined with their humility is humbling and makes them role models for me. They have lived through the freedom fight and are very conscious of the Swadeshi culture – and their dress and their homes reflect the Indian character.  And so I met Jagdishji smartly attired in his kurta and lungi, sitting cross-legged with an upright back.  A perfect Guruji visual.

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Surrounding him were hundreds of books, the knowledge of which was held within him. Most were on the subject of art. Very daunting for me – as I have not read even a single book on the subject.

We chatted, for 3 hours. We discussed his life and his collecting. He gave me tips on how to go about selecting art pieces and what I must do in order to gain expertise in the subject. He spoke about the commerce of art, market trends, and overpriced and underpriced segments. I showed him some of the paintings from my collection that I loved, and he liked them very much too. The fun part was that he was so interested in everything I was saying and showing! It felt like he was  enjoying gathering some more data and more perspectives and a peep into someone else’s world. He never seemed bored and led the conversation with questions to me – even though there is a vast difference between my aukaat (capability / stature) (no perfect equivalent exists for this word) and his – he is a giant and I am an ant. I guess that’s how the learned become learned – by soaking in everything that everyone brings in.

His wonderful grandchildren support his effort and organise his materials for him. His late wife Shrimati Kamla Mittal was probably a great partner as she is always by his side in all their photos. And he was recently recognised by the Vishwa Bharathi University for his outstanding contribution to art.

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It  is my good fortune that I met him – it is my good fortune that I was able to live my dream/plan.

Unfortunately, the years that came between the plan and the implementation, took away Mrs. Kamla Mittal. I wish I had come sooner. Life is fragile and it is so important to ‘make’ time for the things we cannot afford to regret later on.

jm

Jan 2014

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