At Gallery Prescot last Wednesday, hunched over a table with my hair covering my face as I valiantly was scribbling down my address (for a friend who wanted to post something to me); I was gently peered at from under my greying tresses! I looked up to find Gieve Patel smiling his dazzling smile, and was engulfed in a warm embrace that said so much more than any pretty greeting could.
I first meet this graceful man in the '70s at a show where six artists who had declined to participate in the Lalit Kala Triennial that year, banded together to have an alternative exhibition concurrent to the show they were protesting against. As all good stories normally go, so does this one have a twist in the tail; or perhaps more accurately, it was an infected toe in a shoe! Amongst the scraggly bunch that we were from our preparatory class from the Fine Arts Faculty of Baroda, doing the padyatra of homage to art in the metropolis on a shoe string budget; having to dig into our dwindling resources for a doctor was causing us more pain than perhaps the poor boy with the infected toe! So when Gieve heard our sorry story, with a twinkle in his eye and us gawking like hypnotised gold fish in a bowl, he switched avataars and became a doctor that soothed and comforted and cured.
In later years I had the delight of sharing interludes of time with him on more equal terms, sometimes in the frameworks of idealised setting of huts on a beach as we painted and ate cream biscuits for tea; or in other spaces of crisp debate where we have disagreed and passionately held to the convictions of our respective ideas. But within all this, what is so remarkable is that there is such a palpable genuineness that defines this man. No nakaras, no star attitudes, no I will wish you only if you acknowledge me first falsities: just a no frills person, where the hallmark of his education shines through his complete existence.
Perhaps it is my convent education or my half Parsi ancestry, but the term Gentleman most aptly describes Gieve Patel. Mores the pity that we encounter less and less people who qualify to be termed so. Call me old fashioned, but refinement and intelligence tops my list as a great combination, and believe me, Gieve Patel has oodles of this! Take some pointers bachhas!