By Sonali Chowdhury
New Delhi, Feb.6 : A former Iraqi official under Saddam Hussein's regime, who could have easily been a great resource for many short story writers, publishers or media organizations in India, is struggling to eke out a living in the capital as a painter.
Sardar M.Saeed, 61, who claims to have been a former director general in Iraqi ministry of education, took asylum in India after escaping a militia attack just after the collapse of the Saddam regime.
Today, Saeed is compelled to live on the margins of life and is struggling to start his life afresh through selling paintings. He rues the fact that he is not that much famous in India that he be approached by art connoisseurs to have a look at his collection of around 50 abstract paintings.
"Painting requires materials for which I have no more money to arrange canvas, oil colours and acrylics. For writing, you don't need that much money rather just a mind and a pencil. This is why I have now started writing too. May be if I get money or if I get material, I would like to work more," said Saeed with a never-say-die spirit.
Saeed's paintings are in tune with the art of calligraphy, which he has successfully translated on canvas. He says that he painted them after arriving in India.
Some of his paintings, which showcase Islamic culture, with Arabic touch while others are self-referential with sporadic occurrences of human figures. A few of them depict the turmoil in Iraq.
Back in Iraq, his paintings used to be high in demand whenever they were exhibited in Iraq or abroad during his heydays. Art has always been his passion.
With hardly any taker for his paintings here and without a work permit, Saeed finds it tough to meet his artistic pursuits out of a paltry amount that he draws from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
But he is all praise for Indian friends who have been helping him in times of crisis.
In India, Saeed was helped by an Iraqi friend to whom he feels indebted. He lent Saeed rupees 25,000 rupees (around 640 dollars) to arrange for colours, brushes and papers to start off life afresh in the painting world.
"You must know that Indian people help us (the Iraqis). They have always helped me. They have done a lot for me but I could not do anything in return. Some of them never bothered to know about my background but still were ready to help after looking at my art work. I don't even know them," he added.
Saeed says that he has served in office for 34 years with many other achievements to his credit like hosting of a show on Iraqi TV and authoring many books.
Yearning for his native land Saeed says: "It is not easy to forget Iraq so easily. It is not at all easy for me. I was forced to leave Iraq, what could I do?."
Though presently not having enough financial resources to support himself, Saeed wishes to hold a painting exhibition so that art lovers can watch his talent on canvas and also be a help.