At age 81 -- he says he may be older by a couple of years -- Sher Singh Kukkal shows no sign that he is tired of painting and teaching his younger colleagues how to master the craft.
Kukkal does not allow memories of the many valuable art works lost to nature's fury over the decades to pin him down.
"There is no way I can stop painting, ever," Kukkal said with a tinge of pride at his modest middle class home in Noida overflowing with paintings, some yet to be completed, as well as an array of cameras dating back to the early 1950s.
On Friday evening, union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma inaugurated an exhibition of Kukkal's select collection at the India Habitat Centre in the heart of Delhi that will end on December 6.
"It is all due to god's grace," Kukkal told IANS. "Art can come only due to divine blessings."
Kukkal has created a monumental body of artwork that critics say defies standardisation and categorisation.
These range from sculptures to wash paintings, impressionist scenes to abstraction, stylised relief works to large frescos and from music to creative photography.
In over six decades of life as an artist, his large body of work cover paintings including watercolours and oils, sculptures including on wood, bronze and metal as well as enamel work over tiles.
Born in 1934 in a village in Azara district now in Pakisan, Kukkal's family - he says - had narrow escape from death as they fled to India during the partition horror.
After settling down in Gorakhpur, he joined the School of Art in Lucknow and then worked in Afghanistan. But he had to flee when civil war broke out there, forcing him to leave behind many paintings.
On two occasions, he says, flooding consumed many more of his paintings. And many remain locked up at the Jawaharlal Nehru National Youth Centre in Noida due to a property dispute.
But Kukkal says he will paint till his last breath. "Art is life. If I give up painting, then what is left of me?"
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