One of the perks of being a travel writer is you get to meet characters you did not even know existed. Including Kikasso the artist in Pushkar.
The only Sikh I met in Pushkar, he says he has been painting since 1970. But he has had careers in the Army as a wireless operator from 1972-1978 and as a cashier in Syndicate Bank after that before taking voluntary retirement in 2000. It was then that he decided to pursue his ambition of being an artist full time.
He displays his art on the street, and is happy with that. He says he never took formal training, and learnt through meditation. Going by the real name of Sardar Kishan Singh Munawat, it was a foreigner who pointed out to his work being like Picasso’s. Till then he had not even heard the name Picasso; he looked him up subsequently and decided to seek further inspiration from this great master; after all, we all need to look up to someone in life he says. It was then that Kishan became Kikasso. And, in Kikasso’s own words, “Picasso was a modernist before the Renaissance, and I am a modernist too.”
Prices vary from Rs. 200 for a small picture, going up to a few thousand. Am image of a global family sells for Rs. 1,000. My request for an interview got the response, “I don’t want to be famous, nor do I need publicity to sell. I only take pleasure in my work, and I know good things will sell. My market is global anyway so this interview may not mean much.” He followed this up with an endless interview before I pressed eject.
Kikasso claims to have been born on August 15, 1946, exactly a year before India gained independence. He says his father is a priest in the local Gurudwara, or Sikh temple. A sign at his street shop says, “Born, Live Pushkar, Love to Work Pushkar.” Kikasso adds that he will be in Pushkar till the last day of his life.
How much of his story is true? A silversmith across the road says no one is sure. According to him, “Some say he is not a real Sikh. Others say he murdered someone and is impersonating as a Sikh to evade arrest. No one knows when he even came to Pushkar. His father may have been a priest in the Gurudwara, but no longer for sure.”
Believe it or not, but do chat up Kikasso when in Pushkar.
Written and contributed by Kunzum