Satish Gujral was born on 25 December 1925 in Jhelum in undivided Punjab when the country was under British Rule. A sickness at 11 resulted in the hearing impairment that he regained 62 years later after a surgery in 1998. Awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1999, Gujral is the most versatile artist in India – painter, muralist, graphic designer, writer, and architect of the post-Partition Era. His elder brother Inder Kumar Gujral was a former Prime Minister of India.
Gujral’s career in art began when in 1939 he joined Mayo School of Arts in Lahore to study Applied Art. He moved to Bombay in 1944 and enrolled in Sir JJ School of Art, but had to discontinue due to a recurrent sickness. In 1952, he got a scholarship to study at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City where he was apprenticed to the internationally-renowned artists Diego Riviera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Their strong influence is seen in Satish’s early artistic creations. As an artist turned architect he designed the Belgian Embassy in Delhi. The design that he created made him famous overnight was selected by the International Forum of Architects as one of the finest buildings built in the 20th century. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India, in 1999.
I admired [and continue to do so] Gujral forthright frankness and I had since long liked his work. I have even gone out of the way to declare in public lectures that he was a far better artist than MF Husain whose reputation rested more on hype than holistic creativity. At any rate, as member of the Executive Board of Council of Architecture, a statutory body constituted under an Act of Parliament, in a crucial meeting in the mid-1980s, I had fought with fellow architects to recognize Satish Gujral as a distinguished architect even though he did not possess any formal qualifications.
In sum, Satish Gujral was a beautiful human being in the letter and spirit of the phrase and the most original, versatile, prodigious, and prolific artist of India who, for his awesome creativity, actually belongs to the world.