I have been working on this composition for quite a while. I was angered, rather revolted by what the Taliban were doing in the pristine Swat valley that has recently undergone full scale war. What has the peaceful and serene Buddha to do with the war on terror and US imperialism in Afghanistan? I have friends who try and explain that the regrouped and re-energised Taliban represent the angst against the US occupation of the Pashtun lands. Perhaps there is some truth in this. But my Gautam, what was his fault? He only talked of peace in this region and only asked us to traverse and preserve our humanity.

Who are these butchers of culture? What Islam they follow? They have no religion except barbarity and tribal notions of revenge and blood-letting. There is no excuse for the vandalism against our vital heritage – Pakistan will be a poorer place if these mad, roving fundamentalists would remove all the signs of our pre-Islamic heritage and ancient cultures.

So this painting evolved in those days of anguish. I remembered a broken Buddha head that was discovered from Swat decades ago and thanks to my useful library I got the picture. So I took the Taliban flag background, which is tri-coloured (that should be black in my not so humble opinion); and transposed the Buddha on top and to indicate my fears, I painted the star and the crescent on the green portion to represent the Muslim part of the Pakistani flag.

So this is the little story that led to the painting above. My partner likes it and a few friends who saw it, also appreciated it. I have to thank my art teacher for guiding me through the shades and shadows with little [master] strokes here and there..

I plan to do a series on it. But I will have to travel to Swat; and I am not sure when will situation normalise there. In the meantime, I plan to rely on my Gandhara books and twopence imagination.

First published here