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art connoisseur in the Hutheesing mould Sunday, July 8, 2001

By Swati Sucharita, The Times of India News Service
DEEPAK Hutheesing prefers to call himself a collector of art, of all things "ethnic and beautiful, of which there is no dearth in India". He also modestly informs you that he is merely a preserver of the Hutheesing heritage in Ahmedabad, and not its creator.

Though Deepakbhai holds an MBA degree from Stanford University and even received a job offer from the World Bank, family considerations forced him to move back to Ahmedabad, where he was the managing director of one of the textile majors those days, Aruna Mills. While Aruna Mills wound up in 1990, Deepakbhai preferred staying back in Ahmedabad, which he believes, is a very "business-oriented" city even today.

Going down memory lane, Deepakbhai is visibly moved talking about the ancestral Hutheesingh mansion, a few furlongs behind Hutheesing House (where Deepakbhai lives) in Shahibaug to which his family moved in the 1930s, which was demolished and at which place, "an ugly concrete structure stands today".

"It had been designed by British architect Bentley, the same gentleman who designed the superb architecture of the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai. Unfortunately, my brother who inherited the property sold off the house and settled abroad," recalls Deepakbhai.

Hutheesing House, which Deepakbhai built in the 1980s, is any art lover's delight, with artefacts, be it the marble statues, Ming vases, wood carved furniture, miniature paintings; in short, a treasure-trove of arts and crafts. Antique textiles and jewellery constitute his other passions, and the sourcing for most of his antique stuff is done from Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Mumbai.

His garden scattered with statues sourced from various places in Gujarat, like Patan and Khambat, is symbolic of his belief that "Art should be put out in the open, and not stuffed away in cupboards."

Having retired from active corporate life since 1990, Hutheesing is now trustee (along with wife Daksha and son Umang) of some of the Hutheesing charitable trusts which are primarily in health, education and religion. The family has also been a patron of cultural activities at the L P Hutheesing Visual Arts Centre, created in his grandparents' (Laila and Purushottam) memory.

A house-proud person, Deepakbhai remembers wistfully the days of yore when the family home was given a lot of attention, because "this was where the family entertained, and not at clubs and restaurants, as it happens these days."

He traces the Hutheesing lineage to almost 250 years ago, when their community first moved from Osia in Rajasthan (40 miles north of Jodhpur) to Khambat in Gujarat, where it started pursuing trade interests by sea.

Then, began the pirates' menace and despite the Hutheesings' cordial relations with the Mughal rulers, the former's ships managed to get confiscated, since the Navy during Aurangzeb's rule had already started deteriorating. Therefore, the family migrated to Ahmedabad, where they made their name as prosperous traders, trading in all sort of things, including wooden furniture, which was a rage in the US then, and jewellery (the Hutheesings were suppliers of kundan jewellery to Tiffany's in the US).

One can see the obvious pride on Deepakbhai's visage talking about the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company, set up in 1881, by an American interior decorator, Lockwood de Forest, in association with his great grandfather, Maganbhai Hutheesing. Wooden furniture, like carved doors, cabinets, picture frames used to be very popular.

"I can see a revival of carved wooden furniture in the world market today and my son Umang (who happens to be the convenor INTACH, Gujarat chapter) is actively involved in its revival project. In fact, Umang is more a creator, I am merely a collector of art," he dismisses his efforts.

"The Hutheesings have been known to be a very cosmopolitan family," he informs, promptly offering you examples from the family tree. His mother was Marathi; his paternal uncle was married to Krishna Hutheesing, Nehru's sister; his paternal aunt married into the Tagore family; his sister is married to a Catholic; cousin to a Sikh, and so on.

"We have managed to imbibe the best of arts and cultural traditions," concludes Deepakbhai.

News Source : Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]

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