True artists are committed to passion for their calling and will not be distracted by compromises deemed inevitable for a cozy and smooth living.
Latika Katt, from an elite institution like Doon School, known for producing successful bureaucrats and entrepreneurs, chose a path less trodden, a Woman Who Dared. In defiance of all odds she decided to pursue her dream and what she believed was her true calling. In a less gender sensitive times, one could imagine the handicaps she had to overcome in an all male faculty of Banaras Hindu University and the deprivations she had to contend with later in Baroda where short of money and material she created objects of beauty from the humble material of cow dung, much before it became a folkist fashion.
Once she said: equality was all she was fighting for. What she calls equality I would call Justice and her struggle continues.
I came to know her as a colleague in the Department of Fine Arts when I was Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia. It was a most difficult time of her life. One evening her husband Balbir Katt went missing and she was desperately searching for him. His disappearance is still a mystery. The manner in which she faced the situation is a saga of courage and fortitude. It could have shattered a lesser person, but she continued with her duties to her students and produced many remarkable works despite the hostile surrounding and the institutional constraints.
It is for art critics to comment on her oeuvre and asses her place among her contemporaries. But even a lay person likes me can see she has trodden paths less taken. The Rodin like ruggedness and energy in her colossal Nehru for Jawahar Bhavan, New Delhi and the work in progress Indira Gandhi is a testimony to her command over the medium and her technical prowess.
Banaras, which happens to be in the region I belong to, the city of her adoption, is reflected in her work in forms and themes hardly ever attempted by any sculptor. Contemplation of death at the Manikarnik Ghat is in contrast to the teeming Makarshankranti bathers at the Dashashmedh Ghat and perception of unity of life in the bunch of bananas and the homes of termites animated by her imagination. In Latika's universe nothing is too insignificant for her keen eyes and dexterous hands.
The journey continues and should we hope that the best is yet to come.
Syed Shahid Mahdi
Ex Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia