engagements with words

Work with Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam, a four year collaboration (2002-2005) with the former President of India.

  • First Artist in Residence at the Rashtrapati Bhawan
  • The Life Tree, a book published by Penguin. Comprising of Dr Kalam’s Poems and Manav Gupta’s Paintings.

Excerpt from speech: Inaugural Centenary Address, National Gallery of Modern Art

Also in varied publications and official website (during his term of office as  of President of India)

“Some time back I composed a poem in my mother tongue and translated it into English, titled “Life Tree” along with some other poems. The message in the poems was celebration of life. While composing I never thought that a poem could be given life, beauty and creativity as I visualized. That is the time Manav came and stayed with me in Rashtrapati Bhavan to picturise the natural beauty of Rashtrapati Bhavan  and the Mughal Gardens. He stayed with his family for a week and created beautiful canvases bubbling with life.

I can see in them the beauty of flowers, smell the fragrance and taste the honey in the flowers. It is as if they are speaking to me with poems.

When Manav came across my poem “Life Tree” he took seven days in the beautiful environs of the Mughal garden to transform “Life Tree” into a speaking tree. What a beautiful creation!

First time I realized painting and poem intertwined with the imagination of a painter, leads to the birth of a new creation. That new creation touches your heart smoothens feelings, and transmits beauty and peace of the combined art into every artistic person and showers happiness in his or her mind and soul”

Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India 

“This day, I remember, a few years back, Dr Kalam took my painting out of his office for a day, and placed it in the main Hall for the Gandhi Jayanti celebrations at Rashtrapati Bhawan. He had invited me to create it, as a collaboration with his poem, and had placed it beside his desk at his office. He had brought a miniature charkha and placed it in front of it, as soon as his ADC arranged for a table. The painting remained there till he remained in office, as the President of India.

But that day, It was his first Gandhi Jayanti prayer meeting of 2nd October as President of India. And I was deeply humbled by his gesture yet again.
I remember the previous evening, the words of his secretary, as he conveyed the President’s query to me, dipped in humility, about the morning – that if I could spare some time to join him in the prayer meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
As Gandhiji’s favourite Bhajans reverberated the Hall, he gave my painting a rare honour.
It stood at the head all through the function.

The painting went on to be the cover of the book ‘The Life Tree’, published by Penguin India, that documents his poetry and my paintings collaborations born out of the long association that continues to grow; our sessions, both closed door in his office , and in the walks in the gardens while he invited me to stay in the Family Wing there.

The painting translated his beautiful thought that urges people and leaders to see if they can imbibe Gandhiji’s spirit – At the stroke of midnight hour, far away from the lightning and thunder in the sky, celebrating freedom from the ramparts of Red Fort, Mahatma Gandhi was in Noakhali to heal pain and suffering caused due to people killing the ones whom they have loved for so long, and still loved. He brought peace there. True Freedom. And it matters. That’s why he is he.
#GandhiJayanti #Freedom”

  • Manav Gupta | Excerpt on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti

Outreach Programmes | Engagement with school children and educational institutions.