Most kids love to make paper boats to play in rain water. But Wajid Khan dreamed bigger. He created a small ship that could float on water. At age 14, he invented the world’s smallest electric iron, which was later named in the Guinness Book of World Records. Today, this 34-year-old artist holds a patent in his name for (iron) nail art painting, has been named in five world record books and has 200 inventions to his credit.
Like most artists and inventors around the world, Wajid Khan too had humble beginnings. But unlike many of them, he has mostly remained ‘unsung’ in his own country. Born and brought up in a small village called Songiri—11 km away from Mandsaur district—Wajid spent most of his childhood feeling inferior due to his low school grades. Yet, he continued his unique experiments with whatever material he could lay his hands on. He left school at Class V and then, eventually his house too.
“One of the most decisive moments of my life was the time my mother gave me a sum of Rs 1,300 and challenged me to leave home to pursue my hobby. She was the only person who believed I was meant for something remarkable,” shares Wajid. His actual struggle began when he had to earn his living while also keeping experiments alive as a 16 year old. Back then, technical robots caught his fancy. It was a matter of chance that, aided by his friends, Wajid started working for NIF Institute of Ahmedabad.
“In 1998, I picked up thermocol. Eventually I got into experimenting with making portraits using iron nails. I came to Indore in 2004 hoping to learn more and experiment. I now have a base in both Indore and Mumbai,” Wajid says.
In 2005, Wajid finally finished making an iron nail portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. This portrait was created after three years of consistent work with 1.25 lakh iron nails. It was also the same year Wajid created what was possibly the world’s first 3D painting, using acrylic colours on canvas. Yet, recognition came much later when his first portrait sold at Rs 20 lakh in 2010. “Despite the bid for Gandhiji’s portrait being Rs 50 lakh, I never sold it. It will always be closest to my heart,” he adds. He has so far made several iron nail portraits of noted people such as Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ, Dhirubhai Ambani, among others. He uses a special base (imported sheet) on which he draws a pencil outline just to mark the points of the start and the end of the portrait. “I never draw a portrait beforehand on the sheet. My mind already has the picture and I follow that instinct,” Wajid explains.
But he hasn’t limited himself to just iron nails. Wajid has made exceptional landscape and portrait art from discarded auto parts, medical equipment and black quarry stones. He created an artifact of a young crying girl using medical equipment as part of the Save the Girl Child campaign. But his bullet art works, without a doubt, attract the most attention.
“Bullet is a sign of violence and Gandhjii taught us non-violence. There could not be a better way to give out a message of non-violence than making his portrait using bullets, to show contradiction,” Wajid says. Interestingly, all his portraits have black as a predominant colour since Wajid believes black is the strongest colour.
Wajid acquired a patent for his iron nail art in 2009. Apart from Guinness, he has been included in Golden Book of World Records, Limca Book of World Records, India Book of World Records and Asia Book of World Records. He is on the verge of applying for patents for his 140 inventions and art works. On March 8, 2015, Wajid was invited to deliver a lecture at IIM Indore, where he spoke on innovation in management.
“But I know fame and money don’t last. The Holy Quran says: 'Live for others, not yourself.' So, I am trying to equip the physically disabled and the less privileged people with art. I am fortunate that my wife Maryam is equally art-inclined and both of us conduct workshops in schools in cities like Mumbai and Indore and rural areas to find artists and teach them,” he says.
Wajid Khan has been commissioned to design a unique sculpture for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, to be held in Qatar. “I want to use my fame to help struggling artists and inventors get recognition across the world. I don’t want to open an NGO. I prefer working quietly to help the artists and making them self-dependent,” he adds.
Wajid, whose art work may feature in an upcoming Hollywood venture, wishes to continue experimenting and teaching art. In 2016, he has plans of delivering a lecture at Oxford University, London.
Watch how Wajid Khan creates exceptional art-