When Abba was ill -
My father was diagnosed with cancer in May 2012.
At the time these images had been taken, I’d been telling myself that it was to be a recording of how my father would fight, how my family would see him through this horrible time, of my mother’s love for him.
It took some time for us to realize that it was a malignant, fairly advanced and a viciously growing tumor. It took us his death to realise that there never ever had been any hope.
He passed away in November, the same year, in the industrial town he lived and worked.
I guess all things pass.
Often slowly… and sometimes abruptly.
In time my memory congealed into vague impressions of what I thought I saw, blurred and faded. These photographs are almost all I now remember.
Aligarh Muslim University
Aligarh represents an anomaly in the regular statistics of smaller Indian populaces. Aligargh Muslim University was established in the year 1875; modelled on the University of Cambridge by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who, after the revolution of 1857, felt the need for the westernised education of Muslims in the Indian sub-continent. Aged mostly between 17 and 25, with the exception of the older, middle aged, PhD students that are here on grants, living with their families, these students (almost 30,000 of them) make, often out of their meagre means, a home out of small campus rooms and dormitories that the university provides at marginal costs.
While the doors to the education provided by A.M.U. are open to those of all castes and creeds, it sees a massive influx (almost 80%) of Muslim students, not just from every corner of India, but also from all across South-East Asia, West Asia and Africa. Students throng here from Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Malaysia and many other countries. They form their own communities and follow their own traditions and cultures, often finding not to their palette the rich Indian food that is served in the dining halls of the hostels, nor find compatibility with local students very easy due to language and social barriers.
These images are the incidental by-product of an attempt at studying the universe that is the Aligarh Muslim University; an attempt at exploring the town, and getting to know the students here; to see how they live and create for themselves the small havens that they end up with. This town has a unique air of solitude and singularity, though it has never dealt with anything but the plural, further marking great individuality within the throngs that study here.
Days with Mom (ongoing since 2013) -
I’d always held back from embracing it, but my father was my philosophical guide. I could admit it openly to myself only after he’d passed away.
My brother and I pined after him, and shed common tears, and selfishly cried over all that we had taken for granted, and all that we had yet to learn from him.
But, not for an instant did we confuse ourselves for the true protagonist of his life, our mother, his wife.
What I originally mistook for our shared bereavement slowly changed into a realization of her loss. I think I got a true glimpse of how happy and successful their marriage had been only after my father’s death.
While Abba had had a more intellectual bend of mind, I learnt that Mom had been the stronger and the braver one of the two.
I learnt that I do not take after her.
I don’t visit her too often, but I try to when I can.
Jamshedpur, my hometown, feels like a dream each time I visit it. It is suspended in time like a note from a song I cant’ remember. However, something has changed about it. Abba is no longer there. Mom still goes to teach at the school she has been for twenty five years. She still meets all their old friends. She maintains her house independently, like his wish for her. Everything in the house is as it used to be, except that there are now so many more photographs of him.
These photographs are to be my journal for when I visit her, even if they start to become my reasons to visit her.
“What is the role of the TV in our lives? Early contemplation oscillated between a gift from the gods, and a Trojan horse; entering our houses under the pretext of harmless entertainment as a garb over the undermining of the fabric of our societies.
But irrespective, even with the Orwellian Newspeak similarity, or dissimilarity, we are now from a generation which has hardly known life without it. Looking back at all the years as an audience to this contraption, I merely wish to express my opinion on the collective information emanating from the TV, and document the spaces that remind me of it.”