They were professionals I respected and admired, but they had found my comments disparaging. ?What about the work we?ve been doing all these years?? they had hurtfully said. I had reflected upon the fact that while there were some great photographers in India, it didn?t really have a photographic movement. Until now.
Whenever I passed through Delhi, Raghu, Pablo, Dayanita, Prashant and other photographer friends would all meet at the India International Centre and try and kick start this movement. ?Karne hoga yaar? (we?ve got to do it mates) was the rallying cry we would leave each other with, but while several initiatives had been taken, it was the Delhi Festival, launched in October 2011, that showed the first signs of that collective endeavor.
It was the 18th December 1998. The day Pathshala was launched. Indian photographer Saibal Das had taken me aside to quietly ask, ?is this the ?real? Reza?? I had nodded and he went on ?can I touch him?? Reza Deghati, the famous National Geographic photographer, chuckled when I explained. We all paused as Saibal approached – and touched – his idol.
It took me back to 1991, when Fred and Wendy Baldwin had walked me through the exhibition spaces in Houston. I had never been to Fotofest or any other festival, but listening to Fred and Wendy, I could see myself surrounded by images and image-makers.
Arles was my first festival. Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer and I had known each other for many years, but we had never met. I barely survived the crushing hug at our first encounter. The joy of seeing outstanding work all across the city. Stunning multimedia displays on the giant Amphitheatre. The excitement of walking amidst household names in photography, seeing, sometimes touching, my heroes, made me realise this was a feeling that had to be shared. I wish I could have taken a suitcase full of photographers with me to these festivals. I settled for two. In a subsequent trip to Arles, we stopped on the way in Paris and Abbas, the chairman of Magnum, took my two young colleagues Shehzad and Mahmud on a guided tour of the agency. I recognized that glazed look in their eyes.
Meeting Raghu Rai on a boat from Hong Kong to Kowloon. Lunch at Chelsea with Raghubir Singh, Sunil Janah and Ram Rahman, courtesy of Max Kozloff. Working with Dayanita Singh, Eugene Richards and Mark Abraham in my first curatorial assignment, have been seminal moments in my own photographic career. I remembered the high I got from each of those encounters. This was a high that needed to be shared. I needed a very large suitcase. If the photographers couldn?t be taken to the festivals, the festivals would have to come to them. So Chobi Mela was born. That was 1999.
Little had we realized what an electrifying effect this festival would have. Photographers who came over, went back energized and set up their own festivals. Besides the Chinese mega events, small intimate festivals took place in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. India however, was still lagging behind. That was when Prashant Panjiar and Dinesh Khanna stepped in. They weren?t foolhardy youngsters, and a great deal of thinking and planning went into staging this important event.
When asked why Delhi Fest became such an instant success, Prashant would in his typical manner respond ?it was because Dinesh and I are not superstars?. ?While I certainly dispute his non-superstar status, I know what he was getting at.? Prashant and Dinesh were going to make the festival a success and not let their egos get in the way.? As brave people do, the duo had some luck on their side. It was ambitious to take on such a diverse programme on their first attempt. The choice of the magnificent grounds of the Habitat Centre, was key to making it work. I am sure a lot went on behind the scenes to make it happen. The Amphitheatre, the classrooms, the open air space and the splendid location were central to creating the atmosphere of the special event
Fine shows, interesting talks, the organic mix of the experienced and the new, combined with ambitious curatorial projects, made it seem it was a festival run by old hands.? I am sure there were cracks, as there always are, but whatever might have gone on behind the scenes, the show on stage went without a blip.
For me, it was the camaraderie between the photographers wafting throughout the festival that made it particularly special. My lasting memory – of the inevitable photo op -with Raghu Rai, Pablo Bartholomew, Prashant Panjiar, Prabudhdha Das Gupta and I, will forever linger. Prabudhdha is no more, but what these fine photographers have together built, will I am sure, outlast them all.
UNTIL 1971 Pakistan was made up of two parts: west and east. Both Muslim-dominated territories were born out of India?s bloody partition 24 years earlier, though they existed awkwardly 1,600km apart, divided by hostile Indian territory. Relations between the two halves were always poor. The west dominated: it had the capital, Islamabad, and greater political, economic and military clout. Its more warlike Pashtuns and prosperous Punjabis, among others, looked down on Bengali easterners as passive and backward. Continue reading “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide.”
How the gin and tonic became the British Empire?s secret weapon.
Photo by Brian Jones/iStockphoto/ThinkstockThe gin and tonic is having a moment. From Spain?where gin and tonics are practically the national drink?to our summer shores, the venerable G-and-T is everywhere. House-made tonic is on the menu in restaurants from coast to coast, and in many fine bars gin and tonics come in dozens of varieties, with special tonics and fruit garnishes matched to distinctive artisanal gins.
Of course, a lot of classic cocktails are enjoying a resurgence?part?Mad Men, part the boom in distinctive small-batch spirits, and part the waning fad of faux speakeasies with handcrafted bitters and bartenders in arm garters chipping away at blocks of ice.
But the gin and tonic is different. For one, it requires no unusual ingredients, and it?s very simple to make. More interestingly, the gin and tonic has a storied history that places it at the heart of the largest empire the world has ever known. Indeed, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the gin and tonic was as essential a weapon for the British Empire as the Gatling gun. No less an authority on imperial power than Winston Churchill once declared, ?The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen?s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.?
What was the source of the gin and tonic?s great power? As is sometimes said of tequila, the gin and tonic is not just a drink; it?s a drug.
The story begins with the jewel of the British Empire: India. British India comprised both more and less than modern-day India. More, in that it included large parts of what are today Pakistan and Bangladesh. Less, in that much of India under the British Raj was quasi-independent, in so-called princely states that were nominally sovereign but largely under England?s thumb. India was so important to the empire that in 1876 Queen Victoria added the moniker ?Empress of India? to her title. Her successors continued that practice right up till 1948, under George VI (he of?The King?s Speech?fame).
Controlling India, in short, was central to the British Empire and to Britain?s sense of itself as the world?s leading power. What allowed Britain, a small island far off in the northern reaches of Europe, to rule over the vast semi-continent of India for so long is a subject of some debate. But in?Jared Diamond?s famous words, Europe?s military superiority was built on a mix of ?guns, germs, and steel.?
Guns and steel clearly favored powers like Britain. These innovations allowed Britain (and other European countries) to deploy weapons such as machine guns at a time when many societies around the world still used swords and spears. But germs were more equivocal. Malaria in particular was a virulent killer of colonized and colonizer alike. While malaria has a long history in Europe, it began to be eradicated in the 19th?century, and even earlier it was never as deadly as it was in tropical locations. So as Europeans established colonies in the tropics, they faced a serious and often mortal threat from the mosquito-borne disease. Soldiers and civilian officials alike succumbed to it.
In the 17th?century, the Spanish had discovered that indigenous peoples in what is now Peru used a kind of bark to address various ?fevers.? Stripped from the cinchona tree, the bark seemed to work well for malaria. The ?Jesuit?s bark,? as it was known, quickly became a favored treatment for malaria in Europe. (Before the discovery of the cinchona tree, European malaria remedies included throwing the patient head-first into a bush in the hope he would get out quickly enough to leave his fever behind.)
Eventually it became clear that cinchona bark could be used not only to treat malaria, but also to prevent it. The bark?and its active ingredient, quinine powder?was a powerful medicine. But it was also a powerful new weapon in the European quest to conquer and rule distant lands.
Quinine powder quickly became critical to the health of the empire. By the 1840s British citizens and soldiers in India were using 700 tons of cinchona bark annually for their protective doses of quinine. Quinine powder kept the troops alive, allowed officials to survive in low-lying and wet regions of India, and ultimately permitted a stable (though surprisingly small) British population to prosper in Britain?s tropical colonies. Quinine was so bitter, though, that British officials stationed in India and other tropical posts took to mixing the powder with soda and sugar. ?Tonic water,? of a sort, was born.
Still, tonic water was basically a home brew until an enterprising Brit named Erasmus Bond introduced the first commercial tonic water in 1858?perhaps not coincidentally, the very same year the British government ousted the East India Co. and took over direct control of India, following the so-called?Sepoy Mutiny, a violent rebellion and counterattack.
Bond?s new tonic was soon followed by Schweppes? introduction, in 1870, of ?Indian Quinine Tonic,? a product specifically aimed at the growing market of overseas British who, every day, had to take a preventative dose of quinine. Schweppes and other commercial tonics proliferated both in the colonies and, eventually, back in Britain itself.
Gin, which in earlier days had been associated with vice and social decay among the lower classes in Britain?take a look at William Hogarth?s famous print?Gin Lane?for a taste?was by the 19th?century making its long march toward respectability. It was only natural that at some point during this time an enterprising colonial official combined his (or her) daily dose of protective quinine tonic with a shot (or two) of gin. Rather than knock back a bitter glass of tonic in the morning, why not enjoy it in the afternoon with a healthy gin ration?
The gin and tonic was born?and the cool, crisp concoction could, as Churchill observed, start saving all those English lives.
And American lives. Quinine proved as critical to the battle over the Pacific in World War II as it had to the struggle over India. As Amy Stewart notes in her new book,?The Drunken Botanist, Japan seized Java, the home of huge cinchona plantations, from the Dutch in 1942, cutting off nearly all of the Allied supply of quinine. The last American plane to fly out of the Philippines before it fell to the Japanese carried some 4 million quinine seeds. Unfortunately, the effort was largely in vain: The trees grew too slowly to provide sufficient quinine to the Allied war effort.
The gin and tonic, of course, was not enough to keep the British Empire alive either. Churchill, and many other British leaders, fervently believed that imperialism was essential if Britain was to remain a truly great power. But the strength and appeal of independence and self-determination was overwhelming, and India could no longer be held down by a small coterie of foreign officials, even with their quinine-based cocktails. By 1947 India?and Pakistan?were independent nations. Kenya, Jamaica, Malaya, and other tropical colonies soon followed.
Today, ?empire? is a dirty word. But the gin and tonic lives on. The drink went from a bitter medicinal tipple in tropical outposts to a mainstay of British clubs and bars by World War I. In postwar America, the gin and tonic became synonymous with WASP summer retreats and country club lounges. Then, in the ?70s and ?80s, gin was almost forgotten as first classic cocktails went out of fashion and then vodka began to explode in popularity. Now the gin and tonic is back, especially at the very high end, where artisanal gins from Brooklyn, San Francisco, and all parts in between can be mixed with special tonics like Fever-Tree (get it?) or Fentimans.
But the gin and tonic certainly did the British Empire a lot of good. So as you mix your next one, remember the curious history of the drink?or is it a drug??in your hand.
Troy Patterson on finding the perfect gin and tonic:
The Dark is Beautiful campaign hopes to halt India’s huge appetite for skin whitening products, and has a new champion in film star Nandita Das
Tariq Ali, in this exclusive interview, seamlessly switches from contemporary historian to scholar-at-large to polemicist to raconteur, as he tackles many of the impinging issues of our times. By SASHI KUMAR, Frontline
He was in southern India after nearly 30 years. He had come to Kerala to deliver the Chinta Ravindran Memorial Lecture at Thrissur. My friend, the well-known writer Paul Zacharia and I were showing him the sights and we had just been to the site of the archaeological dig at Pattanam near Kodungalloor where he saw the unearthed pottery and artefacts that were reconstructing the fascinating story of an early society in these parts, already in maritime contact with West Asian ports and ancient Rome. From there we proceeded to the nearby Cheraman juma masjid, considered the first mosque in India, and perhaps the second in the world, dating back to A.D. 629. There was only a little evidence of that ancient patrimony left; the quaint old native structure had been all but pulled down some 50 years back and a more commodious, more standardised edifice built around it. All that was left were some pillars, a section of a doorway, another of a beamed ceiling and a crumbling staircase leading up to the attic, all in wood. But a photograph of the structure, as it was in 1905, hung on the wall. Continue reading “The New World Disorder”
a Delhi Photo Festival workshop with?Munem Wasif
In partnership with?Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Delhi Photo Festival invites photographers who are currently working on a long-term project, a work in progress, to apply for a workshop to be held in New Delhi from September 22 to 26, 2013.
Participants will?not?shoot new work during the workshop. Instead participants will produce/continue a body of work before coming to the workshop as it is important for any photographer working on a long-term project to realize that beyond a certain point, his or her work can take many directions and forms.
The resulting work may be presented as a slideshow at the Delhi Photo Festival on Sept 30, 2013.
WHO SHOULD APPLY
The workshop is open to any photographer with an ongoing, long-term project or body of work, irrespective of age, gender or genre of photography. It is meant for someone who is interested in pushing their work beyond their comfort zone, in sharing ideas and working in a group.
HOW TO APPLY
Send an email email@example.com?with ?WORKSHOP APPLICATION: Work in Progress? written in the subject line of the email and attach the following:
??20 to 40 low-resolution JPEG photos from a long-term project you are already working on and intend to continue working on in the workshop.?(Please note that each photo should be 800 pixels on the longer side saved in a zip folder. Maximum size of the zip folder should not be more than 5 MB).
??A Brief description of your project?(not more than 300 words)
??A Statement of Purpose explaining why you are interested in this workshop and what you hope to learn from it?(not more than 300 words)
??A CV or a short biography
??Proof that you need scholarship, if you are applying for the same.
COURSE STRUCTURE & WORKSHOP SCHEDULE
Online Interactions: 27 Aug to 21 Sept
Workshop in New Delhi: 22 to 26 Sept
After the students are chosen, in the days leading up to the workshop, Munem Wasif will begin working with each participant online – reviewing works and giving them feedback through platform such as Facebook. Students will follow the instruction and upload their work online.
During the final 5 days of the workshop, that will take place at Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi from September 22 to 26, 2013, Wasif will show his work and explain his working process. The next few days will be spent doing group reviews and editing where everybody will have to present their work and talk about their experience. Finally the participants will be given assignments to present their work and think about its final form. Though the workshop will encourage participants to focus more on the process of experimenting and pushing personal limits than on its final outcome, the resulting work promises to be exciting.
About Munem Wasif
Having grown up in a small town Comilla, Bangladesh, Munem Wasif?s dream kept changing from becoming a pilot to a cricket player and then a photographer. But none of these choices made his father happy. Later he shifted to comparably a big city Dhaka. He found his graduation in photography from Pathshala a life changing experience, which made him aware of his stories, gave him a photographic voice to photograph the dying industry and afflicted workers of jute and tea, excluded people and disrupt lands due to environmental change and salt water, a nostalgic city of love, Old Dhaka.
Wasif prefers to photograph his known people, therefore his country Bangladesh, just to start from the inside of a story. He never finds it a problem to be treated as a storyteller of humanistic tradition, classical in photographic approach, as long as it shows compassion and his emotional experience for the people he photographed. With an outlook of a traditional narrative style, he starts from the opposite of clich?s, when he looses his control from one direction of a story, and allows himself to grow in different directions, like branches on a tree, yet with the same root of humanistic approach.
Wasif won ?City of Perpignan Young Reporter’s Award? (2008) at Visa pour l?image. Prixpictet commission (2009), F25 award for concerned photography from Fabrica (2008), Joop Swart Masterclass (2007). His photographs have been published in Le Monde, Sunday Times Magazine, Geo, Guardian, Politiken, Mare, Du, Days Japan, L’espresso, Lib?ration, Wall Street Journal and many others. He had exhibitions worldwide including, Musee de elysee & Fotomuseam Winterthur in Switzerland, Kunsthal museum & Noordelicht festival in Netherlands, Angkor Photo festival & Photo Phonm Phen in Cambodia,?Whitechappel Gallery in England, Palais de Tokyo & Visa pour l?image in France and Chobimela in Bangladesh.
Since 2008, he is represented by Agence Vu in Paris. He was one of the curators of Chobimela VII, International Festival of Photography. Currently he is working on his upcoming book on Old Dhaka, which will be published from France in September 2013. Currently he is teaching documentary photography in Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka.
The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) is organising the 9th ASEF
Journalists? Colloquium, which will be held in New Delhi (Gurgaon),
India from?9-11 November 2013.
We are pleased to invite interested journalists from ASEM countries to apply for participation. To apply, more information can be found
Travel subsidies to and from New Delhi and accommodation will be
provided by the organisers for successful participants. Continue reading “9th ASEF Journalists? Colloquium: New Delhi”