Older than the mountains, it is a river that forces its way through the towering Himalayas. The Tibetans know it as the Yarlung Tsang Po (the purifier). In India, it is known as Brahmaputra. In Bangladesh, it is also known as the Jamuna, The Padma and finally the Meghna before it opens into the sea.
Photographer Shahidul Alam will share his journey towards Brahmaputra’s origin. Continue reading “Brahmaputra Diary by Shahidul Alam”
IN Pakistan, apprehensions are rife about Narendra Modi?s flamboyant success. But fervent Modi supporters in the Indian middle classes prefer to place him in the economic governance arena. Dawn recently talked to renowned Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, in Delhi to explore what Modi?s rise means for India.
?The massive, steeply climbing GDP of India dropped rather suddenly and millions of middle-class people sitting in the aircraft, waiting for it to take off, suddenly found it freezing in mid-air,? says Ms Roy. ?Their exhilaration turned to panic and then into anger. Modi and his party have mopped up this anger.? Continue reading “Where will India's poor go?”
Memory, Justice, Healing evening at Making Democracy Real 2014 with Salman Rashid, Rajmohan Gandhi, Archana Rao and Rahul Bose
A week earlier, he had received a letter from his youngest sister Tahira. Having completed her higher secondary school exams, she was visiting with her older sister Zubaida whose husband was then a surveyor with the Survey of India and posted at Solan midway between Kalka and Simla. Tahira had written that Solan was rife with communal tension and that she wanted to be with the parents in Jalandhar. She asked her brother if he could come for her to take her home. Continue reading “Memory, Justice, Healing”
In the 40-odd years that America and the Soviet Union faced off in the cold war, the people who presumed to run the world started with the knowledge that it was too dangerous, and possibly even suicidal, to attack one another. But the struggle was fierce, and what that meant in practice was that the competition played out in impoverished places like Cuba and Angola, where the great statesmen vied, eyed and subverted one another, and sometimes loosed their local proxies, all in the name of maintaining the slippery but all-important concept known as the balance of power.
The peace held, of course ? that is, the larger peace. The United States and the Soviet Union never came to blows, and the nuclear-tipped missiles never left their silos. For the third world, where the competition unfolded, it was another matter entirely. The wreckage spread far and wide, in toppled governments, loathsome dictators, squalid little wars and, here and there, massacres so immense that entire populations were nearly destroyed. Continue reading “Collateral Damage”
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.”
Nandita Das: ‘Indians are very racist. There is so much pressure that perpetuates this idea that fair is the ideal.’ Photograph: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images
“You look green!” said a friend. “Are you ill?” asked another. Last year, a respected Indian newspaper published a photograph of me online which had been lightened so drastically by the art director’s magic wand that I called the editor to complain and he apologised and replaced it with the original. The art director had thought he?was doing me a favour by whitening my skin. Continue reading “India's unfair obsession with lighter skin”
The roses are blooming at the window in the immaculately kept gardens of Trinity College, Cambridge and Amartya Sen is comfortably ensconced in a cream armchair facing shelves of his neatly catalogued writings. There are plenty of reasons for satisfaction as he approaches his 80th birthday. Few intellectuals have combined academic respect and comparable influence on global policy. Few have garnered quite such an extensive harvest of accolades: in addition to his?Nobel prize?and more than 100 honorary degrees, last year he became the first non-US citizen to be awarded the?National Medal for the Humanities. An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions by Jean Dreze, Amartya Sen
But Sen doesn’t do satisfaction. He does outrage expressed in the most reasonable possible terms. What he wants to know is where more than 600 million Indians go to defecate. Continue reading “Amartya Sen: India's dirty fighter”