Time and Tide

On the eve of ‘ Time and Tide’, his trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tion in In­dia, Malavika Sang­ghvi pens a let­ter to her old team mate Karan Kapoor

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Malavikasa­mum­bai@ gmail. com

Dear Karan, It is midnight as I write to you. Like many oth­ers this evening, I too was in­cred­i­bly moved to see your out­stand­ing ex­hi­bi­tion Time and Tide, of por­traits of An­glo In­di­ans and peo­ple from Goa, which will travel across the coun­try. It was a par­tic­u­larly poignant for me as five of th­ese por­traits are of peo­ple I had been present when you had shot at the Cheshire Home in Mumbai back in the early eight­ies.

It had been for an as­sign­ment for a Sun­day pa­per. I had been in­spired by the writ­ings of Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thomp­son, who em­ployed a deeply sub­jec­tive per­spec­tive to tell sto­ries of rare in­sight and star­tling bril­liance.

As my cho­sen pho­tog­ra­pher on as­sign­ment, you could have opted to come by on the last day to shoot the ‘ sub­jects’ I’d in­ter­viewed. That you chose to ac­com­pany me on each of day of the week was in it­self an in­di­ca­tion of your sen­si­tiv­ity and cal­i­bre. And what peo­ple we had met! Vi­o­let, like a dam­aged flower, who en­gaged us with her cut­ting wit and her flashes of anger at how her life had turned out; William ‘ the handy man’ whose ten­u­ous hold on life and love was through the caged bird he kept be­side him at all times; Stan­ley Peter, in his dark suit and bow tie, dressed un­know­ingly like the un­der­taker whose knock he so ar­dently awaited, and beau­ti­ful high- bor n Mil­li­cent Blanche Jones, whose eyes at 80 still re­flected the shock and hor­ror at how lonely and bereft her life had turned out.

Imag­ine my own shock to meet them all today, af­ter 36 years, th­ese gen­tle, wounded men and women and to re­alise that I still heard their voices and still felt their ur­gent pain and re­proach for what life had done to them.

Imag­ine how it felt to re­alise that time and tide had waited for no one Karan, not the peo­ple on the walls of the gallery, nor you and I.

We were meet­ing af­ter decades. In the first five min­utes of our greet­ing, we spoke about our own per­sonal losses and grief in tele­graph­ese, just happy to see each other alive and still stand­ing af­ter all that time and tide had done to us.

The Cheshire Home had not been the only as­sign­ment we’d em­barked on to­gether. On as­sign­ment for a Bri­tish news­pa­per in the 1980s, we had trav­eled through parched fields and dusty vil­lages in Mad­hya Pradesh, where we in­ves­ti­gated the phenom­ena of right wing ha­rass­ment of Chris­tian mis­sion­ar­ies. We had vis­ited le­prosy homes, or­phan­ages for aban­doned chil­dren and hospices for the aged, which they ran.

It was at one of th­ese, a home for men­tal­ly­chal­lenged young women on the out­skirts of Bhopal where I re­call how your blonde and good look­ing pres­ence made one young woman who had not spo­ken for years cry out in joy “Bom­bay Di­a­mond!” mis­tak­enly re­fer­ring to the Bom­bay Dye­ing cam­paign you had mod­elled for.

So many mem­o­ries: at a le­prosy colony where we had been in­vited to par­take of a feast in cel­e­bra­tion of two young mem­bers get­ting mar­ried, our stom­achs churn­ing from the sad­ness of see­ing hun­dreds of men and women with their scars and de­for­mi­ties, I had whis­pered in­quir­ing if you really would be able to eat from the thalis placed be­fore us. “I’d avoid the ladies fin­gers,” you’d said.

Of course it was dark, po­lit­i­cally- in­cor­rect hu­mour and both of us knew that it in no way took away from your pal­pa­ble com­mit­ment and com­pas­sion for your sub­jects as you stood in the blaz­ing af­ter­noon heat day af­ter day pho­tograph­ing them.

There was that very glam­orous story we un­der­took about the royal fam­ily in Jaipur and its fight, for an in­ter­na­tional glossy for which we met the Ma­hara­jah and Ra­j­mata at their palaces; there were the por­traits you shot of wait­ers, nurses, bus con­duc­tors and candy floss sellers for my on­go­ing col­umn ‘ Or­di­nary ex­tra­or­di­nary peo­ple’. There was that full- page fea­ture we’d done on the visit of the Afropop band Osi­bisa for a Sun­day broad­sheet, where we’d been caught up in the giddy ex­cite­ment as the city ex­pe­ri­enced its first in­ter­na­tional gig.

Through it all, I re­mem­ber how gen­tle, kind and gal­lant you’d been, trav­el­ling to­gether for hours through dusty vil­lages, spend­ing nights at flea- bit­ten ho­tels and inns, pass­ing en­tire days in each other’s com­pany, there was never a hint of inappropriate word or deed by you. I was al­ready be­troth else­where, we were a team of pro­fes­sion­als – pho­tog­ra­pher and writer – noth­ing more noth­ing less. The story was all we cared for.

So you can imag­ine how all th­ese mem­o­ries came rush­ing back this evening when I saw the haunt­ing, pain- filled eyes of Vi­o­let, Stan­ley, William and Blanche and I re­called that through the ups and downs of my own life, I had not even man­aged to save a copy of the ar­ti­cle I had once so pas­sion­ately im­mersed my­self in 36 years ago – and that time and tide had waited for none of us Karan, nei­ther you, me or the peo­ple we’d once en­coun­tered.

Which is why I am so grate­ful to you that you have man­aged to pre­serve some of the mem­o­ries and that they stare back not only telling us who they once were, but who we once were too.

For in the end, that is all we can do, isn’t it? Bear wit­ness in the hope that some­body some­where hears the un­spo­ken words and feels the in­ex­press­ible pain of those who de­served bet­ter, much bet­ter.

With ev­ery good wish and in me­mory of Vi­o­let, Blanche Stan­ley and William.

Yours sin­cerely etc,

( This colum­nist be­lieves in the art of let­ter writ­ing)

Karan Kapoor’s ‘ Vi­o­let’, part of his on­go­ing Time and Tide ex­hi­bi­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.