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January 26, 2009

India: Slums, dogs and millionaires

Happy Republic Day.

One of the first things I remember about describing India -- it was a grade three/four essay on “describe your country” -- was “India is a diverse nation.” To a seven-year-old me, “diverse” really didn’t mean much. The first real awareness about any patriotic identity I had was that we -Indians - “hated” Pakistan, rather the Pakistani cricket team.

Over the years there have been many things I have realised about my country. We are in the top 10 list of most corrupt nations and would soon become world leaders in terms of population. Recently I learnt that we have more honours students than the entire population of Australia. And that Indians doctors and IT guys are wanted the world over. I could go on…

What is India? “Everything” is the word that best describes it.

Structured chaos, patience for long traffic jams, slums with the best TV channels and early morning lining-up for water. Praying to cows and killing of female foetuses. Gods with many arms and beggar kids with none. Rising divorce rates in cities and a reluctance to put parents in old-age homes. World-class chefs and mothers who still make awesome, detailed home-cooked food. In Amitabh Bachchan, the star of the millennium (BBC says so) and every state and every district with it’s own distinct dance form and music. We might suck at global sport but you can’t beat us at mind games…

Pizzas with paneer on them and the world’s best bloody street food. Metal head chicks who still get henna on their hands for weddings. And weddings! The many different kinds of Indian weddings are a study by themself. A blooming real estate industry and shitting in the open. Politicians with criminal records and yet a surprisingly, surviving democracy. I would love to challenge any other country to take even a quarter of the population we have and try and make something worthwhile from it. They will fail.

It gets difficult though, when people here ask questions about India: some honestly curious, some mistakenly superior. My father keeps telling me to not get into arguments and let people think what they might. Well, we shall see.

What is India? The list can go on… She is different things to different people.

So I asked friends and my ‘network’ to contribute a photograph: something they think denotes or represents India. But then, as contributor George Koshy pointed out, can any single picture really capture India? You decide, or not...




Captions provided by photographers where not specified
<-- 1. Good Morning India: pic by Shashwat Nagpal, 28, freelance photographer, Creative Director with a multinational IT consulting firm.
"I took this picture in Benaras/Varanasi. To me, it reflects the spiritual face of India... showing the faith in our culture and customs and how people make living through it too."


2. Years of Raniket: pic by Shefali Sewak, 28, lawyer -->
"I've been going to Ranikhet every year since I was about 8-years-old. It really is my 'home away from home', except that unlike Delhi, it is spiritually unsoiled. Every time I'm in Ranikhet, I see and feel things that touch me to the core. This is strange because I don't usually get moved easily.My last visit in October 2008 was no different. There's this one picture which I took of an old woman. She had typical Kumaoni features, and her face was wrinkled with years of Ranikhet. But gorgeous as her face was, I found this photograph more intriguing."


<-- 3. Varanasi tradition: pic by Ben Tregear, 28, freelance photographer currently living in India
I met Ben at a terrace party, smoking pot and strumming Bob Dylan or someone else on the guitar...


4. Die Swimmer Die (Pong Lake Watersports sign board, Kangra, Himachal): pic by Colin Fernandes, author (Viva Santiago!), contemplator, lad-mag features editor -->

<-- 5. Mishti khabe?: Pic by Michael Oberhardt, 29, senior geologist, currently living in India
"It was taken in a small village called Rajdih in September last year. It is about 7 hours drive north of Kolkata in Jharkhannd state. We were drilling nearby and I decided to stop at all the little villages to hand out some sweets to the kids (and parents)."


6. Sushil and I: pic by Rajaraman Ganesan, 47, former sports editor, current consultant --->
This picture shows "the down to earth nature of an Olympic medal winner..."


7. Family portrait: pic by Jesse Rapczak, 28, video game developer, living in India

"This is a portrait of a family that lives near my office in Noida. They run a small corner shop and usually sleep on the street. After I took the photo I realized they probably did not have a family portrait as a keepsake, so I printed several copies and took it back to them. We didn't speak the same language, but I'll never forget the joy I saw in their eyes and how grateful they were as a result of this simple gesture."

There are more contributions, just that I'm running out of time.. will come and upload those later. For those interested in contributing as well: email me ONE photograph --that YOU have taken -- that represents India or what you think of India. Hope a lot of you will participate! Email contributions to foxytanya@gmail.com WITH:
1. your photo contribution: perhaps a caption or two about where/when you took it and what it means
2. your name, age (optional) and what you do for a living/ otherwise
3. a link to your website/blog so people can check out more of your pictures
You DON'T have to be a professional photographer; anyone can send in a contribution--- if you know people who might want to contribute...please forward this note to them.
PS: Saw Slumdog Millionnaire last night... a post on that later.

1 comments:

maxine said...

Always amazed by the way you think.Shall wait for the other pics and also cant wait to hear ur views on 'Slum Dog Millionaire'.
Happy Republic Day.