Express press service
Tired hands practice the age-old art of mukaish badla work in the forgotten lanes of Lucknow. Empty, desperate eyes stare at you straight. A thoughtful Saeeda Bai in Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy scratches a tanpura.
Two generations – one old and broken and the other too young to comprehend the loss – unable to fill the gaping hole of a missing generation, look away from the lens. Delhi photographer Taha Ahmad is the blind-eyed desire chronicler.
This month, his works traveled to the Reach Gallery Museum, Abbotsford, Canada, as part of a joint exhibition – “Duje Pase Ton (On The Other Side): Arts Across the Border.” Of the two Punjabs’.
The show brings together the work of 22 international artists from the United Punjab, now divided between India and Pakistan. The score is the dark leitmotif that is sure to resonate in a country with a large Punjabi diaspora.
“The idea for the exhibition came from a series of artist-in-residence programs that took place in India and Pakistan,” says Ahmad. In India, the place was Preet Nagar, Punjab, where 83-year-old progressive Punjabi literary magazine, Preet Lari, created by visionary writer Gurbaksh Singh, was located.
“It housed a utopian project that saw Partition firsthand. Lahore is only 15 km from Preet Nagar, ”says Ahmad, writer and traveler. “My project evolves from my personal space and passes to the representation of society and injustice”, he adds.
The work was awarded the SACAC Social Documentary Photography Fellowship 2020, Samyak Drishti Photo South Asia Grant 2020 and was shortlisted for the Imagining the Nation State Grant Chennai Photo Biennale 2020.
While working on the project, Ahmad was certain that he would not limit himself to the sheet music alone. He wanted to build on it and show how he has shaped the current pluralistic landscape of Punjab – “I have tried to cover Punjab in all its brutality – from terrorism to drug issues, from religious fundamentalism to displacement, and capture the narratives. of oppression. “
Her grandmother often spoke of how her extended family had been separated from some members when they moved to Pakistan, while most remained in India. Recording the visual narrative was an emotionally draining experience for the young photographer.
“My challenge was to gain the subjects’ trust and be able to peek into their lives and their stories. It was also a time to face my own fears,” he recalls the mounting tension. in many places he was filming, which could very easily have resulted in murder or kidnapping.
He remembers how during a break from his photoshoot he played cricket with the locals of Lopoke village. “Luckily I was knocked out. But I was in the mood to play, so I stubbornly said it was a ‘no ball.’ Before I knew it, an argument had taken place. burst and one of the guys pulled out a gun. Needless to say there haven’t been any more cricket matches, “Ahmad said with a wry smile.
Then there was Kimti Lal, who runs a post office in Lopoke. During the riots of 1984, he was shot in the head. “The bullet is still lodged in his head,” recalls the photographer. “I also ran into this lower caste girl who had been raped by the upper caste men. Her family was too scared to report the incident. As you read on about such cases, come face to face with each other. with that shakes you deeply, ”says Ahmad.
Is photography the ultimate memory keeper? “Of course. Aren’t we capturing an image in our mind to record a precious moment?” he smiles. French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard called cinema “24 frames per second truth”. Photography is perhaps a “memory of countless images per second”.