This project is a story of continuous plunder, alienated people and the global tiger. A research project that looks at anthropological aspects of Sundarban in West Bengal that is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundari tree and 4.5 million humans. Interconnected by the fate of their daily struggle for survival in an extremely fragile ecology of a tectonically active delta.
The most striking feature of the Kumbh Mela in India is the coexistence of the spectacular and the ordinary. It is a display of faith in its ultimate grandeur. The old and the weak, the young and the frail participate without hesitation. I have tried to reflect the ecstasy and eccentricity of spiritual India that reaches its peak during the months of the Mahakumbh.
I was born in Delhi, and like all Delhiites, I am concerned about the direct daily impact that pollution has on our lives. While handkerchiefs and anti-pollution masks on the road have become a common sight, air purifiers at homes are a new phenomenon. On the 26th of March, what I saw, left me shaken. I, along with Shirin Bithal, an air pollution researcher with Centre for Science and Environment, recorded real-time exposure at India Gate at 8:21 am. It showed a staggering 803 mg/cubic meter of PM 2.5 as compared to the WHO prescribed limit of a per day average of 25 mg/cubic meter. Between 8.00 and 8.55 am on the same day, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) reported 200-mg/cubic meter. The discrepancy is because we measured it at ground level, which is where we are while DPCC monitors are placed at the top of building tops. The particulate level since 2002 has increased by a dramatic 75 per cent. Delhi is choking, and there are enough facts to prove it.
The series of pictures were taken at a village called Ghasera, 35 km away from Gurgaon. Here young girls are living in a time-warp where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are alien concepts. Their school does not have a computer. These young girls mostly come to the school, to avail the state's mid-day meal scheme. They drop out of the school, by the time they get to their teenage with pressures of domestic chores and training for future marital responsibilities. These pictures were taken during an assignment to cover a tree plantation drive organised by BAIDU, after their #duitright campaign.
Lying in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, the Spiti valley receives scanty rainfall. A cold desert at an average altitude of 4000mts, the valley experiences extremes of climate and temperature variations ranging from -25 degree to +30 degrees centigrade. For more than 4 months of the year, the Spiti valley remains obscured by harsh winters. The regions accessibility throughout the year from the Kinnaur side makes it a lovely location for adventure-loving travellers but for landscape photographers, it is a match made in heaven. On an impromptu visit, I stumbled upon the unique beauty that this winter wonderland has to offer...
My project will assist artists and image-makers in visualising the Panopticon. For those who want to a glimpse of the Panopticon prison, it would be easier to access my model than the handful of architecture available in the world based on Bentham’s plan. It will prove to be the starting point for fellow students and academics for a study of the theory of surveillance. It will also bridge the gap between theory and practice for various people involved and interested in the issue of surveillance.
Through my photographs, I have tried to put forward the dialectics of this relationship which has been shaped by the region’s history of continuous plunder. How the continually evolving environment of a tectonically active delta has impeded their development, setting in a defeatist attitude; shattering the confidence. The Tiger first policy has elevated the big cat to the status of a global citizen, but the 4.5 million people living in the area have been pushed to the margin, and their alienation is on the rise. The mono-crop agriculture does not generate sufficient income and lack of options within the island force these people to venture into the forest, exposing themselves to attacks from wild animals. Frequent cyclones and floods thwart any progress and increasing their dependence on the forest resources. It has become a game of Russian roulette for them with the risk of life taken as a desperate measure for survival which is the most accessible alternative available to them. My work first illustrates the fragile yet stunning landscape and then traces the history of the region with visual references from local archives. It further showcases the plight of littoral community whose lives have been defined by the everyday conflict with wild, elements of nature and climate change. Lastly, it looks into the cult of the tiger-god through vernacular literature and work of artists from the south 24 Parganas area in West Bengal, India.