Legendary Pathumma and her goat

Pathumma and Goat / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP archives

Pathumma and her goat / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP archives

[Vaikom Muhammed Basheer (21st January 1908 – 5th July 1995) was a Malayalam fiction writer from the state of Kerala in India. He was a humanist, freedom fighter, novelist and short story writer. He is noted for his path-breaking, disarmingly down-to-earth style of writing that made him equally popular among literary critics as well as the common man. He is regarded as one of the most successful and outstanding writers from India. Translations of his works into other languages have won him worldwide acclaim. His notable works include Balyakalasakhi, Shabdangal, Pathummayude Aadu, Mathilukal, Ntuppuppakkaranendarnnu, Janmadinam, and Anargha Nimisham. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1982. He is fondly remembered as the Beypore Sultan].

In the year 1985, Ramavarma Thampuran started a Malayalam newsweekly called ‘Preview’. Jamal Kochangadi was the editor in chief. The editorial team policy was to cover investigative journalism including photo-features. I was part of the editorial team. PREVIEW was one of the first few dedicated news magazines in Malayalam. Due to financial challenges, the magazine was closed after a  few issues. Those few issues did enhance investigative journalism in an effective way. Together, we did few good stories. One of the story was about the female infanticide practice prevailing in Usilampatti, Madurai District, Tamil Nadu. The infanticide story was done by Pattatu kumaran and I was the photographer.  We decided to do a story on Basheer’s characters of the noted autobiographical novel Pathummayude Aadu (Pathumma’s Goat; 1959). In this humorous novel, the characters are members of his family and the action takes place at his home in Thalayolaparambu. The goat in the story belongs to his sister Pathumma.

During those times, the tradition was to give the negatives to the agencies. Usually these negatives are neither archived nor preserved. So most of these valuable images are lost forever to the public. Due to my keen interest to preserve these images, I now have few images from this series of work that we had done. These images weave the story of this unique genius. Twenty years has passed since his demise. However, his memories and his words continue to vibrate in our heart. Basheer, Sulthan of words and legend, his real characters and the surrounding landscape continue to linger fresh in my mind. Salute you Basheer Ji. Thank you.

(C) All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Text transcribed by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad 

A strip of negatives and an untold story of the first Cochin Carnival

Now a days carnival is one of the biggest attraction in Cochin. However, in reality it was a collective effort by Cochin youths. I was part of festival since its original idea took shape in early 1985. The year 1985 was proclaimed by the United Nations as the International Youth Year, or IYY. The proclamation was signed on January 1, 1985. In the year 1984, three youngsters from Cochin, namely, George Augustine Thundiparambil (Roy), Ananda Felix Scaria (Ananda Surya) and Antony Anup Scaria (Anoop) decided to organize a month long grand public event to celebrate the signing of the proclamation. Although, visionaries of the event didn’t intend this to be a celebration of the Portuguese carnival, in later years the original International youth year celebrations got revived as a continuity of the Portuguese New Year revelry held during the colonial days. The history of the grand event ‘The Beach festival 1984’ is an example of how an original idea of people or individuals has been sabotaged by dominant clichés and individuals.

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

Cochin hosted the first European settlement in the year 1500. After independence of India, Cochin was the first princely state to join the Indian Union willingly. Since then until the 1980s, ‘Fort Cochin’ remained as a sleepy post colonial hamlet. Whist the neighbouring hamlets like Mattancherry were packed with people and activities, lonely streets and almost empty bylines named after the English (Rosy street, Burger street etc.,) decorated this laid down town. Most of the houses were also empty. Loud western music and smell of cakes from the occupied houses hang in the air, spreading the legacy of the colonial past. Fort cochin was not a tourist destination during those times, for both the nationals and foreign backpackers, as there were not many hotels, restaurants, lounge bars, art galleries like now. The Portuguese tradition of yearly celebrations also stopped in the 70s and only the unorganized fancy dress competition and New Year eve celebrations were organized at the beach.

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

According to the Beach festival organizers, it was not intended to be a remembrance of the colonial past, but a celebration of the commencing youth year. The event was named as Beach festival. In the month of August 1984, the team had announced the Beach festival with a grand programme at the Mahatma Gandhi beach. After the event, more than 150 youth groups representing different groups, clubs, organisations., from different parts of the island gathered together and pooled in their resources, ideas and events of their interest. Although carnival was not in the original programme, it was added at a later stage owing to the participatory planning process. This spectacular event started during the second week of December 1984 with a cycle race followed by other local ethnic games like tug of war, kuttiyum kolum, kabadi, chakku (jute bag) race and fight, swimming in the ocean etc., Events like music concerts, dance performances, dramas etc., were conducted at the open air beach. The event ended on 1st January (International youth year beginning) with the precession of various cultural representations from all over India called ‘Carnivale Cochin’.

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

I still vividly remember the spectacular event. While this carnival procession happened, hundreds of people from different religious background had gathered. Even my mother came with her entire family to participate in this event. She often says that such an event never happened before. The are was earlier proclaimed unsafe for women and it is during this festival several people participated with their families.

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

To recollect the words of George Augustine Thundiparambil, one of the visionary of the event for an interview with EtP, “It started as a beach festival. Myself, Felix Anand Scaria (Anand Surya) and Anoop Antony Scaria started this event. Nirmal John Augustine and Radha Gomaty were part of the team since the beginning. Gregary introduced Abul Kalam Azad (photographer), who later became a very active member of the team. Several others started getting involved and at a later stage KJ Sohan, (Corporation Counselor) also joined. Fort Cochin RDO Valsala Kumari extended active support from the government side. During the first beach festival, the word religion or caste or creed or cultural division was not even discussed like it is being discussed now. This was an event organized by the youth for celebrating the International youth year and the amalgamation of the 70s and 80s youth was much evident right through planning stage. Almost 150 youngsters from various backgrounds had came forward to organised the event. WE raised all the money from the public and our own resources. Cultural groups from the Cochin island were invited. Those time youth used this platform to raise issues regarding environment and other social concerns”.

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

The beach festival / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

This spectacular event stood as an evidence of the unity and strength of the youth of those times. Thousands of people from all walks of life and religious beliefs gathered to enjoy and support this festival led by youth. Unfortunately, after the grand finale in 1985 the three young individuals were no longer included in the story of the Cochin Carnival.  I had lost many of the photographs of event and only a few remain with me. I am happy to have these photographs that stand as an evidence of a story that is not told anymore.

Photography © Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

(C) All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Text transcribed by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad 

Periyakulam weekly chanda

“A peasant become fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and not by a but” – John Berger

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

 

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Vettavalam is a Panchayath town in Tiruvannamalai District. Periyakulam Chanda (market) is near Vettavalam, about 19 kms from Tirvannamalai. This is one of the very few active Sunday chandas in Tiruvannamalai District. Variety of  cattle, livestock, roosters, pigs, horses, goats, turkeys, rabbits, goose, etc., are arrayed for sales.  Hand made equipment, country vegetables, dry fishes, etc., also become part of this chanda. These color market is vibrant with life and activities. The market becomes active quite early. Pork is prepared and served, often times along with alcohol… one can see several men and women sitting in the sideways and eating. In the age of super market and online shopping practices, these kind of places continue to be a social gathering space. More like a festival, during the weekly chanda, people from neighbouring villages come together, share and laugh, sell and buy, and enjoy this ancient practice.

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Not long before, animals were central to the existence of human beings. Not merely as leather and meat, but as an essential force that co-exists. Their entry into the life of humans was phenomenal. More as messengers and keepers of secrets, they communicated and started living alongside human beings. However, things have fast changed and now most of the animals are in zoos, distant and aloof, having been taken away from their natural habitation. In Tamil nadu, the animals continue to be used for many different purposes. Barter system is still prevalent in certain parts of the fast growing Tamil land. In many ways, the animals are still central to the life of these communities. However, this situation will soon change and animals will be forced to play a mere marginal role.  And, these animals might even become extinct, as their existential link with human beings is bound to change owing to the technological advancement.

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

Periyakulam chanda / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2014

This series is part of my ongoing photographic project in which I use lo-fi cameras to document the changing rural lifestyle and contemporary culture.

Abul Kalam Azad

3rd November 2014

(C) All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Text transcribed by TSL Nadar. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad 

“മുഖാമുഖം”

Meeting of two legends – MGR and Mammootty 
MGR, (Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran; 17 January 1917 – 24 December 1987) is a popularly known South Indian film actor / politician. In 1977 he became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu – the first film actor in India to become the chief minister of a state. He remained as chief minister till his death in 1987. MGR is an inevitable icon in Tamil culture and even now his presence can be felt in the cultural, political and social life of contemporary Tamil lifestyle. Mammootty ( Muhammad Kutty Ismail Paniparambil; born 7 September 1951 ) is an Indian film actor / producer who has mainly worked in South Indian movies. During a career spanning more than three decades, he has acted in more than 360 films. Beside than his prestigious Padma Shri Award, he got five state awards, three National film awards for best actor. He was also honored a Doctor of Letters by the University of Kerala in January 2010 and by the University of Calicut in December 2010.
MGR and Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

MGR and Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s


This image of MGR and Mammootty was taken by me during MGR’s visit to inaugurate the silver jubilee celebrations of C.T.T.U. (Cochin Thuraimuga Thozhilali Union). The trade union was very popular in Mattancherry. Mammootty’s father-in-law was one of the key leading official of that independent Trade union. I am a big fan of MGR. This was the first time I am meeting MGR. He came from Madras (Chennai) to Cochin (old airport). Most of the journalists and photographers took images of his arrival and went ahead to do other chores. I was an independent photographer during that time and I took this opportunity to be with MGR and stood there watching this legend. Soon after his arrival, the organizers took him to a guesthouse in Wellington. I went along with MGR to the guest house. On the way to the guest house he waved to the Tamil workers who had gathered in front of their settlement which was in front of the airport. I was the only person around, who could communicate with him in Tamil, eventhough it was broken. So, he started asking many questions in his husky voice. Whatever I understood, I responded. He was a soft attentive man… After few hours of acquaintance, I politely and ambitiously asked him whether he could remove his white fur keepa and his sun glasses… I was curious to capture his curly hairs and eyes… Most of his political pictures are with these iconic symbols. My dream was to photograph the artist in him… he laughed… and after a brief silence, he said, “come to Chennai”. I never went to Chennai and never met this legend again.

MGR / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

MGR / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin prints / 1980s

Mammootty / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Silver gelatin print / 1980s

This meeting must have happened during the 80s. First time I met Mammootty when he got married to Sulfat who is from my neighbourhood. Since then I meet him in the juice shops, market, etc., He used to hang around in his moped. During that time he was not famous as a film actor. He had acted in two or three movies in uncredited roles. Mammooty showed interest to act in theaters. My father’s brother and his friends were running a theater rehearsal camp. Mammootty was part of this play performing in a small role as the revolutionary child of a Muslim landlord. My father’s brother Ismail was the Muslim landlord, the main character of the drama. Sri NK Latheef was the author of the drama and it was directed by OS. Hameed. The rehearsals were conducted in my house terrace. Later we had gone to perform in a nearby remote island called ‘vallar paadam’. I was the asked to be the photographer for this performance as well as, I was the ‘prompter’ for the drama. After this performance, Mammootty started acting in the film, Vilkkanundu Swapnangal, directed by Azad, written by M. T. Vasudevan Nair, and starring Sukumaran in the lead role. His first full length character was in the 1980 film Mela which was written and directed by K. G. George. It is during this time, when Mammootty was becoming popular, this particular meeting between MGR and Mammootty happens diring C.T.T.U Silver Jubilee Celebrations. I never met Mammootty again. Mammootty is a great lover of photography and he likes himself being photographed. Most of these negatives of Mamootty, including his wedding negatives, the drama performance negatives were burnt in a fire incidence.
27th October 2014
Abul Kalam Azad
(C) All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Text transcribed by TSL Nadar. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad 

 

Abandoned

THE BEATLES IN RISHIKESH

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

“Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

– John Lenon (1971)
The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

In the year 2012, I had taken a road trip to Himalayas and on the way back I went to Rishikesh. The off season rain and cold didn’t stop my explorations. As a lover of Beatles, I wanted to visit the Ashram that the Beatles had stayed. The Beatles visited Rishikesh in India, in February, 1968 to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation ( TM ) training session, at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Amidst widespread media attention, their stay at the ashram was one of the band’s most productive periods. Their adoption of the Maharishi as their guru is credited by some as changing attitudes in the West about Indian spirituality and encouraging the study of Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles had first met the Maharishi in London in August, 1967 and then attended a seminar in Bangor, Wales. Although this seminar in Wales was planned to be a 10-day session, their stay was cut short by the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. Wanting to learn more, they kept in contact with the Maharishi and planned to attend his ashram in October, but their trip was rescheduled due to other commitments.   The Beatles arrived there in February, 1968 along with their partners, girlfriends, assistants and numerous reporters, joining at least 60 other TM students, including musicians, Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and flautist Paul Horn. While there, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison wrote many songs ( Ringo Starr wrote one ), of which eighteen were later recorded for The Beatles ( White Album ), two for Abbey Road and others for solo works.

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

One fine morning, during my morning walks, I searched for the ashram and unknowingly, I had to walk more than ten kms. Shivering in the cold, I found the ashram, now abandoned…. I bribed the guard to enter the ashram. It was abandoned in 1997 and is  now back under the control of the forest department but the shells of many buildings, meditation cells and lecture halls can still be seen, including Maharishi’s own house and the guest house where the Beatles stayed.. The Maharishi’s compound is across from River Ganga, located in the holy “Valley of the Saints” in the foothills of the Himalayas. The forest undergrowth is what’s left of the original Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram.

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Archival Pigment print / 2012

The Beatles in Rishikesh

Ekalokam collective, a firm set-up to merchandise art in every day life has published a photo-notebook titled ‘the Beatles in Rishikesh’. The Beatles in Rishikesh has been exhibited by Apparao Galleries and United Art Fair II curated by noted photographer and art curator, Ram Rahman.

21st October 2014
Abul Kalam Azad

(C) All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Text transcribed by TSL Nadar. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad 

 

Magnetic light of the fire mountain

Photos of the gods

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

My first encounter with the Agni Shylam was incidental. Aruncahala hill is considered as one of the important elements ‘fire’. Geologically this hill is dated to be older than Himalayas and theologically Arunachala hill is equivalent to Senai, Machapuchare and other holy hills. Dravidians (nature worshipers) worship the hill and perambulate the 14 km circumference through out the year. The recurrent references to hills, caves, saints, idols, angels, gods, and goddesses during my early childhood religious (Islamic) surrounding made me search for the deeper essence of nature and nature worship. Even though I came here incidentally, I realised that this is a place that celebrates light, an important ingredient for my medium. I was being pulled by the magnetic light of the fire mountain.

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

I started observing and visiting the town regularly. For almost twelve years I didn’t take any photographs, I was immersed into the mystical dimension of light. In the year 2011, I moved to Tiruvannamalai. ‘Photo’s of the gods’ is one of the earliest series (12 photographs) that I made in Tiruvannamalai. All the analog images of the ‘Photos of the gods’ series is taken along the 14km girivalam path. Everyday, I encounter these sculptures as mundane objects, but then these are owned and worshiped by millions of people. For me, ‘Photos of the gods’ series is a symbol of Dravidian culture and identity. It is not a philosophy but a dharshanam (visual culture) in Dravidian (pre-vedic / paganistic) society. May be, I am worshiping these forms at my subconscious level or I am using them as contemporary art objects for my art practice. Either way, it makes me feel that I am part of the pre-hindu (vedic) society and I look this images as a parallax of the culture…

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24"x24" / 2008 - 2010

Photos of the gods / Archival pigment prints / 24″x24″ / 2008 – 2010

19th October 2014
Abul Kalam Azad

(C) All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Text transcribed by TSL Nadar. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad 

A Devil in God’s own country

They call it God’s own country. We call it Keralam. It was part of Ancient Tamizhagam. It is a beautiful strip of land mass along the western coast of India. In fact Keralam lives in the minds of people, in memories, in songs and in general nostalgia. This land is a land of imagination, anxiety and restlessness. Those who could put up with it continue to live there and those could not just get out of that place and go elsewhere. They see the land from a distance. Those who have left for economic reasons look at the place with intense nostalgia and those who have left it for intellectual reasons look at the state with a sense of detachment tinged with affection that people show for estranged beloveds. It is a familiar and unfamiliar place for many. It renews itself through the changes in its topography. Trees give way to concrete buildings fitted with air conditioners, wastelands turn into malls, imagination migrates into cyberspaces and monotony of daily lives merges with incestuous relationships. We underline our achievements with literacy, heightened sense of morality, schools, colleges, hospitals and the proliferation of all other ideological state apparatuses. In short, whether we live in Keralam or not we are a sort of happy people with pain hidden behind our intellectual and emotional veils.

Hari Narayanan's room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan’s room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

I am an insider and outsider at the same time. I am born to a Tamil Muslim family but was brought up in Kochi. Growing up was interesting as Kochi had a history of migration, colonization and imagination. And from there I understood what a nation means. I was fiercely attached to my place of growing up. I breathed the winds of history and registered in my eyes the remnants of past and the evolution of the present. But the time came when I was in college pursuing my degree. The sails had filled with air and the mast was up, the ropes were untied from the dock and the siren was blown. My journey then onwards has been in the boats of silver nitrate coated plastic films. I sensed life through images. Each time I came back with new equipments and experiences I saw a different motherland- a changing Keralam.

With a smile I take pride in my Keralam. It is here that you see a temple, a mosque and a church squatting at the same square with loudspeakers spreading the same messages of love, adoration and worship in different languages and tones. Below the sound waves the cacophony of life moves on. When I zoom into the religious zest of people here the cacophony fades out and when I focus on the people religions become a blurry image. Along the streets new gods look at me; perhaps they are not new gods. They have been there for a long time exhorting people to fight for their rights. The triumvirate of the religion of Marxism- Marx, Engels and Lenin- sit pretty at the glossy flex boards the way the triumvirates of any religion sit authoritatively. Intense heat of summer months drive people behind these flex boards and hoardings. That’s how politics give shelter to people in my state. But isn’t it a world phenomenon?

Hari Narayanan's room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan’s room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan's room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan’s room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Keralam consumes everything that comes its way- literature to cinema to tandoori chicken to Chinese food. Consuming becomes a spicier affair for a Malayali in Kerala because it is always tinged by intellectual resistance. And one could see the silver and golden lining at the horizon. Former fields where rice grew and the distances where hills merged into the foliages of trees and airbrushed by the fronts of coconut trees amongst which small little temples with a lonely devotee lighting up a single lamp visible from a distance like a wandering minstrel’s humming of ecstasy, all have been now barred from vision. In their places there stand large hoardings with slender bodied female models selling off gold ornaments. In Keralam women don’t look like the models in the billboards. Still they starve themselves to buy gold. People say gold is an investment. So has become the purdah. I see the advertisements of burqa all over.

Hari Narayanan's room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan’s room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Each Malayali is like a hummingbird that makes its nest. Malayali flies away to different places only to come back to the state to make their concrete houses. They make it and then fly away, leaving the forlorn relatives to live in these places as security guards of someone’s ego and pride. Intellectual Malayali lives in a sepia tinted time and space. He sings old songs, he sees classical movies and he argues endlessly over cheap liquor. Drinking liquor has levelled the status of Malayali. If drinking had once determined the level of intellectual quotient of a Malayali (intellectuals always reeked in the smell of alcohol), today Keralam is a landmass of intellectuals who have embraced the life of bottle; gold and booze have become the two guiding principles. Literature happens in intervals of waking up.

Hari Narayanan's room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan’s room / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Artists, film makers, singers, dancers, office goers, factory workers, labourers and idlers understand Kerala only when they move out of the place and see it from a distance. If so, this place is like a coral reef full of glittering fish that never want to move away from its soothing aqua blue. Men live like film stars and women like characters in serials. Those who live elsewhere keep thinking of the possibilities of living such a life in Keralam once they come back for vacations. Everything is complacent here. If someone is allowed to drink tea and read newspaper, if someone is allowed to watch all television news, if someone is allowed to lead a procession to a temple or the secretariat, if regular supply of liquor is not cut, if gold is bought, if dowries are arranged, if deviant sexual activities are conducted, everything is fine with a Malayali. It is very difficult to be a different Malayali in Keralam.

Hari Narayanan / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

Hari Narayanan / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives / 2012

If you are different you should be a devil. Harinaryanan is such a Devil in God’s own country. By portraying his life and the objects in his living space, I want to see how difficult is to be different in God’s own country.

[Hari Narayanan, contemporary South Indian percussionist. He lives and works in Calicut, Kerala.]

2nd October 2014

Tiruvannamalai

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Published in Gallerie  / July 2013 Issue