Another India (32)

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From my balcony in Cochin.

A woman sits there now, perhaps on her phone, browsing Instagram. A tropical storm comes rumbling in from the Arabian Sea, the hot salty air sticking to her moist skin. Mosquitos irritate her ankles, but she seems unperturbed. Reaching for her bottle of beer, she looks up. Does she see it? Is it all still arranged like this, just as I photographed?

Another India (31)

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At first we avoided looking when the other did. Although lingering just long enough so they registered the look. Looking away is still looking. Back and forth we looked. Routine looks. And then suddenly the looks became daring. Looking away gave in to longer lingering.

The space between us floated words. Our looks spoke all that we could say.

Another India (30)

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Looking at this now I am reminded of the souls in Canto III who wander eternally. Those marching bannermen, punished for a life of indecision. Who are they today?

“And so I looked and saw a kind of banner/ rushing ahead, whirling with aimless speed, as though it would not ever take a stand;/ behind it an interminable train/ of souls pressed on, so many that I wondered/ how death could have undone so great a number.”

I spoke with H. yesterday. A simple question; a muttered, stuttered, yes-no-maybe answer. I do this a lot. Are they me?

Every morning a new nightmare. Not my own, but one that only Dante could have dreamt up. The cold violence never seems to cease. Are they them?

I spend a lot of time making pictures these days. This week especially. In between I refresh Twitter expecting more breaking news. Are they us?


Another India (29)

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Through six foot tall open gates onto a dusty square of land. To the left, a moped. A broken wooden staircase runs along the outside of a disused building up to its second floor. To its right, a modern bungalow. A moored luxury yacht. Whatever these are. A dingy. I make a picture.

He emerges in uniform. This is a naval base. With tilted head and a compassionate smile, he asks me where I’m from, where I’m going. He tells me I’m trespassing. Does it, do they, really contain any secrets? What are the implications of making the private public?

Another India (27)

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My trip was coming together in an unexpected way. Progress doesn’t always look like you imagine it to. I began to think of my conversation with H. that morning. When I had asked her why she came to India, she muttered words about getting away from something or someone. Everyone travelling around India seems to be attempting to escape from a former life, or searching for answers to long-held question. Is it to do with its spirituality? Are they drawn to the tales of our wandering sadhus? Or is it simply the fact that, for a lot of Westerners, India is different to what they know? I was soon to find out in H.’s case.

Despite having no more galleries on my list to visit that day, I decided to carry on walking, to make more pictures, and see where I’d end up.


Another India (26)

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The rest of the day didn’t quite go according to plan. I had decided to come to Cochin mostly to visit its galleries, but I was left disappointed. Kishi: no exhibition. Aspinwall House: closed (or derelict). Pepper house: no exhibition. I had walked all morning in 35 degree heat and hadn’t seen a single show. Until, taking shade opposite Aspinwall, I found my own private viewing.

Another India (25)

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That day I met H. for the first time. I was staying at a family-run guesthouse and every morning the owners – Henry and his wife – prepared a sumptuous Kerala breakfast for the visitors. I sat across from her over a small wooden table that, draped with green cloth, could only seat three at best. H. asked me what I did. I wasn’t actually doing anything. I was in Cochin for that exact reason. But I felt I couldn’t say that.

I write. ‘What do you write?’. To put it simply, what is expected of me. Do you write? ‘I write for myself, but that’s it’. And like that, I’d forgotten what I’d left behind. Just then, I remembered where writing meditates and life is resolved.