An essay on seeing the things that one saw a decade ago.

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled,”

Ways of Seeing, John Berger

And now, when I study these photos again, it makes me realize that I had spent my entire time there projecting my suppressed emotions onto everything I saw around me. I didn’t know this at the time, because I was too busy meditating on my aloneness, too busy seeking solitude, too damn busy not talking to anyone around me, even Marm.

People there were not people for me anymore, they had become convenient metaphors playing out this fragmented but strong-felt something that had taken hold of my entire being. Those people, they were not all that alone, they had other people around them, people that they were having conversations with, people that they were companionably drinking tea with, taking a walk with. But at the time, I made it a point to seek out those little moments of their life when they could look solitary for me,for my camera, because that was the only thing I was interested in seeing. Everything around me needed to be punctuated with that quality – alone, solitary, isolated (alone not in a sad lonely way, but in a ‘hey I like this, I feel privileged to be alone’ way). Somehow that little trick of imposing my emotions on these images seemed to validate what was going through my head as a normal everyday thing that other people also went through.

What I noticed too is that some of the photos that I had taken in Himachal (where I was before I came down to Banaras) have the exact same quality. So yes, for me it is true that places and people that seem entirely different on the outset have a tendency to mirror each other when one wants to draw parallels. I guess its in the nature of things around us….

Photos and Text by Ruati Chhangte. All Rights Reserved.

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