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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