The apparition of these faces in the crowd,
Petals on a wet, black bough.
– ‘In a Station of the Metro’, Ezra Pound
Unforgettable as an expression of a poetic experience of the highest order, the lines recycle themselves into visuals as I scratch around for the right frame to showcase my perception of reality in India. Particularly when my camera chances upon the ordered disarray one finds so frequently in the unreserved general compartments of a railway carriage. I feel that the lines have nothing characteristically Indian about them.
Ostensibly, though, they depict the crowd in a station of the Metro. ‘The apparition of these faces in the crowd’ keeps haunting you even as you try to escape.
Travel the length of the country. Board a train, thrust your way through the crowd to some messy corner of a general compartment and you start losing your identity. One can safely predict a traumatic journey to the destination of absolute facelessness.
What the series Don’t Breathe seeks to capture is the chaos of a sick, thick throng gasping for air. It takes you straight into the heart of the muddle and the mess. It makes you listen to the muffled voice of individuality.
Ruthlessly robbed of your right to breathe, you are already there, sharing with the hapless masses, the unbearable tightness of being – bearing with them the full burden of an inescapable Indian experience.
All images from the series Don’t Breathe
Inside an unreserved general compartment of Indian Railways.
Inside an unreserved general compartment of Indian Railways Digital, 2009-10
Inside an air conditioned reserved compartment of Indian Railways. Digital, 2009-10