14th June 2012
We arrived a Saswad Ghat at 4pm yesterday. The day was really hot, and the sun was bearing down on us all afternoon. No sooner that we were on top of this hill, with all our belongings, the poster an all, a large dark cloud loomed over area and came down with tropical thunder. We took refuge under the poster and waited, taking it as an auspicious beginning to a mammoth task.
Due to the rain just passing us by, the strong winds were viscous and the task was precarious. Installing a 20 foot poster, of an unknown man....I wondered what was the real reason why I was doing it. Why spend an entire day going through the trouble, why not spend that time hanging with friends, watching a movie, reading a book or indulging in such activities that will not result in my being alone in a crowd?
The thing is that Palkhi festival holds a lot of importance in my life, because ever since I remember, Palkhi was always an exciting event. The bulls would be decorated with vegetable dyes, and make up, and beautiful ornaments as they would carry the idol on the bullock cart from Kadki to Sholapur. A beautiful engagement that no longer exists in our lives now, because we have been urbanized.
Also, every year, an old couple used to come and stay over at the farm, as they were strong followers of this tradition, and I remember my interaction with them was always so fullfilling because they were pure, they were bhakts and they were strong. I remember admiring them and always finding ways to spend time with them, one of those excuses was photographing them. This was when I was a child 22 years of age. I did not realise the worth of a photograph then, because I has so many to manage. And I did not understand the worth of a promise, because I was always running, and running away. Far from innocence into the big bad world of tough lessons.
Many years went by, and I never came home during Palkhi time, or if I was home, I was sometimes in Mumbai, or in a studio completing an assignment. The couple that stayed at our place would always ask Kisan (seen in the grey pant and shirt in the image below) did the little girl leave behind a print for us. Somehow to me it never felt important, because, I always could make a print and always had access to images, and could not in my youth, for the life of me, understand why an image would be so important to a person. Speaking of karma, as I grew into a woman at some point, this psyche of ALWAYS giving a print became a strong part of my work ethic later on. But in 2006, when unfortunately was this couple's last visit to my home, I had lost all my work in a hard drive crash AGAIN. And by the time I attempted to give a print, I had realised that it was too late.
Another aspect of this interaction that I find so old worldish is that they were our good friends, without fail, we knew that they would come over every year during the month of June, stay for 2 days, they would eat at our house, and we would give them shelter with great admiration and respect. We did not know which village they came from or anything else. It was only Pandurang, Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar that bound us together. And in this bound of divinity, lay an odd exchange that ended in a missing ingredient, the print I owed them. Now I have no idea where they are, in 2006 they were atleast 80 years old. Strong 80 year olds who could walk 200 odd kilometers across the State of Maharashtra, because they were farmers and thats how their bodies were built. There was no cellphone, no mailing address, there was no way of communication with each other, except when they would arrive and we would meet face to face.
Now, who knows where and what state they are in? Has one or both of them passed away? Have they reincarnated in another world, are they now two separated souls? One born in Africa and the other in Spain? Will they ever try to come back here again, in some other form, a part of them gone into the earth and fly across the fields like pollen during the Spring? All these questions were in my mind, as I attempted to complete this ridiculous task on the side of the windy hill.
In this philosophical exploration, I used one tool, that has been gifted to me by God, and one thing that comes very easily to me; photography and honesty. I used the gift of art to express such ridiculous emotions on such a massive scale to put it out there to hundreds of thousands of people, because in such moments of over analyzing life, I feel very very alone. And all I want is for everyone to relate to a deep feeling, whose meaning becomes irrelevant in the act of translation, and finally culminates into pure emotion, one that the viewer or audience can take and make it into whatever they find suitable. As long as that portal is open between me on one end expressing and they on the other end receiving.
Turns out, that no matter however many people one may hire to install a 20 by 14 feet print on the side of a hill, wind and rain and physical constraints dont make the process any easier. After creating the frame, and taking it to this precarious edge, I learnt that this would be more challenging than ever imagined. We lowered the image, and winds, folded the whole thing, including the wooden frame, and the poster when sliding down ripped into half.
All of us stood there awestruck, steeped in disappointment and sadness. Everyone yelled at each other, blamed one another, screamed and shouted, turned to me, and reprimanded me for printing it 20 feet tall instead of 10 feet like the last one. So, after getting the shit out of our systems, we went to the landing with our tools, and starting repairing this thing, object, gesture, message. An hour later, it was starting to become dark.
While I was gathering large rocks to use as support for attempt 2, a sadhu baba came upto me and said. "Look child, do you see that blue iron frame. Yes, that thing, the wind took that entire thing off the mountain, so why would it spare your puny wooden frame, if it didn't spare iron?" To that I turned around, and worked harder, because, the point was to not give up, not now, definitely not now.
So there it is, standing precariously on Saswad Ghat, I have not idea after 12 hours if it still stands, I find out in a few days.