J. Ramanan’s spectacular photographs take you on a trek across the slopes of the Himalayas and Western Ghats
A turquoise studded perak rests on her forehead. There is a glimmer of corals, barely discernable, round her neck, but what draws your eyes again and again to the face of an old woman in Ladakh are the lines that crisscross her face. She looks a thousand years old. Each of those wrinkles surely holds a story in its fold…
J. Ramanan has captured the old woman in a photograph, just one of the many stunning visuals in his book Joy of the Himalaya, A pictorial Tribute to Indian Himalaya. Some of these very photographs, along with those of the neighbouring Western Ghats, will be on display in Coimbatore from tomorrow (April 30).
Glaciers and mountains villages, snow storms and sunrises… Ramanan’s photographs make you catch your breath. That his exhibition is called ‘Mountains of Our Destiny’ seems no accident. The lives of both Ramanan and his wife Vrinda are inextricably linked to the great mountains. They met on the mountain slopes of Uttarkashi as they did their basic and advanced courses in mountaineering at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. While Ramanan takes photographs, Vrinda adds the narrative to them.
Their mountaineering adventures are many and varied, with some of them bordering on the miraculous. Such as the time Ramanan was one of the 30 mountaineers buried under a huge slab of snow during an avalanche in the Garhwal Himalayas. He lived to tell that tale. But the most memorable experience, they say, was during their trip to Mount Kailash. It was Ramanan’s 60th birthday. Someone was conducting a puja nearby and they wanted a husband and wife to represent Shiva and Parvathy. They zeroed in on Ramanan and Vrinda who were given new clothes and a thali; they renewed their vows in the most holy of mountains. That, for them, definitely comes under the head of a ‘divine experience’.
The miracles continue. Tenzing Norgay is every mountaineer’s hero, and Ramanan had the privilege of having an exhibition of his photographs inaugurated by Norgay and Junko Tabei (the first woman to climb Mount Everest) in 1983. Exactly 20 years later, Sir Edmund Hillary viewed his photographs at another exhibition.
An architect by profession (he has designed Jennys Club in Coimbatore), Ramanan and Vrinda’s mission is to get kids off their butts and out and exploring. They run Bala Kala Vidhanam, a centre for Indian dance, music and yoga in Tiruchirapalli.
They organise treks to the Himalayas and take children along with them to introduce them to the thrills of climbing mountains.
“I have seen kids and their parents terrified of climbing the top berth in trains. Kids need to get out, climb trees and mountains and get closer to the real world,” says Ramanan. He wishes Nature treks and outdoor activities become part of curriculum in schools.
In keeping with their love for children, Ramanan and Vrinda have decided to do something to help rehabilitate children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy. So, the net proceeds from the sale of their photographs will be donated to the cause.
Venue: Contemplate Art Gallery
Date: April 30 to May 4
Time: 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
The exhibition includes a screening of two documentaries by Shekar Dattari, and talks by conservation educator Ramnath Chandrasekhar, who will speak on ‘Instincts and Insights of a Nature Photographer’ and ‘Connecting Children with Nature using the Visual medium’. There will be slide shows on ‘Drought and rivers in Tamil Nadu’ and ‘Chadar — The ice trail’. These will start at 3 p.m.
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