SUNDAY MAGAZINE

The years are short, the days are long

A shepherd ... a little known but equally enthralling subject.

A shepherd ... a little known but equally enthralling subject.  

India's grey population was the theme of `Ageless Mind and Spirit ... '. ALKA PANDE reviews this creation of Samar and Vijay S. Jodha, at a recent exhibition in Delhi.

THE brothers Jodha — Samar and Vijay — embarked on a project more than four years ago. Finally, on October 1, the "Day of the Aged", the results were there for all to see — an image text based exhibition entitled, "Ageless Mind and Spirit — Faces and Voices from the World of India's Elderly".

Through evocative black and white images, Samar had zoomed in on the world of India's elderly, while Vijay had provided the poignant and insightful text.

Maharani Gayatri Devi ... the photographer's muse.

Maharani Gayatri Devi ... the photographer's muse.  

Old people are not the most popular, the most romantic or the most coveted muses photographers choose to capture. However, for Samar there was something inimitable, unique, and timeless about them. The lens can be harsh and objective, yet it is through the photographer's sensitive eye that the pictures became imbued with restrained emotion.

India's senior citizens are becoming a forgotten segment of the population, especially at a time when traditional family structures are gradually being eroded and the gap between generations is increasing.

Each photograph, of the 40 subjects had an accompanying tale — the story of the subject and how each one felt about being old. Poignant, touching, and sometimes even distressing were these unique tales. What was really interesting were the first person accounts. Says Ameen Sayani, whose magical voice captivated India's millions of radio listeners in the 1960s and 1970s with the "Binaca Geetmala", "I think one must not use the word `elderly' but `elder'. Anyone who is elder and is more experienced has a lot to give. I feel that ageing has to do with one's frame of mind, apart, of course, from the physical condition. In both mind and body, it is not necessary that use and productivity be always linked with age." The individuals featured in the exhibition and in the book were from across the board — well known celebrities of yester years like the actress Nadira, the actor Jagdish Raj, painters B.C. Sanyal, Paritosh Sen, Akbar Padamsee, politician scholar Karan Singh, the legendary beauty and the perfect photographer's muse Maharani Gayatri Devi, to the last devadasi, Shashimoni Mahari.

The bold and the beautiful always draw attention and have their own enticing quality ....

The years are short, the days are long

But what was equally enthralling were the little known, and not so powerful, voices which turned the exhibition and the book from being a mere voyeuristic delight into a thought provoking enterprise — Ram Swarup, a refugee, Bhuggo, a domestic maid, the octogenarian sisters, Gujari and Banthi, who apparently were "bad characters", even though infirm.

While Samar S. Jodha is an internationally reputed photographer, his brother Vijay S. Jodha has been a writer and researcher in numerous film and multimedia projects. Together they have always made a formidable team.

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