Photographic Memory

Week 2 (Assignment #1)


INDIA. Mumbai. A view of Marine Drive from atop the flyover, 2010.
INDIA. Mumbai. A view of Marine Drive from atop the flyover, 2010.

That day flashed back into my memory like it was only yesterday. It was late in the afternoon but it already looked like the day was coming to an end. The sky was overcast with dark clouds. The pouring rain had paused for a few brief moments, as if to catch its breath, before hurtling down with all its might again. On one side we were flanked by the sea and on the other by skyscrapers, each rising higher than the other. Driving down the flyover, I had a clear view of the wide damp roads below, with only a couple of cars speeding by. The song on my radio changed only to be replaced by another one that was even sadder. It seemed like the world was mimicking my mood, almost mockingly, trying to get me to see how silly it all was. What it did though was make it worse. I turned the dial on the radio till the volume was as loud as it could be. The song blared in my ears but it was only a vain attempt at drowning the voices inside my head.

INDIA. Mumbai. Students trying their hands at a portrait session at JJ School of Arts, 2010.

The sun streamed through the window, beautifully lighting up half her face whilst casting a shadow on the other half. This was the first time we were drawing portraits in class. I had done it before, but never with a live model. All of us were seated around her, with a different view of her face. As the teachers voice instructed us, guiding us, my hand moved unconsciously, without much thought going into the process. I intently looked at every line and curve that made the outline of her face, replicating the same on the sheet of paper in front of me. My eyes squinted with concentration as everything else on my mind took a backseat. In these sessions, time always shifted its pace. In that moment it seemed like time had come to a standstill but by the time we finished, hours had flown by.

INDIA. Mumbai. Children having a goat-drawn cart ride at Juhu Beach, 1971.
INDIA. Mumbai. Children having a goat-drawn cart ride at Juhu Beach, 1971.

The day I moved to Bombay, exactly 30 years ago, I went around the city doing all the things that tourists do. Amongst the places I visited, of course, I went to the beach. Even in those days, Juhu beach was a popular spot for tourists but it was not nearly as crowded as it is today. Strolling around barefoot with my feet sinking into the damp sand, I breathed deeply taking in my surroundings. At that moment, it hit me that my life was at the brink of a massive turning point and the sensation almost overwhelmed me into a state of panic. Just then, I saw a bunch of school children riding down the beach on a goat-drawn cart, pretending they were warriors going into a battlefield. I smiled and the anxiety I was feeling only moments ago disappeared as a sense of calm washed over me.

All Photos courtesy: Magnum Photos. Rights held by photographer / Magnum. The pictures are used for educational purposes only. Explore more photos:


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