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Busting the myth

In 2000, crossing over from Afghanistan to travel to Central Asia brought the “unknown” countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan alive for Delhi-based photojournalist Dilip Banerjee. Shalini Singh reports

art and culture Updated: Jun 18, 2011 00:14 IST
Shalini Singh
Shalini Singh
Hindustan Times
Shalini Singh

In 2000, crossing over from Afghanistan to travel to Central Asia brought the “unknown” countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan alive for Delhi-based photojournalist Dilip Banerjee.

“Earlier these seemed like mythical destinations to us. The people were so warm and hospitable — like one of the customs officials who helped us jump the queue — that I’ve gone back many times in the last decade to explore their culture,” he says.

Banerjee formed a ‘friendship tour’ with his motley group of friends — two doctors, a railway officer, a zoology professor and a corporate honcho — and raised funds for their road trip. “We got five lakhs from a Hyderabad-based businessman and covered nearly 3,000 kms, touring villages, sightseeing...” Post 9/11, there have been several changes he says.

“More fundamentalist groups and make-shift mosques have come up. More people are going to pray.”

Banerjee also found Indian influences to be strong there. “Though language is a barrier, one of the villages welcomed us with a spontaneous namaste and started singing mera joota hai japani! They love our films and songs — a Hindi film dubbed in the local language is a staple part of television programmes.”

A Date With Central Asia is on till June 22 2011 at Azad Bhavan Art Gallery, New Delhi, 011-23379310.