Our everyday life subsumes many experiences that go unnoticed. The expression of joy on your parents’ face when you return home after a long time or sadness at the time of departure; going out with your friends to a restaurant; posing for the camera at the time of your graduation; or resting in the lap of your caretaker as a toddler — these are ordinary events in one’s life, but with no-less-ordinary importance.
Bringing together such images of life that offer a glimpse of yesteryears is a photo exhibition, Lived Stories, Everyday Lives: Images from Private Collection across Southasia that opened at Punjab Kala Bhawan, Sector 16, Chandigarh, on Friday. The Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange, Kathmandu (Nepal), and Panjab Digital Library (PDL), Chandigarh, have put together 30 images collected from the individual collections of common people, amateur and professional photographers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet.
“The images are specific to one’s life, but have a resonance with everyday lives of people today,” says Sarita Ramamoorthy, programme manager at the Hri Institute. One such image titled Degree of Liberation is of nine members of the graduating class of 1966 from a Nepal college. Among them is Vijay Pradhan, the only female graduate in her batch. Everyone from her batch was happy to get clicked and talked of framing the photograph, but not Pradhan, reads the text beside the image. The photograph reminded her of the struggle to attain education.
“We had to struggle a lot to break through those walls. The last thing I wanted to do was to hang my graduation photo on the very same walls,” she is quoted as saying in the text. Her fight reverberates in India of 2013. In May, six panchayats of Haryana’s Mahendergarh district stopped girls from going to school, following an incident in which two girls were allegedly teased on their way to school. “The stories of struggle documented in these images strike a chord with one’s life,” says Davinder Pal Singh, executive director, PDL.
The story of struggle is one aspect of the exhibition. There are images that celebrate ordinary people’s extraordinary achievements. Like that of Veeran Bai, the woman wrestler, whose photograph had appeared in the July 1937 edition of Punjabi literary magazine Phulwari with the caption reading, “Famous women wrestler from the south who has even defeated males”; of Birender Singh, who went to the US to pursue higher studies at a time when higher education was confined to the elite, and Manmohan Singh, the first Indian pilot to fly solo from Britain to India. The photographs of Birender and Manmohan appeared in the February 1930 edition of Phulwari.
“Such heroes would have been erased from people’s memory had not someone preserved these photographs,” says Sarita. She is on the button. “The importance of preserving the archives that hold a mirror to the life that once is part of knowledge production,” says Davinder Pal. “Now that we have preserved the manuscripts, there is a chance that people will undertake research in the fields of conservation of heritage,” he says.
With this idea, the exhibition travels to Daudpur village in Ludhiana district. It will be held from July 18 to 20. Who knows an elderly might connect with the Sikh soliers of the British Indian army or a village boy from Hoshiarpur district waiting for a ‘tonga’ as his family has come to see him off to join the British Army during World War I.
The exhibition is on till July 15.