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Nomad logic

Intimacy and warmth permeate through Gauri Gill’s portraits of nomads living in Rajasthan, writes Aasheesh Sharma.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2010 00:26 IST
Aasheesh Sharma
Aasheesh Sharma
Hindustan Times

Lenswoman Gauri Gill transports one to Rajasthan’s arid terrain with the show Notes from the Desert.

In a selection of photos taken over 10 years, a series of intimate portraits emerges from the close bonds that Gill developed with her subjects. “I kept returning to be with the people I cared about,” she says. The warmth exudes through the 63 photos, mostly black and white silver gelatin prints.

Holidaying in Narlai, near Jodhpur, in 1999, Gill saw a girl being beaten up by her teacher. It set her thinking about life as a girl in a village school. “I came back to Delhi and proposed the story to the news magazine where I worked.”

Since there wasn’t a news peg, Gill took a sabbatical and travelled through rural Rajasthan to find it.

“I went from school to school, from Jaipur to Jodhpur, Osiyan, Bikaner, Barmer, Phalodi, Baran and Churu. People invited me home and became my friends.”

Where the landscape is harsh and the climate extreme, the nomads of the Nath Jogi tribe survive by relying on their own selves, on each other and nature, says Gill.

“They measure time with significant events: the death of a camel, losing a loved one to snakebite, Panchayat polls, floods, draught or marriage.”

But the people are indomitable.

“To sleep on icy-cold sand dunes in the winter, with only some tarpaulin and old quilts for cover, means everyone must huddle in together, along with the dogs and breathe into the quilt.”

It is this celebration of survival and the ability to stay happy that makes Rajasthan’s nomads special.

And Gill has clicked them as one of their own.

First Published: Apr 24, 2010 00:23 IST