Monday, 21 April 2014

Monochrome Memories- Banda Revisited


A popular superstition in our part of the world says that when you leave something behind while saying goodbye, it means you will revisit the place. For me it worked the other way round. It seems when a place gives you so much in terms of contentment, warmth and above all a treasure of memories, it can't be that you ain't gonna be back soon. It can not just be fate which brought me back to Banda exactly two years later to the place that was once my home for over a year.

Dappled sunlight over the golden fields of wheat
So much and yet nothing seems to have changed. For one, the house has seen quite a few occupants in the interim and much has been modified by each one of them. But certain things are intrinsic to a place and much as we may try, they remain unvaried. The flocks of parrots on the Neem trees in the garden, the constant hip-hop of the peacocks in the courtyard and above all, those last rays of sunlight filtering through the bedroom window each evening- these alone suffice to provide me joy and justification of revisiting the place. 

Leaving Banda in the August of 2012, I carried a monochrome image of the house in my eyes,  and expectant hope of a new life inside me! Retracing my footsteps in the March of 2014, as an apprehensive and overly cautious mother of a one year old, I could not imagine living in the same house in a new role and performing old duties alongside. Not just my worries but every imaginable misgiving was laid to rest soon enough- little N not just enjoys the immense feeling of space and the lovely outdoors, but also spends half her day chasing peacocks and the other waking half answering their calls!!

Leaving this place, irreligious though we are, me and A had prayed to the presiding deity of the region (Lord Rama in the form of Kamta Nath at Chitrakoot where he spent his years in exile) that if our child was born safe and healthy, we shall come back to the shrine for his/her first ritual shaving of the head (mundan sanskaar). When the time came we could not live up to our vow; but the benign presence of our dear friend M this time around, as Collector Chitrakoot in his new avatar, ensured not just best hospitality at Karwi while we fulfilled our promise but also the blessings of an affectionate Uncle for our little N.

Family of peacocks in the garden

I continue to believe that it was unfinished business which has pulled me back to this part of Bundelkhand- there were quite a few places left to be visited, quite a few journeys to be made and yet another Bundelkhand Summer to be lived and felt. I hope to be able to record some of those unsung stories this time around and be able to capture some pictures of a place which is often derided at thanks to misconceived notions and falsely painted pictures portrayed by our 'vigilant' media persons (many of whom I recently learnt, can not even pronounce the name of the district well!).

During a visit to the vertical metropolis of Mumbai, a few months back, I realized how little time and open space there was and pined for the relaxed lifestyle of our recent hometown Lucknow. Visiting the distant pockets of habitation in far-flung areas of Banda, we realized time stands still in this part of the world in many ways. Its not just about open fields and clear skies as far as the horizon stretches, in terms of progress also nothing seems to have moved for the last 200 years when the British must have first brought this area into their dominion way back in 1811. Except for the ubiquitous mobile phone (which too did not work on the Kamasin road where we went for a routine official visit!), the majority of houses are still kutcha (as they appear to be in the paintings of the Raj Era), people still fetch water from miles sometimes, electricity supply is pretty much a matter of luck, there is not much difference between roads and dirt tracks (how else could a journey of 25 km take 75 minutes) and agriculture is not just rain-fed but also geared primarily for subsistence alone. Yet, it is precisely on these trips that I truly begin to appreciate the meaning of words like- vivacity, resilience and exuberance. Despite all the decades of wrongs done to them, (either on account of neglect or willful omission), even the people of remotest hamlet seemed enthusiastic about casting their vote and choosing some candidate who will bring positive change to their lives and villages.

Flitting in and out of the house (read headquarters), I sometimes feel as if one is alternating between dream and reality- a house beautiful as a dream and a reality so harsh it jolts you from deep within. For all the people whose lives could change even marginally by our efforts, one feels happy and encouraged, but for all the millions who continue to nurture hopes of a better tomorrow, one prays one is able to reach out to and give wings to their aspirations and dreams of change!

It is precisely this reason that my memories of Banda are not colored but monochrome for I truly hope that in my own lifetime things will improve and the monochrome images imprinted on my mind will be filled with all the vibrant and vivid colors of a rainbow!

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 
― Ansel Adams

PS: The above pic featured as one of the Design Team favourites at Artistic Inspirations Challenge MonoChrome/ Anything Goes and here's my badge

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