‘Gunjing’ in the poshest market of Lucknow, Hazratgunj

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My brother Aman and I, at our grandparents' home. Hazratgunj, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. 1982

My brother Aman and I, at our grandparents' home. Hazratgunj, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. 1982 Image and Text contributed by Annie Zaidi, Mumbai My brother Aman Zaidi and I spent about a year living with our maternal grandparents in Lucknow, while our mother was in the hostel in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), trying to finish her Masters. I was about two and a half years old, hence my memories of this phase are dim. But I was deeply attached to my grandma and was perpetually tailing my big brother, Aman. I also have vague memories of trying to play 'Kabaddi' with his friends. This photograph was taken on Aman's seventh birthday by my father, and Aman had just been gifted his first bicycle. He learnt to ride it the same day. Since I was not gifted a bike until I was much older, I never did learn to ride one and still can't. Our father had taken us to Hazratgunj, the poshest market in town, perhaps for a treat. I have no idea why I'm making that face - perhaps annoyed at being asked to pose too long. Another colour photograph of this day tells me that my brother was wearing a smart, red jacket and it matched his brand new Red bike. I was wearing a Pink Anarkali styled kurta with a little black embroidered 'Koti' (sleeveless jacket). It was a baby version of the costume that female qawwals in Hindi movies of the 50s & 60s were often seen in. This day - or at least, this outfit - should have been memorable, my family tells me. We were visiting my bua (father's sister) and she had a pet dog. I had never…

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The first time she saw a man die

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My father Anupam Kumar Shome and I. Srinagar, Kashmir. 1983

My father Anupam Kumar Shome and I. Srinagar, Kashmir. 1983 Image and Narrative contributed by Tillotama Shome, Mumbai In the early 80’s we lived in Rajbagh extension, near Zero Bridge in Srinagar, Kashmir. I was four years old and on my way to school with my father Anupam Kumar Shome. He was an Airforce officer. En route to school we got stuck in traffic. Apparently, there was a 'shoot out' up ahead. As the police cleared the traffic and guided us, I saw through the arches of crowded human legs, a body of a dead man, drenched in blood. The contrast of the red blood against white of snow was inexplicable and I was witnessing the lifelessness of death for the first time. My father shepherded me back home. His face was gaunt and I kept crying all the way back home. The same day he took me out for a ride in a boat and suddenly said, “You saw what happened today? It is all because of religion.” I had no idea who religion was, the names of religion’s parents, where he or she lived, what he or she did for a living, why he or she killed that man or did not save him. I was only four. I just cried. Because of what he may have seen and experienced, I think my father had come to a conclusion and a decision that religion brings grief, so Hindu spiritual ceremonies or references like Pujas, pundits, shradhs, kundli (astrology), and havans were never a welcome guest in our household. My religion or requirement of some faith, became the need to be aware of the consequences of my actions, my thoughts…

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