Photo Feature: The Garden Underground

Amit Sengupta Delhi 


April is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain 

-- TS Eliot, The Wasteland

Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka karobaar chale. In the turbulent times of rainbow coalitions of young rebels on the streets, unanimous with the chorus of azaadi, against sedition, lies and doctored videotapes, it’s a revelation to discover Faiz in a show called ‘The Garden Underground’. It’s like graffiti framed in a twilight zone, cinematically flashback, but suspended in eternal time-present/time-future, on the wall of the quiet and aloof Jor Bagh Metro Station in Delhi.

(The Garden Underground: Tony Clancy)

There are fingers, eyes, nails, petals, hands, veins, roots, leaves, flowers, the smell of skin and earth after rain. Nature embroidered with fabric, sensuality and texture. Like the ancient, rough rope of a ship anchored, which has traveled far across seasons, distances and geographies, carrying invisible manuscripts in its softened folds, moistened by salt, saline waters, subliminal substances, simplicity, soliloquy, sea creatures.

(Vishwanath Ji , the gardener who planted Palms in Lodhi Garden)

Across the extinct parks and landscapes of Delhi, from Lodhi Gardens to JNU to West Delhi, and beyond in the pigmented desertscapes of “muted palette of ochre and russets” in Jodhpur, to the flowers that are native to South America; “they are small, a deep violet-blue colour and last for just a day”. There are sweet symphonies of ephemerality, often, almost exotic, often steeped in anonymity, like fleeting familiarity. Listen to Vishwanathji who has worked in Delhi’s archival paradise, the Lodhi Gardens, for three decades plus: “Are you permanent here?” He says, “Well, the job is permanent, I am not!”

( Bhui Desert Cotton: Arati Kumar Rao)

Vishwanathji is an ephemeral dot in the map of the not-so-permanent gardens underground. Among scores like him, underpaid, over-worked, invisible, poor, humble. And yet, their fingers and minds are sublime. They are the prophets and philosophers of the gardens they grow amidst modernity’s cruelties.

 

Photo show, ‘The Garden Underground’, curated/photographed by Tony Clancy, Juhi Saklani and Arati Kumar-Rao, with Anita Roy, Jor Bagh Metro Station, Delhi.   

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2016