FOTOPOESIA : OCTAVIO PAZ & INDIA
To celebrate the birth centenary of Nobel Laureate and former Mexican Ambassador to India, Octavio paz, Instituto Cervantes in New Delhi launched a photo-poetry installation project to establish dialogues between photography and poetry by bringing together the works of Indian photographers and a Spanish or Latin American poet. As a part of the project, in July, 2014 the Instituto Cervantes approached me, fellow photographer Adil Hasan and poet Sudeep Sen to do free translation of poems by Octavio Paz, or being inspired by it make photo series. The poetries chose for me were “”THE BALCONY” and “THE MAUSOLEUM OF HUMAYUN”.
In September, 2014, an exhibition of the mentioned photo-poetry installation was conducted at the Instituto Cervantes, Delhi.
See works here –
In the two poems “The Balcony” and “The Mausoleum of Humayun” the poet was a silent witness to the past and present of the old city, Delhi. The relationship between poetry and silence are depicted as a motif in his creations. As a post-modernist poet Paz was extremely inclined to existentialism and surrealism and was also a strong believer of poetic modernity as is evident from his work. His work is mostly based on the concept that the present time is a consequence of repetitive changes in history.
In “The Balcony” to discover the connection between past and present character of Delhi, poet establishes a relationship between the old city, silence and himself. Here the balcony during night and poet himself become a space where the reality, past, present time of the city and stillness during night communicates; becomes a signifying circumstance. The poet sees his surroundings leaving him with an insistent question, posed by the night itself. Silence of night drives the poet into the past, allowing him to depart from temporality. The old city reappears in the poet’s memory as a surface that is barely concealed within the fetid city at present. In the poem “The mausoleum of Humayun” poet again talks about the silence and its relation with time.
Inspired by the two poems I tried to make a free translation through my lens. As a migrant I also have some feelings about this old city. I was not only drawn to its historical significance, but also its vibrancy and character. Visitors often witness a faded glory; the city is littered with history, much of it neglected and buried under the hustle-bustle of the present. The decorative flourishes that once adorned the mansions, courtyards and edifices are now obscured by the more formidable geometry of telephone wires, television cables and power lines. As a first-time visitor I found it difficult to portray my feelings. Upbringing in a small town in West Bengal had just not prepared me for this tumultuous city. These two poems by the great writer evoke me to capture those feelings that swept through my mind.