words & images suchita vijayan
TS Eliot referred to Ezra Pound, as “il miglior fabbro”, the better craftsmen. Of all the words he could have used to describe his friend and mentor, Elliot deliberately chose these words. A “better craftsman” is not a chronicler who writes reams but one who discards the banal and is at a perpetual war with the archive of unquestioned ideas. In this tradition of better craftsmanship, I had assigned myself the grand title – “the chronicler of my county”. A country I had left twelve years ago.
In this quest to find a place for my dislocated voice, I landed first at the Maha Kumbh Mela, the “largest religious congregation on earth”, with seventy million people in attendance. My encounter with the Kumbh Mela was perceptually baffling. The chaos I had expected was gentrified through the creation of a gridded city. The State, as the creator of this ephemeral space became the sculptor of time and geography, arranging objects, actors and empty expanses inside the grid. The stark whiteness of the riverbed was set against the night, lit by floodlights and fog. The police as the enforcers and gatekeepers of this gridded city, walked around attired like angels from Wim Wenders's “Wings of Desire”. The Kumbh Mela at night resembled a city built and abandoned with a certain baffling expedience. There was an unexpected emptiness and loneliness that approximated to the grime black and white images of unpopulated Chernobyl. What lay before me was a mise-en-scène of cinematic excess that heightened much that was strange and unfamiliar.