Wednesday, November 24, 2010
FT, Martin Parr and whether ex-Mumbaikars suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome
The tantalising cover and the bold “Seven Days in South Asia” had me most excited. I mean, how often do you see a North Indian woman in a violent pink sari and comic sunglasses on the cover of FT?
Unfortunately, the story was a let-down. It was written in the style of a diary of the FT editor Lionel Barber about his weeklong trip to India and Pakistan. During the eight days – yes, it was eight days but I guess, “Seven days in South Asia” just sounds better – he essentially hobnobbed with the rich and the powerful of the two countries starting with the governor of West Bengal, followed by Mamata Bannerjee, Mukesh Amabani, Anil Ambani, Anil Agarwal of Vedanta Group, Ananda Mahindra, Ratan Tata, PRS Oberoi of Oberoi Hotel, the Ruias, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Manmohan Singh, the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, and finally Asif Ali Zardari. As all these interviews had to be reduced to a four page story, what we get is mostly his impressions and a few quotes to support those impressions. All that is fine by me. But why the comic, cheeky cover image which suggested insights into the self-perceptions of ordinary Indians? To me, the cover seemed disingenuous and misleading.
The image was shot by Martin Parr. Chirodeep, a photojournalist friend of mine, had first told me about him. Then in a space of a week, I found myself gazing at this works twice. First on the FT cover, and then again at an exhibition at Maison Européenne de la Photographie, which was a part of a month-long photography festival in Paris. Parr’s photographs at the exhibition were from one of his early acclaimed series published in 1986 about British tourists holidaying at Brighton.
The exhibition was about extreme photography: or images that pushed either the photographer or the audience to the extremes of their physical, social, imaginative and/or emotional abilities, and how just by doing so, made the experience a little bit mundane.
But don’t extreme conditions come with some form of associated trauma? Which makes me wonder whether I am suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, now that I am not living in Mumbai anymore?
What would its symptoms be? If I had to guess, they would be:
A) A rush of joy at the sound of traffic noise
B) Tap water-related paranoia
C) Morbid fear of silence
D) And a constant bursting into happy tears at the sight of crowds
If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave to use the comment space.