TIRED | Sunday, August 27, 2023

11:59 PM

#TIRED: the nephew is a busy man, working his day job and his startup as you should in your early twenties. And keeping on top of his family responsibilities as the eldest… #family #genz

AUNTIE | Wednesday, September 30, 2020

11:03 PM

#AUNTIE: all my late dad’s sisters adored my dad and treated me like a jewel, they showered me with love and affection and kindness. I don’t have favourites, but I knew Babyfoi the best from spending so much time with her. She had a pretty hard life, and my dad and myself were always trying to help and keep a lookout for her. Her late husband, my uncle, was one of dad’s best friends and he gave me my name: Vishal. It means ‘great’ or ‘wide’ or ‘unstoppable’ and I can only lay a clear claim to the last and am unlikely to ever make the second in my lifetime, and aspire to the first posthumously. My awesome Babyfoi passed away yesterday and my family shrinks again. My dad had a massive family, he was one of eleven, and it was truly amazing, in hindsight, to visit and be surrounded by family. I have never, ever, witnessed my entire family of uncles, aunts and cousins all in the same place at the same time, and never will. There’s only 3/11 left. I took this picture in 2001 in the family home in #Pondicherry. The house was gifted to the ashram by my philanthropist grandfather on the proviso that his family would live there. It’s been empty for some time, and will surely revert to the ashram. I hope they make great use of it and restore the life it must have seen back in the 1950s. #family #aunties #india

MUM | Tuesday, November 5, 2019

11:33 PM

#MUM: born in Mombasa - in The Colony and Protectorate of Kenya - she has always held a British Passport and that has complicated the idea of immigrants for me. At 81, she’s up and down the stairs all the time, does her own shopping via the buses, and gets a bit lonely if she doesn’t see her grandchild regularly. I’ve considered leaving the country because of Brexit, but I’m in a fighting mood and I’m not leaving her. #mother #family #portrait #leica #twickenham

bagels | Sunday, August 12, 2018

2:12 PM

Haven’t seen my niece since she was a baby, and we’ve flown her in to meet her as a grown-up. And she brings bagels! This is like the Jewish New Yorker side of the family, the coolest people in the whole of the US, so very exciting. #bagels #family #bagelboybrooklyn

Skinnier than me

Aunt SumanMy dad is from a reasonably large family, I suppose. He’s one of eleven, somewhere in the middle - two older brothers and two older sisters. My eldest aunt is almost 89 - early next month - and after she broke her hip the last time, she’s been stationed in the ashram nursing home on the seafront, a great view if only she could see it. They denied losing her dentures, which means eating is quite impossible and she’s quietly been wasting away. My other aunts visit and feed her small amounts of mashed potato, pastries and chocolate, but she can’t assimilate very much. She lies in that bed all day, poor old aunt. She’s the eldest of all the siblings, the spinster who dedicated her life to the ashram, already 54 when I was born, and I’m not sure if, after this trip, I will get to see her again. But, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Observing rather than Hunting

These days, I spend too much time behind a camera hunting for pretty pictures, and too little simply documenting what I see around me. The latter is very satisfying, very amateur (in a good way) and largely what I did for ten years before getting slightly more serious about it all. The upcoming project documentary is going to take more observation than perhaps I’m used to these days, but the more observational work I do meets a positive response - The Council Estate and just yesterday, The House - and it’s all good practice for the big project. I’ve spent a lot of time in Pondicherry since I was a baby, and there’s a familiarity which prevents me wandering around as I might in a new town or city. So much of this place is tied to my family and its history, that I’m looking at my own family more closely, even as I’m stared at in the street… Christina found a splendid internet cafe last time she was here, and where I sit right now, and of course the people here know my family, don’t they? Pretty much everyone and anyone in the ashram knows Atma, my eldest cousin, and ashramites all know each other anyway. So I’m being observed too, as it happens, and noting that, I’m off to photograph the derelict patch of land that my father and his two brothers have owned since the 1960s.

The House on Rue François Martin

I spent quite a bit of time at the main house yesterday, just sitting around for the most part, but quite enjoying the spectacle of several workmen replacing the front door. The whole place is in a state of disrepair, since the ashram’s power-crazed wallahs won’t sort it out, but the door was particularly knackered after a break-in some time ago. My aunt decided to pay for the new door, and having accepted the job, it only two about five weeks of hassle to get them to start the job. NOTE: Indian workmen rarely do the job they’re supposed to unless watched, constantly, while they do it. If you were to have a house built, you or a member of your family would have to supervise the workplace and the workers every single day to make sure it was done, and done properly. A door is no different. Highlights of the job included the carpenter asking my father to borrow a saw, for he had none, the drill power cable’s bare ends inserted into the power socket, and the chief worker asking whether the house would be ok without the door on overnight. And these were the quality guys. In between watching, I shuffled around the house, quietly taking pictures of it all, taking a really good look at things for the first time ever, noting how it differed from my memories and perhaps seeing things in a new way. In a way, the house is a trap - my eldest aunt has been an unmarried ashramite all her life and even now is being looked after in the ashram nursing home. My other two aunts who now live there don’t often leave the house, have great difficulty walking, and hence the upstairs is now closed up. The pictures reflect that side of the house… perhaps.