The gentle, warm sea breeze lightly brushed my face as I lay foot on the new, but somehow familiar, soil. A two hour short flight had transported me from my home, Delhi, to the home of my parents. Leaving behind the pre winter festive nip of Delhi, I was now enveloped by warmth and hospitality in the bustling port city of Karachi.
I wondered why it had taken me half a century to step foot on this welcoming soil, backdrop to the many bedtime tales – memories narrated as stories by my parents who had traversed the borders during partition.
In the atlas of my heart, Pakistan was an island, the abode of my parents. An island, that had somehow floated away adrift on the tears of partition. My childhood was embellished with stories of their ‘home away from home’. It was a home I had never seen, a home I had dreamt about all my childhood. Now, finally, I stood on its soil and savored its sweet air.
It felt like a homecoming. I was having a solo show of my paintings at the Sanat Initiative Gallery. I was overwhelmed by the love I received from everyone at the opening. Words are not enough to describe my feelings. That is probably why I paint more than I write.
I realised as I saw for myself, how effortlessly art can help bring hearts and nations closer.
As a practicing painter for almost three decades, I had started using the camera as an additional instrument to capture moments midway through my painterly journey.
I had a natural desire to start the Pakistan leg of my ongoing project ‘Artist through the Lens’ – a project where I have been photographing fellow Indian artists in their studios for almost sixteen years now.
I made studio visits to the Karachi and Lahore based artists, photographing them in their creative spaces. Conversations over cups of chai, viewing art and leafing through books and catalogues made each visit a delight. Interestingly, an inevitable connection with India would also come up during many studio visits. There was so much to hear and share.
I returned to my city, Delhi, richer for friendships, and hope to visit Pakistan again soon. Hopefully, next time, with my parents to take them home again.
The Indian artists I have chosen for this photo-essay have all been photographed by me in their creative spaces as part of my ongoing project, ‘Artist through the Lens’. They also have a personal history with partition.