I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not fascinated by the Brahmaputra. I grew up listening to splendid tales about the son of a god assuming the form of a river, older than creation itself, carrying divine sentience in its flow. Glorified folk-tales led me to grow up with a romanticized idea of the river that overlooked the finer nuances of the entire ecology.
I grew up in a place that was far enough from the river to not be affected in a monumental scale by the annual floods. The river flowed four kilometers to north of where I grew up, so even though I remember witnessing the river in its raging monsoon avatar, my personal experience of floods was reasonably restricted to low-scale overnight deluges which were more exciting than devastating owing to my priviledge.
Coming from a town largely unaffected by river bank erosion, the idea of annual flooding was a tragedy that was constrained to the unfortunate. My feelings towards this problem, despite being that of compassion, was arising from and fairly limited towards the one-dimensional victimised portrayel of the affected people and villages in News channels and popular media. Devoid of the knowledge about all the multifaceted layers of this river-human dynamics, the entire situation presented itself to me as the classic dichotomy of Good versus Evil, where the human naturally assumed the position of Good and the unstoppable destructive force of nature became Evil.
As a child, my Grandfather would tell me, 'Don't go towards the River when its raining: The immediate and almost innocent question that would arise in my mind was, 'But why do they (the riverine villagers) have to stay there?' As insensitive and juvenile as it sounded, this question appeared to illustrate a point of departure for my research, and address the initial contradiction that I faced, while trying to understand the position of the affected.
I base this work on deconstructing this romanticized notion of the Brahmaputra, by reflecting it against the views and belief of the communities that thrive on its banks.
Using modes of participation and collaboration translated through lens-based media,
I try to search for ideas that seek to reimagine widespread partial perspectives split through different chapters.
The urban riverbanks of Guwahati are overflowing with temporary communities, who come to the regional capital in search of a better life.
The Government remains evasive towards their existence, negating their visibility with beautification drives and infrastructure development along the riverbanks within the city.
A blue man on a blue boat stands in front, challenging his invisibility in a silent protest.
“We have to build a wall too.”
“Yes, we do.”
What happens when a force of nature clashes against the determination of human?
Can a sentient river be questioned, and held accountable?
The toxic yet thriving relationship between the river and the river-bank communities manifests itself as the endless loop, the serpent eating its own tail.