Art & Entertainment

Time Spilled Through Cupped Hands

Kumartuli, a little picture-book setting of tiny lanes in north Kolkata on the banks of the river Hooghly, is almost a village. It is a home and a working space for traditional artisans, potters and artists.

Time Spilled Through Cupped Hands
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Hands, sands, whose ‘ands. She hadn’t any. Nor feet. Straw stumps. Twisted. Out of gangamattied thighs. Waiting. Unadorned. Unworshipped. A virgin spurned.

Uncombed and naked, except for the crowshit. A second skin—playing hide and seek with peeling leperous paint—hid the longtorn pink and gold silk.

Finery from another day. Gaping bleeding sores her nipples. Misshapen in her own excreta, she sat. Unconsumed at the wedding feast. Unpalatable even for flies. Unkempt beneath a flowery tree, lay the goddess. Wounded sockets, her eyes. Unwavering. Unblinking. Tear-ducts longshredded.

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The curse of a restored hindsight made of her a cassandra reversed. Aching to decipher silence. Waiting.

The last thing she remembered was the receiving of the charnamrit. Hands cupped. Right palm on left. Head covered. Bowed. The weight of the mukut already unbearable.

‘You who are just like the Mother.’

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BEHIND THE SCENES

Kumartuli, a little picture-book setting of tiny lanes in north Kolkata on the banks of the river Hooghly, is almost a village. It is a home and a working space for traditional artisans, potters and artists.

In the old days, they used to model river clay into pots. Over time, they gradually started to sculpt and paint idols of gods and goddesses for the traditional Durga, Kali and Saraswati pujas in and around Kolkata.

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In 2003, I set out to observe and create images of my own. Photographers from all over the world have made this journey. My only brief was to take photographs that suggested an intimacy that can only come when the subject is unaware of the camera. Using the old fashioned analogue Nikon cameras, my process was shy, hesitant, almost as if through a keyhole, often not raising the camera viewfinder to my eye, instead preferring to shoot from the waist. Hurriedly attempting to capture the process, the preparation, the backstage activity that goes on each year before that final moment of anointment—when the clay ‘becomes’ the goddess to be worshiped across thousands of community pujas across the city.

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Four days later, she will return to a grand drowning. Awaiting another cycle of rebirth? Maybe.

Photos: Green Room of the Goddess, Series 2003 Arrivals and Departures

Photographs by Naveen Kishore

Naveen Kishore is a photographer, Publisher and documentary filmmaker

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