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Focus

Editor’s Pick

Photo Mail focuses on
Contemporary photography
Practitioners, their works, and
Its aesthetics
In the broader context of
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Philosophy

Handpicked portfolios
Curated by
Abul Kalam Azad

the Indian Jewish Identity
Indian Jewish Identity © Rahul S Ravi

Three Stories

By Rahul S Ravi

Mahe (Mayyazhi), with a radius of nine square kilometres, is former French colony in the northern part of Kerala. It is administratively a part of Pondicherry although the Mahe municipality is physically in Kerala. While the rest of Kerala was under the British rule till India got independence in 1947, Mahe remained as a French colony until 1954 when it was integrated into the Union of India. Though there is almost nothing left from the past glory except the uniform of policemen with the ‘kepi’ on the head and the Statue of Marianne established by the French in 1789 in a small park along the river, marking the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, a subtle eye could still see the remnants of Mahe of yore. ‘PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE  LA FAMiLLE LOPES’  is an emotional inscription on the front walls of a private office, which was once the house of a French family, lived in Mahe who later migrated to France.A young man from the same family who visited Mahe wrote it as a tribute his father, grandfather and his entire family. Using Internet, he traced back his ancestral house where his father was born and spent his entire childhood!

PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE LA FAMiLLE LOPES
PouR PEPE, PAPA, ET, TOuTE  LA FAMiLLE LOPES © Rahul S Ravi

Living in Limbo’ is about the Pakistan citizens living in Kerala; all of them are Keralites by birth. There are 11people; all are above 60 years, in Kozhikode Rural district alone who went looking for jobs to Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan just before and after Partition. They were seeking a better source of livelihood to support their large joint families back home, and did not see much difference between Mumbai and Karachi at the time. Most of them were cheated by visa agents as they were taken from Mumbai to Dubai in the small ships. Their problems began with Pakistan’s decision after Partition not to allow migrants who wanted to visit their families back home to leave the country without a Pakistani passport. They unsuspectingly accepted the Pakistani passport, making them permanently suspect in the eyes of Indian authorities. As sheer quirk of fate, and due to the intricate politics of nationality between India and Pakistan, all of them became aliens in their own birth place for the simple reason that they were holders of Pakistan passport. In their old age now, they live under the mercy of temporary visa extensions and by regularly visiting local police stations or courts to avoid the perpetual threat of deportation to Pakistan, which is the real alien land for them now. They have only one merciful appeal to the Indian authorities: Permission to remain with their dear and near ones during this fag end of their lives! None of them had any past crime record. Yet, the authorities viewed these “Pak citizens” with the tinge of suspicious “Pak agents” to deny them Indian citizenship all through these years.

Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in Limbo
Living in the Limbo © Rahul S Ravi

India has, historically, been a refuge and sheltered people of all religions, creeds and beliefs were granted protection and security when they sought it. They were accepted into the fold of the mainstream society and remain Indians. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc are religions of the land – all were born in India. The central Asian invaders brought Islam. The colonial powers brought Christianity. India remained a large-hearted host to all, enriched its cultural heritage – and became a truly secular nation. People from all communities rose to become eminent citizens of the land. Indian Jews, a small ethnic community, gradually diminishing in numbers, maintain their cultural identity in an otherwise deeply divided society such as India. Jews are believed to have come to India as long as two thousand years ago and now find themselves divided into different small groups. Being a microscopic endogamous community with strict religious and social traditions, most of the Jews find it difficult to maintain their unique culture and therefore, either acculturated with the larger Indian communities or migrated to foreign countries, mainly Israel. There are now barely five thousand Jews, in an Indian population of approximately nine hundred million in all. But those Indian Jews who still live in India or migrated to other countries, however small their number, struggle to maintain their distinct cultural identity—the Indian Jewish Identity.

the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
the Indian Jewish Identity
Living in the Limbo © Rahul S Ravi

Currently based in New Delhi, Rahul S Ravi completed his Master’s in Photography Design from the National Institute of Design (NID). A literature graduate and a graphic designer by profession, he was a passionate practicing photographer before joining the course at NID. A humanist eye drives his photography and his documentation has a conceptual approach to it.  His photographic projects try to bring in focus socio-cultural issues that have been at times overlooked by the mass media.

Abul Kalam Azad is a contemporary Indian photographer and Founder Chairman of Ekalokam Trust for Photography. He is also Editor-in-Chief of PhotoMail Magazine. Abul’s photographic works are predominantly autobiographical and explore the areas of politics, culture, contemporary micro-history, gender, and eroticism. His works attempt a re-reading of contemporary Indian history – the history in which ordinary people are absent and mainly provided by beautiful images and icons.

Published on June 1, 2017

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