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India’s Lost Children of postmodernism - Kushti

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April 2023

“India stands in a rather strange space vis-à-vis Modernism and postmodernism as its own particular issues with nation building are layered intensely and intricately with its own myriad, complex often conflicting civilizational sub-histories. The advent of photography in India happened more or less at the same time as it did in the West, but while its technological history paralleled that of the West, Indian photography had its own variations and interests and these local concerns have also consumed Indian photographers. While in the West much of the interests of photographers over the past hundred odd years was the obsession with change and modernity and the pressing need to capture the new, Indian photographers have, in light of their own experience of the modern, been shy of highlighting their own community histories of thousands of years, except through the same problematic ‘colonial’ gaze.

As India strides exuberantly into the next decades along with the global world it carries with it its checkered local histories of marginalized peoples, cultures, practices, and rituals which are losing ground and identity, and will probably vanish forever in the next decade at most. These are ‘The Lost Children of postmodernism’ to coin a term, and their worlds need to be recorded for posterity and documented for remembrance.

Jayesh spent six years photographing the dwindling practitioners of Kushti, an ancient style of traditional wrestling which is dying out. Now it has few takers and is gasping for survival as the lure of international style wrestling and India’s recent glories in that style of sport have attracted most young practitioners. The old mud arenas found almost in all villages, where generations practiced together, are all empty now. Kushti was not just a sport but a philosophy of life and the almost monastic lifestyles and disciplines that the young had to take on, are no longer attractive. These old gymnasiums, known as ‘akhadas’ are largely silent and wear a forlorn and extremely run-down look and the same look is often reflected on the faces of its last few practitioners.”

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