A morgue for Pages

A strong impulse of caution passes through my body, my hands stay barely still and I try to dowse the adrenaline that is slowly seeping into every corner of my thought. Now this all may sound way over the top but you have to be there to believe it. I mean, how often do you get to hold something in your hands that is about 170 years old? And it gets even more beautiful if you break it down further, so 170 years is basically 2040 months or 62050 days old, a timespan in which two lifetimes can be easily squeezed in between and you would still have enough space for a newborn to touch puberty. And that, I held in my hand.

Well, If enormity is carefully scrutinized, thought upon, I assure you, it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever find.

So, my search for textures took me to the Delhi Archives, which now as I write down seems quite natural, I mean which other place would be so well suited for my context, however, I wonder what took me so long to go there.

Anyway, on the third floor of the archives you have the main storage room.(I’m cutting directly to the storage room because the architecture of the archive deserves a separate blog on itself). White tiled flooring, air ducts peep out of every corner of the ceiling, two wooden desks burdened with plethora of files and a desktop that mostly likely runs on windows 98, temperature controlled between 18 to 22 degree Celsius and well of course, the aisles are formed by rows and rows of track moveable metallic shelves and inside them you have the history of Delhi preserved.

If you think my description isn’t on point then I have the perfect thing for you, the archive room was basically like a morgue, it did give off that vibe. And come to think of it, the function of archive room is actually similar to a morgue. You see, morgues store dead bodies while archives store old and archaic documents, the sole purpose of these two spaces is to preserve things in the best way possible for future research and reference. Yet, before you question, these two spaces are not museums and that’s because they are not built with the purpose of aesthetics and display. There’s a slight but huge difference.

Well, you can differ with me on that, I love to romanticize, but just to set the mood I gave you that description. And as you go ahead with the blog, imagine the archive room as a morgue for pages, it will make it more interesting.

However, once inside, I was given access to municipal documents of the Delhi government from the year 1836 to 1941. The documents were neatly stored inside acid free archival paper, sandwiched between two handmade sheets and then immaculately put together in a file. Some of the documents were notarized bonds, some were letters to the Delhi commissioner and some were a documentation of certain legal proceedings. I couldn’t help but stare at them indefinitely, looking at their intricacy. Time, was obviously quite visible on them, sometimes as yellow and brown tints while sometimes as acid patches and sometimes as fragmentation of the edges. The documents were an art piece in themselves, at least for me they seemed to fit whatever definition of ‘art’, that I have in my head.

 

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1836
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1841
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1880
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1942
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1942
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1899
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1867
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Between 1900 to 1910

 

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1847

 

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1847

 

 

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1895

 

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1911

 

 

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1856

 

 

 

 

Write-up and photography by Aadit Basu

The images were taken from The Delhi Archive, Satsang Vihar.

aaditbasu@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All that you leave behind

The whole structure of life seems like a fractal, complex and never ending. The more we think about it, the more we realize how fragile and helpless we are. Often we find that this thought takes a deep root inside us, everything seems to be meaningless and this thought crumples all the beautiful little nuances that life offers us. I would like to stress on ‘little’ here because often in retrospection we think of life as a whole, as an accumulation and forget about the little details that make the frame complete and rather in reality it’s always the little details that make the difference.

Yes, this thought is poignant and overpowering and it renders everything around us as useless but it is not as powerful as you might think, it all fades away in the face of death.

So if life constantly reminds us how fragile we are or how impermanent we are, it is the thought of death that I find more liberating, actually it is the aftermath of death that I find more liberating. Depressed and hollowed by these thoughts, I randomly stumbled over my dad’s belongings, who passed away nearly 12 years back and I realized that the dead are always alive in what they leave behind. And here I don’t just talk about physical objects rather also the notions that are associated inside us in relation to the dead, inside us as memories and notions.

Slowly the stagnation inside me regarding life started fading away and I felt rather ecstatic wondering about the things that we will leave behind. Before I start exploring the residue of my father’s life I would like to talk about death for a while. I guess no one can deny that it is the recent aftermath of death which is the most piercing one, it is dangerously silent, it is infinitely deep and the worst bit, time moves excruciatingly slow here. Everything you interact with, you will relate it to the loss. The bigger the vacancy the person has lift inside you the higher will be your pareidolia with respect to that person. You will realize what a ‘second’ means and at that moment you will hate time for its existence you will loath it with all your heart but of course after the worst is over you will learn to respect it. For sure, death emotionally manifests a black hole inside a person. However just like everything else, time fades death too. It forms a bubble over those memories and you are gifted with a new pair of eyes, a pair of eyes which will make new memories and let go of the old. At this point of moving over death we can quantify it and understand it.

Although the dead are alive in our memories, yet as time passes by the memories peel off from the walls of our conscience and we realize this phenomenon somehow and it scares us, we are scared that we will lose out on the notions that we had about the dead, this fear seems to us like a whirlwind that will carry all the memories away. So we hold on to everything that was related to the dead, their photographs, whatever they made or even touched everything we try to hold on to. And this is why I think the dead are never dead as they are always alive among us, inside the little vacancy they created, inside the little empty space they created.

Our lives keep on moving long after we are gone. Our memories continually live inside others, even after we die, through them we interact with the world. In their actions and their thought, the dead are still alive.

I know this thought will still just be a consolation in the face of death but it is rather a strong notion to live by and to let go.

So next time whenever you think how useless life is, think about all that you will leave behind, all things you will be remembered for and you will surely find all the stagnation seep out of you.

Like I stated earlier, I lost my dad 12 years back, I must have been ten or eleven years old. To be honest, at that time I couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the loss and now after years have gone by I have an idea about loss and the way it affects you. Now that I am 22 I understand the vacancy more than ever, I still find him alive in the half remembered memories from my childhood, in his briefcase, his watch and slowly as times goes by I can see a much more clearer notion of my dad in me.

In search for texture and memories, I found a little bit more about my dad.

This is all that he has left behind and the rest can’t be captured into a photograph.

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The image of him coming back from office is the most vivid memory I have about him.

 

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His watch stopped at a random date.
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His camera still works.
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His love for photography has been passed on to me. Here are some old negatives that never got printed.

 

 

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These glasses hold the strongest notion I have about him. A newspaper, a cup of tea and a Sunday, that’s all missing here.

So yes, he is still alive in these things. In his briefcase, in all his works, in memories and most importantly in me. These are the things he left behind.

Just like textures, he is now a layer of memories, drifting within the physical and intangible.

 

The title “All that you leave behind” is inspired from U2’s Walk on.

Pictures clicked by Aadit Basu

 

AADIT BASU