My roots go back to Malri, a village in Punjab, north India, where my photographer grandfather was born.
His migration to Kenya after Partition brought out his passion for photography, and he would spend
hours photographing the world around him, whether it be native African wild
animals on safari, or his
Punjabi wife and his muse, my grandmother. She giggles as she recalls his excited voice shouting up to her
in the Punjabi-Swahili language-fusion that we still speak today;
“I’ve bought a new lens, get dressed up and I’ll take some photos of you!”
From the heat of dry Kenyan summers came ashen British winters, as my family left their home once again.
Environmental shifts inevitably influence our identity, and my grandfather, unable to pursue the wildlife
photography he so loved, focused on taking more and more portraits of my grandmother and their children.
In 2005, after exactly 30 years in England, my grandfather migrated for a final time, to his heavenly abode.
I was 16 when a camera was thrust into my sweaty hands, on a tiny wooden boat crammed with
family members. In the middle of the river Ganges, my kurti soaked in sweat and tears, my shaking hands
became steady as I focused my attention on capturing my grandfather’s ashes being scattered into the
river. The camera was something to hide behind, and having a job to do meant I didn’t have to face
the grief all around me.
I became a photographer, and started taking portraits of my grandmother.
I documented her experience of
loss, helplessness and loneliness, and her increasing connection with her
spirituality. I photographed the
newfound strength that faith gave her, the way she giggled when she was with friends, her joy at holding
her first great-grandchild.
Portraits of my Grandmother is a collaborative series, initiated by my grandfather, inherited and concluded
by myself. It tells a universal story of love, displacement, vicissitude and departure.