Friday, 11 December 2009

the kiss!

My major project on the masters was a study of the cultural landscapes of the Thames in London and the Ganges in Varanasi. As a part of my research, I interacted with several people in Varanasi and London to understand their perception of the two rivers in the respective cities. This interaction was made formal with the aid of visual and linguistic surveys that I designed.  

I would like to share two extremely contrasting responses which intrigued me thoroughly. I met a very young and pleasing Italian lady in Varanasi at the breakfast table in the hotel where I stayed. She wore a bindi and a sari (dressed Indian). I decided to ask her to do a visual survey for me. I was curious to know how she would perceive the Ganges. From her mannerism and attire, I guessed she quite liked India and the culture in the country. However, I was unaware of its intensity until she attempted my survey. One of the questions within my visual survey was as follows:  

Q6) Use the given piece of paper to depict the River Thames in London/ River Ganges in Varanasi. (Except your hands please do not use any tool) PURPOSE : To understand form with a third dimension , also a reflection of how people feel about the river which can be seen by observing how they handle the piece of paper. (crushing/ gently folding/ tearing etc) 

In response to this, she looked at the paper I gave her to mould for a few seconds. A light smile appeared on her face and she told me that she thought the Ganges was beautiful and she loved the river in Varanasi. Her next physical expression really touched me. She kissed the paper and gave it back to me. She said and I quote,'If I were to do anything to this paper, (wrinkle, fold, crease, tear) it would mean harming the river or disturbing it'. She returned the paper as it is. A beautifully subtle expression which reflected her sensitivity. It was lovely meeting her.  
In contrast, one of my classmates in London who attempted the survey crushed the paper to make a ball out of it. He pressed it between his teeth ravaging it completely. He hated the Thames. It was interesting to see how appropriately and strongly the emotions for the two rivers were conveyed through the contrasting gestures. 
There were so many points in the project where suddenly opinions contrasted so much that they could'nt differ any more, while at other times, it almost felt like the two water bodies replicated in the two cities and were no different. I maintained a neutral perspective by portraying "what really is" without taking a biased stand weighing towards contrasts or similarities.


  1. I am sure there was not only that italan lady, there are so many people from different country, different culture, they are any how in love with ganga.
    as i am hindu i can understand what ganga means to us but i can not believe that the people belongs to different religion are even more then us.

  2. isn't it exactly what perspectives are all about... a problem vs. an opportunity ....brilliant.. nicely put...

  3. yeh i absolutely agree! thank you