Shyam Tekwani


At the height of the civil war in Sri Lanka, I was returning to Colombo from the front lines, bone tired, numb and sick of the war. Although I had been to Sri Lanka dozens of times by then, I had never stopped at Anuradhapura, that holy site of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority. This time, tired as I was, I decided to stop. Maybe I thought I needed a respite, a spiritual pause, a change from the sound and smell of carnage.

It was sundown, the skies were dark orange, the temple and its worshippers glimmered in pools of light and dark. Golden glows from the lamps of worshippers and the small puffs of smoke they emitted made the whole scene shift and shiver in a surreal fashion. And then I noticed that many of the worshippers were widows. And the war I had come to escape presented itself to me more starkly than any image of blood and bone that I had ever shot.

I am a photographer. Just as my left shoulder dips slightly lower than my right even when I am not carrying my kilos of gear, I view the world in frames even when I am not taking pictures. A series of frames that link together to form a continuous image of the world I live in – that is honest and stark and real.

Shyam Tekwani, India.

Drik Picture Library

New Internationalist issue 351 magazine cover This article is from the November 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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