Shyam Tekwani

When I took this picture I was documenting life along the Cauvery River, from its source in the hills of Coorg down to the sea in Thanjavur district in the deep south

This is the Hogenakkal waterfall where the river, placid and picturesque until this point, suddenly turns loud and wild and dangerous. It is difficult to fish in a waterfall, but the fish are plentiful, which makes the risk worthwhile for this man.

First he climbs up the sheer rock of the falls and builds a small dam with stones and mud. Then he waits a while, a few hours, sometimes even a day, depending on the time of the year. Then he sets up his nets under the falls and waits with his arms outstretched as his companion breaches the dam.

I waited with him on this day. Suddenly there was a roar. With tremendous force the blue water and the cascading silver fish burst out of the dam and poured into his nets. It was a magical moment. What with the noise, the pounding of water on his body and the fish flying about every which way, this was a moment when nothing else seemed to exist in the world.

Shyam Tekwani, India
By arrangement with
Drik Picture Library Ltd

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

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