Reviving lost professions

India of the past was dramatically different from what it is now. The image of people and professions of Old India remind us of a time gone by. With this idea Clare Arni started out on her journey to capture old professions in the country. But what she found was that globalization has sealed the fate of old professions, and sent them out of the frame without warning. Arni seeks to find out darker consequences related to professions that are now considered passé. This England- born and India- raised photographer recently held an exhibition at Gallery Sumukha that exactly spoke of her feelings about ‘Disappearing Professions in India’. From Kolkata to Mumbai and Delhi to Chennai, the collection spans across work that is not done anymore.  

When asked why she chose to make these dwindling professions her subject this time she said, “It all started with the exhibition that I was supposed to do on urban change. The exhibition was to be held on behalf of Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai where six of us were asked to study urban change in our own cities. Consequently, we would need to go to Mumbai and shoot something similar. I decided to study the first professions that the city of Bangalore ever witnessed, whether they were still around and how globalization might have brought about considerable change to their existence. And that’s when I got a shock in Bangalore. Whereas I had thought of studying nine professions, seven of them had already disappeared. That’s when I realized that I should have looked at the disappeared professions 10 years back when they were still around.”  

Book- selling in Kolkata, tinning in Delhi, fortune telling with the parakeet in Chennai and knife grinding in Bangalore. By now Kolkatans have taken to book browsing at Crossword or Oxford and few remember the existence of shops like Das Gupta and Company. Why? Simply because one can’t browse in them. In a similar case of misfortune are Chennai’s fortunetellers. People do not believe them and consider their parakeets a ploy to fleece them of their money. The fate of the tinning business in Delhi is just as bad. Increasing production of stainless steel is the nemesis. Namma Bangalore, too, is not far away. The knife grinding profession here has almost collapsed what with people opting for replacement, anytime, every time.  

No matter how big a blow globalization has dealt to these professions, the world chooses to look away. Thankfully, though, Clare Arni’s lens has brought them back for sometime and paid them a lasting tribute.
Tags: Clare Arni, Gallery Sumukha, Disappearing Professions in India

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