Photo Essay: Out of the darkness
A son’s journey as he comes to terms with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia
Sohrab Hura tells an intensely personal and difficult story—of coming to terms with his mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia—in his self-published photobook, Life Is Elsewhere. This is his private diary, comprising photographs, letters and jottings, to which he confesses a schoolboy’s embarrassment and shame at having a parent who is far from “regular”, and his anger, fear and helplessness at being at the receiving end of her suspicions and beatings night after night, at being locked up inside their house for a month or so because of her paranoia—until she was forcibly taken to hospital.
In opening up pages recording these deeply intimate moments to the world, it has also become—like his adult interactions with the world outside, “of living elsewhere”—his journal of healing.
Last year, Hura, 33, was named a Magnum Photos nominee, only the second Indian after Raghu Rai to be given such special attention by the prestigious photo collective co-founded, among others, by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa.
Hura observes that his mother’s ever-wavering state of mind affected Elsa most of all. A touching photograph captures her devotion to his mother: paw and foot, both gnarled, stretched out next to each other, a crumpled sheet lying over them, a moment of stillness in a life of constant emotional upheaval.
Hura has been working on this autobiographical work since 2005, constantly adding images that left a mark on him. It’s an extraordinary book, with photographs that reveal as much as they suggest that all cannot be told just yet.
There is brutal honesty in Hura’s experiences at home—from the peeling walls, his mother’s nightgown, the locks that still hang from the front door, reminders of her illness—to those that show his relief at her recovery, images of her lining her eyes with kohl, a fledgling bird being nursed to life, and her watching old Hindi movies on TV.
In contrast, the section that dwells on his life outside, of him coming up for air, the “sheer need to experience all that is about to disappear”, is a whirlwind of encounters.
Life Is Elsewhere is scheduled to be launched at Sensorium, a festival of arts, literature and ideas, at Sunaparanta, Goa, on 3 February. Photographs from the book are also being exhibited at the festival, which is on till 5 February.
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