Fulbright scholars in India
?India is incredible, we are just blown away?
By Vaidehi Nathan
The pollution of water sources, especially the rivers we worship, is what disturbs Rachel Movitz the most about India. She says she grew up in Boston, in the US around the time when there was a social movement to clean up River Boston. Rachel is in India as a Fulbright scholar to research on the foreign tourists? quest for spirituality in India.
Maria Durana, who is also a Fulbright scholar in India, is working on traditional architecture. Ask her about India, she says ?I was blown away when I first came to India.? Iris Litwin and Nathlie Provosty are also in India for the last eight months under the Fulbright scholarship. Iris is researching on textiles, and Nathlie is in pursuit of paintings.
Together the four women and a male scholar, Sanjiv Sethi, put up the outcome of their research in an exhibition of their works at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. All of them have travelled to various parts of the country.
How does one photograph spirituality? Well, that'swhat Rachel has been doing, travelling to various ashrams?the known and the obscure?catching images in her camera-frame. She finds immense positive energy wherever she goes in India.
Iris came to India without any expectations. Soon, she took to Indian clothes so that she would be accepted easily in the social fabric. ?India is everything. It is extreme in everything and all co-existing at the same place?, she says. In the US, you had to follow a certain way to fit in. She has found the range of textiles incredible. Her goal is to have six costumes, one from each of the western coastal states in India.
For Nathlie, India is home. ?I know I am coming back here,? she says confidently. This is not her first visit. She has found her spiritual moorings here at the samadhi of Avatar Meher Baba. Nathlie grew up hearing about the Baba from her father, who had read a small booklet written by Baba, and was immediately attracted to him. Baba passed away in 1969. Nathlie says when she went to the samadhi of the Baba in 2000, she burst out weeping and felt herself lightening up. ?I felt him here,? she said, touching her heart. She feels being a foreigner in India is an advantage as she finds access to people and places that would normally be difficult for an Indian.
For Maria, the Colombian-American, this is the third trip and she had been in Kutch most of the time. Her main area of attention is indigenous architecture. In the US and Colombia, from where she comes, she says there is a movement to go back to Indian building material. She felt that India was a mixed place. One heard good and bad things about it abroad. In her previous two trips she had travelled to various parts of the country. She says she understands and feels for India because her own country, Colombia ?is always much abused, cast in the mould of drug lords and crime, just as a certain image is attributed to India.?
For Nathlie, India is home. ?I know I am coming back here,? she says confidently.
How does one photograph spirituality? Well, that'swhat Rachel has been doing, travelling to various ashrams?the known and the obscure?catching images in her camera-frame. She finds immense positive energy wherever she goes in India. She says when she came to India, she was ?just blown away? and she found the country amazing. She studied yoga, meditation and philosophy. Her travels have taken her to the Ramana Maharshi ashram in Tamil Nadu, to the Osho Meditation Resort at Pune and the ?yoga capital of the world?, Rishikesh. Her project will continue for the next several years.
Ask her if she has found the answer to her question why people search for spirituality in India, she pauses as she is not sure. ?There is something about India;? she says, ?it'sindiscernible.? True, agree the others.