Footloose in Afghanistan, with an eye for poetry

February 26th, 2008 - 3:16 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Blue skies, sparkling lakes, the Panjshir Valley in all its pristine beauty, a rugged old man laughing heartily, the hills of Bamiyan where timeless Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban… the many faces of Afghanistan come to life in these photographs and many more on display here. Shot by Rakesh Sood, India’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, and Aly Mawji, a representative of the Aga Khan Development Network, the pictures tell the story of Afghanistan and its people who know how to appreciate life’s gifts amid the sounds of gunfire and violence that have become their fate.

The photographs, which have been put together in an exhibition entitled Footloose in Afghanistan, will be on display at the India Habitat Centre till Wednesday.

As one soaks in 41 photographs on display, the mass media images of a nation that is in the news mostly for wrong reasons fall by the wayside. What emerges is a portrait of a nation blessed with ethereal beauty and inhabited by battle-hardened people, who seem to be in perfect harmony with their surroundings.

Prose simply won’t do when one is in the presence of such overwhelming beauty. As Sood and Mawji, who humbly describe themselves as amateur photographers, say in a note to the exhibition: “Afghanistan claims you! The land claims you; the skies and rivers claim you. The faces claim you; the eyes and smiles claim you.”

Sood’s love for the war-torn country that has become the blood-sodden theatre of the war on terror is reflected in the choice of photographs, which stirs viewers to move beyond news headlines.

Sood, who is set take charge as India’s ambassador to Nepal shortly, learnt Dari during his stint in Kabul to communicate directly to the Afghan people.

“Afghanistan is normally shown as a war zone. We wanted to move beyond them and show the beauty of the landscape and the Afghan people,” said Sood.

Pictures of smiling women, some of them clad in burqas, queuing up to vote and a bunch of old men intently watching an Indian soap underline the currents of change sweeping the country that is trying to leave conflicts behind and build a new future for its people.

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