Cotton Green (2013)
In the heart of what was once an archipelago of seven disjointed islets, the project "Cotton Green" revisits the whispers of cotton as they rustle through the annals of Bombay's colonial past. These are not just narratives of a city coming into its own, but echoes of a commodity—cotton—that knitted the landscape of the metropolis, threading fields, lives, and aspirations into a complex tapestry that Bombay wears to this day.
When cotton first kissed the soil of these islets, it was pure, unassuming, a wisp of nature's genius. It did not yet know of the ships it would sail, the mills it would churn, or the hands it would tire. But as the British East India Company cast a covetous eye on Bombay, cotton found itself a character in a grander play of power, empire, and economic dominion.
Through the lenses, "Cotton Green" captures this metamorphosis. Each frame is a dialogue between the past and the present, where the ghostly echoes of spinning jennies disrupt the cacophony of today's city hustle. The decrepit mills, some standing like age-old sentinels while others give way to modern high-rises, are a testament to cotton's indelible imprint on Bombay's soul.
As we traverse the salt pans that once seasonally stitched the islands into one, the images provoke a contemplation of reclamation—of land and identities. The vast expanses that were tamed, dredged, and annexed speak of a hunger for expansion, fueled significantly by the cotton trade that burgeoned in the Victorian era, dictating the lives of the agrarian populace and shaping the burgeoning economy.
The photographs do not just frame the architecture of a bygone era; they capture the lingering gaze of a worker amidst the columns of a cotton godown and communities whose ancestries were intertwined irrevocably with the ebbs and flows of this commodity.
"Cotton Green" also ventures into the dark underbelly of this legacy—the exploitation, the drain of wealth, and the deep-seated scars left by colonial ambitions. It invites the viewer to reflect upon the uneven exchanges of the past and their manifestations in the social and cultural fabric of contemporary Bombay. As the journey concludes, the project leaves us with an unsettling yet necessary reminder: the city, in its modern chaos, continues to tread upon layers of its past, still feeling the weight of the cotton sack on its shoulders. The remnants of the colonial trajectory aren't just relics to be observed but are living, breathing aspects of Bombay's identity, cautioning us to tread respectfully as we shape its future.