Tue, 14 Jul 2020

Instamatic: Boundless Spirit

26 May 2020, 16:55 GMT+10

By Ellen TarverTexas [USA], May 26 (ANI): Suvir Saran is at once a Michelin Star chef, an artist, an educator, an entrepreneur, a philosopher, a published author, a mentor, and a nomad. That he lights up any room he enters with creative, mischievous energy is just icing on the cake. I first met Suvir in 2011 when I was a nutrition-starved children's librarian, desperate for change, and his star was bright in the heavens--it seemed everything he touched turned to gold. But then, in 2018, at not yet fifty years old, Suvir suffered a mini-stroke, several falls, and concussions that left him with compromised motor skills and legally blind. Days that were once lived at top speed, everything fast-forward, slowed to a crawl, frame by frame, in jerky stop motion.

In his new book, Instamatic, Suvir takes us on healing, deeply personal journey, one brilliant iPhone image at a time. A journey to places familiar and unfamiliar, from the old and comforting to the new and exciting, accompanied by the moments, thoughts, and reflections those images evoke.

The journey is divided into five sections--locales if you will--each with its unique flavour and individual character. At every stop, Suvir discovers stepping stones to renewed strength and "that unexpected sweetness in a discovery that takes one over the moon."In Manhattan, we are dared to believe ourselves significant while craning our necks at rising steel, concrete, and glass. Suvir's smoke-and-chrome images show a life that is lived moment to moment, its frenetic bustle fueled by power grids, commerce, and petrol. The city, Suvir says, is not a melting pot, but "a mosaic with countless, unique, moving pieces, each with a story to share, a dream to realize, a love to celebrate, an aspiration to reach for, and a journey to live." It is in Manhattan that Suvir finds his connection to, and empathy for, the other.

From the teeming city of Manhattan Suvir goes to Hebron, a small village in upstate New York where he and his partner Charlie lived on Masala Farm, a 70-acre farmstead complete with heritage chickens, alpacas, and honeybees. Time in the North Country is measured not in moments but in seasons, and Suvir's pictures fairly explode with the luminescent colours of all four. The looming sky--at turns indigo, slate, rose, shiny, cloudy, stormy--is a very real reminder that human control is an illusion and that we are "small mortal beings with lofty ideals."But in the same sky, there is light behind every darkness. There are moments of peace for all of our senses. While every sound in the city seems more raucous than the one before it, the images of Masala Farm are gentle on our ears. Each one captures a moment when life stands still and lets us take a breath. Even the picture of Charlie shovelling snow under tunnelling, kaleidoscope skybrings the soothing, unhurried rhythm of metal scraping asphalt in an otherwise silent scene. In the country Suvir is reassured that new dreams can be dreamt; when the morning is void of brightness, it is still brimming with hope.

Next Suvir takes us halfway around the world to Rwanda, where his pictures show us gorgeous savannah grasses, majestic wildlife, and hardworking, compassionate men and women. Suvir's image of "a dazzle of zebras" reflects the individuality and diversity of the Rwandans, and the GashumbaShamba--the giraffes--mirror their stature and their reach for the sky.

This country, ravaged by unspeakable acts of hatred, is rising up with forgiveness and determination--from "tragic genocide to triumphant peace"--to give all a second chance and to strive for an incredible future. In Rwanda, Suvir sees a people who were almost crushed beyond repair but chose to pick themselves up and start living again.

In San Francisco, Florence, Cortona, Trieste, and Singapore, Suvir visits friends who give him the space to hear his soul's whisper in the darkness, to find where the horizon finally meets the sky. These essays are more personal, and we get a glimpse of the relentlessness of Suvir's illness. One image is out of focus, bursts of colour on fire, fighting with each other yet melding together, barely recognizable. Other images celebrate triumphs and small pleasures of life: a good cup of coffee, a whimsical corner by a staircase, serenading faraway loved ones from a balcony high above the city. It is in these cities, with these true friends, that Suvir discovers how resilient is his spirit, how deep his hunger to not only survive but to thrive.

Lastly, Suvir comes home to India, to New Delhi, the land of his birth-- a "wreath-like threading of ideas, principles, imaginations, hopes, fears, dreams, and struggles that may be of many different colours, but that come together seamlessly, in the form of a living, thriving, happily coexisting seductively scented garland."Home to nurturing family and healing family traditions. Home in time to catch the monsoon season. In his pictures taken during the downpour through a car's windshield--wrinkled, distorted, blurred images--Suvir ponders the moral and ethical wrinkles of a society of haves and have nots.

Other images celebrate the extraordinary street life of New Delhi. In contrast to Manhattan, where the drivers sit anonymously in their four-wheeled motorized vehicles, where the predominate sound is the cacophony of multiple strident horns, New Delhi's traffic is personal. There are bodies as well as vehicles, human life and energy, all navigating imaginary lanes, voices raised in sing-song cadences.

In Suvir's India pictures, as in so many of the others, the colours leap off the page as if they refuse to be limited to a two-dimensional existence. Studying the image of a man walking under a tunnel of rich hanging fabrics, we can easily imagine the welcome and beauty that meets us at the shrine of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya.

As I said, I met Suvir when I was desperate for change. I wrote to him, asking for his help. This was his reply:When we are contemplating change we are poised to try something new, something daring, something bold, something so different that one is scared.

It is in such times and moments that we open ourselves to doing what might be great for us.

To appreciate what we have, we must try that which might be different. But that differs from what we have makes us understand the honest and true worth of that which we hold dear.

Of course, as we continue learning, and living, we will gain new loves, new memories, and new adventures. We grow as our adventures take on new challenges.

Life is wonderful in how boundless it can be in its spirit.

Nine years later, Suvir has taken his own advice. Instamatic is a quest to keep body and soul together while discovering new loves, new memories, and new adventures. With each image and word-picture, we travel with Suvir to seek healing for cloudy vision and broken communication, to find hope for restlessness and despair--not only for ourselves but for our concussed and fragmented world. In Instamatic, Suvir shows us that life is, indeed, boundless in its spirit.

[Disclaimer: Ellen Tarver is a Texas-based free-lance journalist](ANI)

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