In partnership with Vacheron Constantin

Derry Moore

EVENING RAGAS

The photographs from my Evening Ragas series were taken during a series of visits to India that started in early 1976. My initial idea had been to photograph some of the places whose days, I knew, were numbered. In the event what fascinated me was not simply the places themselves but also the hybrid quality of many of the lesser buildings that had been constructed since the first arrival of the British in India. A cultural osmosis was clearly discernible, that of British and European architecture on Indian buildings, and that of India and its climate, as well as its styles, on the British. In the latter instance a grandeur and a sense of space, such as are rarely seen in Britain, were frequently the outcome: rooms were higher, windows larger, corridors wider, detail more lavish; the porticoes of relatively humble houses might have been snatched from the front of the British Museum. The appearance of their inhabitants too surprised me. I had been expecting folkloric looks, where as what I found was far more interesting – the look and atmosphere of another century.
 
Though I did not realise it at the time, a transformation was beginning to overtake India, a transformation effected not merely by political change, such as the revocation of the princes’ rights and privileges, and thus the effective extinction of the princely states, but also by technological change. In 1976 the telephone still appeared to be in its infancy – to telephone from one part of Bombay to another could take the best part of a morning, and as for telephoning from, say, Gwalior to Lucknow, only an optimist would attempt it. Inconvenient as this might be, it had the effect of making the country even vaster. Life was more unpredictable and more surprising, and that feeling of adventure which is such a vital feature of Kipling’s writings could still be sensed. Television was barely known, its homogenising effects yet to come. Mass tourism, with its camp-follower banality, was also a virtual stranger. Anything imported was prohibitively expensive, and ‘handmade’ was the rule rather than the exception. The motor car - and by 1976 there were effectively only two models, both quite humble, to choose from – was a luxury rather than a necessity. Moreover, since Independence the ethos of Indian politics had been Socialism with a sympathetic tilt towards the Communism of the Soviet Union. This had created a veneer of progress beneath which a traditional way of life was carried on with no more than its customary inconveniences.