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Tales of Hazaribagh 1.4.

What I mean when I say I study landscape

Landscape, first, as a function of aesthetics. You perceive what is in front of you and you find it pleasing. Conventionally, landscape as an egalitarian site of purity where human beings and their activities, existing always as a subtext to the principal text of the land, enhance the innocence of what we call nature. Landscape as natural, shaped by the forces of the earth, and perceived by the cultural, shaped by the ideas of humans which sees the natural as its other. Therefore, the binary: natural/man-made.
 
Separate from cityscape, landscape as rural. In India, its motifs: huts instead of skyscrapers. Cycles instead of cars. Dirt tracks instead of roads. Ponds instead of tanks. The urban looks at landscape like Delhi looks at Ladakh. The urban looks at landscape through the gaze of convenience, like Delhi looks at Ladakh only in the summer. Landscape as an ideal and landscape as a break which townsmen take from time to time. The necessity of idealisation for tourism, for one doesn’t take a break from the flawed to rest in the flaws of something else. To afford to create an ideal as a matter of privilege, and how it makes landscape a site of gendered and classed indulgence. The egalitarian natural with & against the privileged cultural, and things that exist in between.
 
Landscape as a function of memory. Landscape as a function of collective memory. Signification as a function of collective memory. History as a function of collective memory. Heritage as a function of history and signification. Landscape as heritage. Landscape as heritage in flux; its conservation.
 
Natural in man-made and man-made in natural. The blocking of a river to form a reservoir against the photogenic backdrop of hills. The consequential trimming of the stream. The disappearance therefore of a waterfall a kilometre ahead, and the flourishing of stone mining in the now-exposed rocky bed. The economies of agriculture and mining creating a new landscape over the death of the older. Or, the formation of lakes after the earth is dug out to build a jail. After a hundred or so years, calling the lake natural, the jail as historical. Landscape, therefore, as a function of age; its gerontology.
 
Landscape, finally, as personal effects. Entering one and returning heavier (after all feasible exchanges and transactions) from it. Mostly with exhaustion and to a good night of sleep. Mostly, with a reassessment of senses. While following a river, the transfer of touch from the hold of hands, fingers to the movement of legs, toes. While carrying a camera, the adjustment of eyes to the phases of sun, the difference in lights. While hearing a lake, the hard crush of waves in wind and the stillness of water otherwise. In that stillness, the sound of footsteps on the road. The smell of the morning breeze as dew settles over grass and that of the evening as dust settles over grass. The taste of a cascade in your mouth against that of your fridge back home. Then of course the cold and fever.
 
Copyright © 2017 Tales of Hazaribagh, All rights reserved.

Tales of Hazaribagh are told by Mihir Vatsa at
304, Soumya Apartment, Lake Road, Hazaribagh 825301, INDIA

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Tales of Hazaribagh · 304, Soumya Apartment, Lake Road · Hazaribagh 825301 · India

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