Above: Photo by Masood Sarwer
On 25 March, a nationwide lockdown was instituted in India to deal with the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases. A humanitarian crisis and decimation of accepted notions of ‘normalcy’ later, we find ourselves marking six months since the start of the lockdown.
Along with all the other changes the coronavirus pandemic has wrought, in conjunction with the lockdown it has also done this: warped our perception of time. When so many of the markers we used to bookend our days have become redundant, what becomes a meaningful way to measure the passage of time?
For some, it becomes about watching the shadows cross their room, for others about making progress on a writing/photography project or new language or earning the high score on a game. There are tangible signposts — the length of one’s hair, a pile of read books — and not-so-tangible ones.
Compiled here are visual records of people’s varied ways of measuring time, in an unprecedented time.
PHOTOGRAPHS | Akshay Mahajan
I collect old photographs. I pluck these beautiful images from some forlorn corner of an antique shop and meditate on the lives that came before mine. During this lockdown, I took down my boxes of discarded photographs and began playing with them...to build an altar to the fallen. A collection of flowers, seeds and soil from my garden is layered over the images, which are then re-photographed. They evoke a sense of the passage of time.
I get emotional when I look at them, but not in the same way as I do with photos of my loved ones. With my own photos, I hear the fast ticking of the second hand. These old photos keep a more steady time: humanity’s slow and sweeping waltz.
REMINDERS | Menty Jamir
The lockdown made time an illusion, induced a sort of oblivion.
I had stopped keeping track of the days, dates but there were these small things that reminded me of how time was passing by, even though I felt like I was trapped in a place where it was irrelevant.
UNTITLED | Divya Cowasji
Time expands, time conflates./ We wake and sleep and something in between./ Is it another day already?/ Or another season?/ Flowers bloom and wither and fall./ And so do we.
FAMILY | Tehreem Fatima
From being the sister of the groom, planning a much-awaited family wedding, the pandemic crashed my hopes my hopes of even attending the ceremony. After much deliberation and despite many obstacles, the wedding occured on the planned date at the bride’s home in the presence of only six people. And now, six months later, here’s a glimpse of a new member of the family, expected in January 2021.
STUCK | Janak Rathod
A freelance photojournalist, I've been stuck indoors during the lockdown, unable to photograph extensively due to the lack of a press card and required permits.
The ample time that came along with the lockdown allowed me to see around my own home and neighbourhood. I decided to document time — the one that was passing by swiftly in chunks, and also the one that reflected me in moments. Time to me, then, was just like a mirror reflecting a myriad of visuals waiting for me to capture them.
Having said that, I believe in this epoch time cannot be entirely represented by the photographs of only a few, but of everyone. These photographs then would be a documentation of not just a pandemic, but of the inner feelings and insecurities that are constants in our way of existence.
RAIN | Jane Borges
Since I began working 12 years ago, I have had very little interaction with home. It was always the place I returned to each night, and left every morning. The lockdown made home feel more permanent. And when something becomes permanent, it soon becomes mundane.
Home became the space I was confined to, every single day. I ate here, I worked here, I wrote here, I slept here. To cope with this routine of being trapped within the four walls of my home, I started taking photos on my DSLR, particularly of the rain.
The many windows in my house offered a spectacular view of rain lashing down on our tiny home garden and compound. Some of the photos here were taken at fast shutter speed and low ISO; the idea was to capture the droplets, instead of the downpour. Freezing these shots gave me a sense of control over time and the season.
Every frame was taken on a different day. Each day, the drops looked different — a light shower on some days, a sprinkler on another, but mostly, heavy. The droplets reminded me how the monsoon in Mumbai has its own course.
SPANISH | Siddharth Shukla
It began with ‘hola’.
In 2019, I thought it would be fun to learn Spanish from an app. Then in 2020, just before the lockdown, I visited Punta Cana and became deeply interested in the language after interacting with the locals.
During the pandemic, when my personal and professional life intertwined in a way that made following a ‘routine’ impossible, I just had to achieve at least a semblance of order by taking my Spanish lessons seriously.
Between ‘hola’ and the two ‘manaña(s)’, I’ve cultivated a vocabulary of over 450 words and an ability to speak some basic sentences in the language.
THE HOUR THAT STRETCHES | Arien
HOME | Yashasvy Kanvas
As terrified as she was when the lockdown started, my mother was secretly a little happy that I’d be staying home for a while. I’ve been away from home pretty much all my adult life and I could see why she would feel that way. On each of my visits home, time would go by so quickly that she’d always feel like it ended too soon.
The uncertainty of these past few months has made time go by quite leisurely — just as how not knowing one’s destination somehow makes a journey seem longer. It's allowed us to reconnect with each other in ways we couldn’t before... like taking long walks on the rooftop reminiscing about the past. Or the rainy afternoons we spend listening to '90s Rahman while she tries not to hum off-key.
BALCONY | Jashaswi Ghosh
The experience of being at home for the last six months have been intriguing to say the least. A verandah or balcony attached to my study has been my window to the outside world. A portion of my house, which I previously never paid heed to, suddenly became a panacea for the monotony which had overshadowed life.
This verandah is where I saw the seasons change, the beauty of dawn and the splendour of a sunset. It is also here that I viewed with terror the ravages of Amphan. Starting from random musings, reading my favourite books, to frustrated rants and long conversations over tea —— this balcony has been a witness to my many moods and has represented a comforting constant in these ever-turbulent times.
SILENCE | Nayanika Mukherjee
My house is on a main road, meaning there's a continuous din. Rabid bikes, heated arguments. When the lockdown began, the newfound silence was a blessing. The vanishing of all social requirements? A bonus.
Half a year later, the prolonged solitude is eerie. I barely have new things to photograph, so I scan my home with new eyes. The shadows seem more appealing. I barely meet anyone, so 'creating' has meant a shift from portraits to abstractions. Time has felt loopy — both an unvarying block and a quicksand-like flow that sedates me.
With a troubling need for achievement, I'm not sure how an acceptance of taking things slow will pan out. We're wired to be productivity machines. But as art finds a way, I'm guessing the mind, eventually, will too.
EBB AND FLOW | Nilofer Khan
This week, while speaking with a colleague, I realised that I'd been miscalculating the days. In my world, it was still Wednesday. I still had some time to complete my work, daily chores, and even catch up on a K-drama I had been meaning to watch. But in reality, it was Thursday. I had missed my deadline, the dishes had been piling up, and the K-drama seemed like a luxury that I can't afford. Since the lockdown began, this is one of the many instances where I have ended up with more work as a result of my forgetfulness.
Since April, the notion of time has been quite perplexing. On days when I had a lot on my plate, time would ebb and flow like water. On the contrary, when I am overwhelmed, it feels as if time is at standstill. I can see the time change on the clock, but the moment doesn't seem to pass — akin to this image. Time may seem to be frozen here, yet it appears there is some movement within water: gradual, yet constant.
CAMPING | Hashim Maqbool
For me, in Kashmir, 'lockdowns' have been an acquaintance since the time I was born. So life continuing amid lockdowns is a ritual. This time, however, there were additional phenomena one encountered — masks and sanitisers. The situation has been made worse by being unable to visit loved ones, and being confined to one's rooms.
To lighten the toll on my mental health, I took advantage of being a Kashmiri and explored various parts of the region in these months. I camped at places like Naranag and Kulhama, visiting some truly astounding locations like Lolab and Kalaroos — so at least I won't have any regrets if I were to die.
AGHA MEER DEORHI | Taha Ahmad
Historically a residence of the Nawab Agha Meer, I was born and raised in the Agha Meer Deorhi area of old Lucknow.
As a photographer, I started my visual journey from Agha Meer Deorhi, which laid the foundation of my first photographic project ‘Swan Song of the Badlas’. During the COVID-19 lockdown, I went back home to spend time with my family, while also witnessing the survival of the underprivileged individuals residing in the area.
WAITING | Satyraj Singh
"I created a sanctuary within/unaffected by the world outside yet reflective of it./ I got a few plants home, and the birds did me a favour./ When the birds could no longer visit, I decided to fly my own."
We wait. Waiting is our resilience. A chronicle of our determination to adapt. The lockdown was an experience unique to everyone; for me, it brought me even closer to the plants I adore, and the joy of being validated by nature's own force. I learnt that this wait is less a test of our patience, and more a remarkable award to the process of change.
HIGH SCORE | Anshu Lal
The effect of video gaming was probably never more potent for people across the world than during the lockdown. Confined to my home during a time when news reports of thousands of deaths across the country became a daily affair, gaming was one of the few things which helped me not only find happiness but also maintain calm.
It took four months of gameplay (including frustrating attempts to circumvent certain bugs) to get the highest global score. Now, this serves as a reminder of how a hobby helped me keep my sanity, telling me that it's still possible to find joy when practically everything around is in crisis.
TREE | Masood Sarwer
With each passing day, time seems to be in slow motion and acts very strangely as we struggle to find a new normal. As I look outside my window, I see a tree that stands and gazes me through the abandoned margins as it did never before.
I have witnessed the tree shed all its leaves during spring when the pandemic started, to the new blossoms that came up in the monsoon. My feelings too are in a slow transition, like a tree that is constantly growing — only its growth is not visible, just like my mental state.
SUNLIGHT | Sarang Naik
The lockdown turned the days into a blur. The tick-tock of the wall clock started feeling intrusive. So I began measuring time in other ways: The ritualistic movements of local wildlife — birds and squirrels during the day, bats and rats in the night. The compulsive habits of humans, permanently fused with their identities. And the daily journey of reflected sunlight across the walls of my room, turning it into a huge sundial of sorts.
I'm obsessed with its patterns, enthralled by their simple beauty and unhurried grace. I sometimes find myself doing a slow dance with them as they twirl and shapeshift across the room.
Time doesn't feel linear in this lockdown. It feels like an arc, always moving towards the inevitable full circle.
GREY SUMMER | Afzal Adeeb Khan
The pandemic, while an opportunity for solitude for some, has left many grappling with a harrowing sense of loneliness. The prosaic walls of home, the mundane sky, unearthly afternoons make us tremble. The summer is grey.
Comfort, however, can be found in the things that discomfort us. The plain walls, the dusty curtains, a chair on the terrace, are all elements that become animated — a rhapsody turned lyrical in the face of art. Art has kept us alive and breathing.
The possibility of photographing life, capturing the scintillating beauty of a dull moment excites me. Through art we preserve ourselves.
OBSERVING DAD | Samuel George
Nothing puts ageing into perspective more than watching a parent, observing their body, an apparatus of mere skin, bones and flesh.
BONES | Nihal Bhandari
Manmaya Rai, whose mobility has been seriously affected due to acute pain in her joints, said she was craving meat. When we asked if half a kilogram would be enough, she replied, ‘Who would eat just that much? I want two kilos of meat.’ And so, provisions were made in the midst of the lockdown.
SEWING | Sheela Bantawa Rai
What’s a pandemic without fatigue? In our case, it was induced not by wearing, but by the continued buying and disposing of masks. In the midst of this, my sister sat down with her sewing machine on two separate afternoons to stitch masks that would last us for at least the next two months.
The pandemic is life-threatening, but a sustainable step here and there might buy us more time.
WHITE ROOM | Viraj Nayar
I have always looked at the bathroom as a sort of a limbo space, within which time moves at its own pace and the outside world temporarily disappears. It becomes a testimonial to my relation with the real world and at the same time dissociates me from it. It has also becomes a means to document the passage of time during these last six months.
Now my office has resumed, and that calls for me getting back to my pre-lockdown, presentable self. As I get ready to step out into the outside world, again, my bathroom stands as a witness to my preparation to return to normalcy and physical engagement with society.
BOOKMAKING | Yawan Rai
These photos are from a Buddhist ritual called Lama Gongdi, observed at the Ringhim Monastery in Mangan, north Sikkim. This is the second copy of the dummy handmade book I tried making during my 10-day stay there.
Bookmaking is an intensive process involving editing, sequencing, designing and whatnot, but I like it. It slows me down. It's extremely time consuming and I think that's what I like the most about the process. You completely immerse yourself in it and become a part of it.
CAT PERSON | Devki Nehra
We were never cat people — we believed they were cold, unfriendly and compared to dogs, harder to bond with. We adopted Mr Meow on a whim after his mother died from a brutal dog attack. If my mental health isn't in shambles during this lockdown, it's because of Mr Meow. He's always tailing me, constantly demanding my attention.
READING LIST | Aishwarya Sahasrabuddhe
At the start of 2020, I resolved to read 12 books (apart from the titles I needed to read for work) over the year. Some of these books — like Crime and Punishment and The Circle of Reason — had been on my radar for years. Then the coronavirus pandemic happened. After a long day of work-from-home, there was no place to go to and inevitably, pulling away from the screen became easier. I picked up one book after another until I had read through my list quite ahead of schedule.
LEAVES | Vinita Barretto
As we all wait for this time to pass, I find solace in these tiny leaves, which to me appear magical during the monsoon. They droop as the rain drops fall, but soon regain their shape and then they sway whichever way the wind blows.
This impermanence gives me hope. Nature shows us how, in the face of an adversity or crisis, we bend, stoop and then stand tall whilst we experience everything as it comes... Much like these beautiful leaves.
WORD COUNT | Abhinav Jai Singh
If Nuclear Physics says that space and time are flexible, then why does it not feel that way? If only time didn’t flow linearly.
CITY | Zahra Amiruddin
I remember the lull of a day. The wistful mornings that often turned into claustrophobic wormholes — until they were wistful again. In a city that never stopped humming, suddenly, the silence was the only sound.
Slowly, the echo of the neighbour’s television set is interrupted by the grrrrrrrr of a passing motorcycle. The ring of the doorbell plays second fiddle to the honking. The whistling train calls out to the lone aircraft passing in a vast sky. The boundaries widen, the passage of time stretches, and Bombay awakens after a much-needed slumber. After all, it always was the city that never sleeps.
STREET | Birat Rai
This project — if I might call it that — began as a way to meditate as I found myself confined to my house with restricted mobility because of a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Kalimpong. Therefore, as a way to divert my mind from the ongoing crisis, I have been taking photographs from my rooftop, since that is where my 4X10 bedroom is, of anything and everything that evokes something in me.
Photography has always been a way to accept the ‘present’ no matter how good or bad it may tend to be, and leave the past behind. The ‘flow’ is a reminder that life keeps moving, nothing is permanent, and we’re all part of an eternal cycle.