Buri – My Grandmother’s Eternal Lockdown

We have lost the count of days, hours, minutes and seconds.

It is no longer about ‘what to do next?’ and more about saying ‘enough is enough’ out loud from our privileged coteries. What if it goes on like this for more days, more months or even years?

What about a life eternally locked down for not less than 65 years?

While dealing with my own uncertainties over the past few months, I came across another lockdown – a sort that never was withdrawn, nor is it likely to be in the near future.

I encountered the life of ‘Buri’, my grandmother.

For the last 65 years or so, Buri has been living a life under lockdown, taking care of three generations of our family. Buri is locked, locked in her own kitchen, in front of the television screen, the unorganised cupboard or in the uthaan, making the day begin for us.

As a photographer, while my camera was desperate to go out, a sort of introspection hit my inner lens: What could have been a life that never complained about being forcefully locked – terming it sometimes as ‘fate’ or sometimes as ‘duty’?

I couldn’t click photographs anymore.

I started listening to her locked ‘roz (everyday)’ at the cost of our ‘mundane’.

Absence of parents since early childhood – though may have several socio-economic constraints – comes with its own set of regulations or impositions. This life, with less surveillance, made me an easy-going individual, who was free to roam around and look at the world the way I wanted. As a result, I grew up with a lot of unanticipated and a few unwanted sympathetic reactions from the neighbours.

Also read: Fighting My Grandmother’s Battles

I couldn’t fathom how desire to look into the world was materialised – was it at the cost of an old woman taking the decision to lock herself into a life of care work? My male privilege didn’t let me see.

I waited, I followed and I found.

I found the visible and invisible exploitative forces that made her subservient to the whims and wills of the patriarchal ‘mundane’. I looked at how reproduction of same routine never apparently tires her. But what I missed is secretly buried in the word ‘apparent’.

She is the mother-archetype for all the patrilineal kinship; she is the symbol of sacrifice and purity – untouched by the wills of liberty – for the Brahminical patriarchy and for a photographer like me, she is the deified truth, a godly woman!

Her rojnamcha and everyday toil veil the adjustments and negotiations she makes – with both herself and her family – at every point of her locked story.

She walks into the room, sits in the verandah, peeps out the window and perhaps asks herself: ‘What is the cost of a locked down life?’

I continue clicking photographs until I realised that the ‘deification of Buri is done’. Now she may continue reproducing the same as much she may continue resting her body on an old cot leaving the television to freeze into an eternally locked down time.

Souvik Manna is a Kolkata-based freelance photographer who loves to capture only those times that deny freezing.

All photos clicked by the author