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The centuries-old Indo-US story

Kindred Nations, an exhibition of photographs at Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum promises to throw light on the history of India-US relations

  A black-and-white photograph shows two women and five men. Two men and the women are clearly protesting as they hold banners (one is a demand to free Gandhi and Nehru). The rest of the men, two evidently policemen in uniform, are arresting them or removing them from the place of protest.

A photo depicting protests in Washington DC for Indian independence in 1943. Pics/Atul Kamble
A photo depicting protests in Washington DC for Indian independence in 1943. Pics/Atul Kamble

The year being 1943, this would be an unremarkable situation in India but this was Washington DC and the note with the image says, “American sympathizers arrested for picketing the British Embassy, 1943. Washington, DC”.

This engaging photograph, along with many others, is a part of the exhibition, Kindred Nations: The United States and India, 1783-1947, co-curated by Susan Bean and Washington DC’s Meridian International Centre. The exhibition, is being organised in collaboration with the US Consulate General, Mumbai.

Philip W Roskamp, public affairs officer of the US Consulate General in Mumbai, at the exhibition
Philip W Roskamp, public affairs officer of the US Consulate General in Mumbai, at the exhibition

These images are being presented to recall tales of remarkable people who once started this communication between two ends of the world, when the world was a slower place. Public affairs officer of the US Consulate General in Mumbai, Philip W Roskamp points that the relation actually dates back centuries. “We recognised that there has not been much focus on the India-US relation that existed before Indian Independence. There was communication and trade between the countries from the 1700s, so, till Independence; it would be an untold story of 150 years. And today, when Modi meets Obama we can trace its tradition,” he explains.

Though the photographs in the exhibition depict moments in lives of individuals or individual events, they say much more than what can be seen. The tender photograph of Indian historian and philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy with Stella Bloch from 1922 throws light on the possibility of relationships beyond race and colour, even during that time. And then one of Rabindranath Tagore and Helen Keller in New York shows the importance of scholarship and wisdom that marked the early modern era.

The photograph includes a quote of Keller saying, “Sitting beside Rabindranath Tagore and sharing his thoughts is like spending one’s days beside the Sacred River, drinking deep of honeyed wisdom.” The one with Mohan Singh, called the “The Flying Hindoo”, shows him attending aviation school in California in 1912, a few years after this significant invention was made. The exhibition opens, as did the US-India relationship, with the establishment of direct contact in the late eighteenth century and ends with events around Indian Independence.

Till: October 27, 10 am to 5.30 pm
At: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Byculla (E).
Call:23731234

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