Instagram of the past

Aug 21, 2018, 08:48 IST | Dalreen Ramos

This event features postcards that illustrate the city's architectural and cultural history

Instagram of the past
one of the oldest Greetings from Bombay postcards printed by DM Macropolo, Kolkata (1900). People wrote messages using the white space left on the front, unlike how it is with postcards available today. Pics Courtesy/The Alkazi Collection of Photography, Omar khan collection

A world where responses to the messages you send aren't instantaneous seems like a post-apocalyptic outcome. So, when you come across an exhibition that gives you a peek into the workings of a past where access to communication was a lot harder, one cannot help but wonder, what exactly is the saving grace?

A coloured half-tone print of the entrance of the Elephanta caves by Raphael Tuck and Sons
A coloured half-tone print of the entrance of the Elephanta caves by Raphael Tuck and Sons

When Omar Khan, chief technology officer at a software firm in the United States, saw postcards being exhibited in San Francisco, he was overwhelmed by their aesthetic appeal.

A peek into the Victoria gardens, Byculla by Raphael Tuck and Sons, 1905, incorporates a wide range of colours
A peek into the Victoria gardens, Byculla by Raphael Tuck and Sons, 1905, incorporates a wide range of colours 

He soon began collecting and the reasons for his fascination multiplied when he placed them in the context of history and culture. Khan is now co-curating an exhibition in the city called Paper Jewels: Postcards from the Raj at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum — a collection of postcards from the 18th century depicting Bombay's monuments.

Malabar Point, published by GBV Ghoni, is a court-sized postcard that offers a view of the sea (1900)
Malabar Point, published by GBV Ghoni, is a court-sized postcard that offers a view of the sea (1900)

"It was a cosmopolitan city. Raphael Tuck and Sons were the biggest British publishing company with more than 500 prints of India. And approximately 100 of these prints were of Bombay alone. In addition, they were witness to some of the best works by MV Dhurandhar [whose works are also exhibited alongside Khan's collection], one of the greatest postcard artists," he says.

The Bombay General Post Office
The Bombay General Post Office

According to Khan, postcards opened the doors to imagination and documentation — making their mark in not only a visual but a literary space.

Omar Khan
Omar Khan

He explains, "They often came in colour, so it was the Instagram of their time. You were sitting here in India and on receiving a postcard, you entered a new world. It became a revelation of sorts."

Till: October 1, 10 am to 6 pm
At: The Kamalnayan Bajaj Special Exhibitions Gallery, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla East.
Call: 23731234

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