My Uncle Tukka

by Swastik Pal



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Returning home after a brief walk near the house.

When I was seven, my uncle was in his late twenties. Today I am twenty and he in his late forties; it’s been a long journey of twenty years. This project, if at all I can call it a project is a tribute to my uncle. This is a very personal project.

My uncle lost his hearing and speaking ability at a very tender age due to medical negligence and financial incapability of his family at that time. Years of social isolation led to his unstable mental condition as well. Though many can be held responsible for his state, to begin with the family itself, the social attitude towards the disabled and many more. In my work here, I do not tend to blame anyone, find reason or talk of any social issue related to his situation.

This is my personal tribute to a man, a human being who continues to live in utmost silence for more than four decades now. This is just about him, the way he is, with all his perfections and imperfections. One life, one room and how he passes one day at a time. His world clock perhaps is very slow, silent and very different from our competitive world clock. This is his own little space, a room of 10×10, his own and only world.

I wanted to be a voice, perhaps his response to the way he perceives the world. His waking up to the morning sun, his little luncheon, his fear of the dark, his frustrations, his pain, his little world of amusement and also his dreams perhaps. Maybe these are my desperate wish and hope to give his practically non-existent life a befitting tribute. He continues to live with me and my family, a silent presence amongst us.

Editor’s Note – Antonio Marques

Of the essays that we receive for consideration, some make me think more than others. It’s normal, I guess – different subjects, different representations, different moods affect us differently. My Uncle Tukka by Swastik Pal was one that had me staring at the images for an abnormally long period. It’s a story like thousands of others, but reminded me again of the human condition, of the fine line between normality (or perceived normality) and entrapment in a world that I can’t even pretend I could begin to describe. I see the subject, I discern the emotions, I see how they play in the images, but I can’t explain the person.

After the first review, I thought that eliminating a few  of the images from the essay would make it stronger – visually, I still think that way. But the story would lose something. Each image is a fragment of time that gives us something more, a fleeting moment that describes so little, and yet so much. I don’t think it’s my place to cut down on this story.

I’ve also tried to place myself in the shoes of the photographer – creating such a project and developing it into a story with an unfamiliar subject is hard, but creating it with/about a subject that is such a relevant part of the photographer’s life requires more than just photographic proficiency, it requires courage.

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About Swastik Pal
Born in 1991, Swastik Pal is a graduate from Calcutta University, India. He is currently pursuing Post Graduation in Mass Communication from Jadavpur University, Calcutta. He is keenly interested in documentary photography. Presently he is an independent photographer based in Calcutta, working on long term projects. His works have been awarded by the Royal Commonwealth Society, London and Media Foundation India, National Press Photo Contest, 2012.

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  • soumyadeep mondal

    one word – awesome 🙂