KOCHI: Photographer Biju Ibrahim may be a nomad. He travels far and wide to place himself amid his favourite subject — the extraordinary common man. After concluding his series on the lives and spaces of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, he decided to make a visual narrative of the Qutb Shahi Mohallas in Hyderabad.
“I usually stay at the places I’m planning to explore for at least a year. When I got invited to explore and record the Sufi culture in the 40 odd Qutb Shahi Mohallas, I was planning to do the same,” says Biju. He travelled to Hyderabad in December 2019. “I was going to stay as long as I needed to grasp the grandeur of this historic region that is sprawling with Persian-influences and Indo- Muslim architecture. But the pandemic forced me to return to Kerala,” adds Biju.
Biju spent around three months blending in with the local people. The long, unwinding pathways filled with mosques, dargas, gurudwaras and temples remind you of the essence of a secular India we all dream of, he says. From early morning pilgrims to laymen getting lost in newspapers, to historic lanes and the stained backdrop of a butcher’s shop found a place in Biju’s collection — a real picture of what keeps the Mohallas abuzz.
“There, you can feel traces of past in every corner and wall — be it wonders like Golconda miniature paintings, the beautiful minars or the local Urudu which has a peculiar ring to it,” he says. Biju’s photographs are a testimony to the cultural diversity of India, a utopia that is being repressed and overlooked in contemporary nationalism.
“These mohallas are known for their Shia-Sufi cultural mix. They are the remnants of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of the early 16th century (1512 to 1687). During my time there, I visited each Mohalla at least seven to eight times. First, to study architecture and then to learn the lifestyle and archaeological remnants. I have to visit again to complete the project,” says Biju.
The lensman has already clicked thousands of pictures during his short stay. Of the lot, 15 are now on display at Lokame Tharavadu contemporary art exhibition in Alappuzha.