Sometime in January 2016, I landed at the People’s Free Reading Room & Library; Dhobi Talao, on my friend Jerry Pinto’s invitation. Jerry had only recently joined the board there as a trustee and this seemed to open an access door for me. “Can I come and photograph?” I had asked as we sat at Kitab Khana when he told me of this new development in his life. “Sure,” he had said and that’s how simply it had all begun.
Every time I visited (which initially was many times in a week followed by a period of long absence and then again, buoyed by a sudden surge of enthusiasm, for a few months only to be interrupted again with my usual monsoon-time commute lethargy) I would find Jerry, immersed in thought, surrounded by small hillocks of books – books of pulp literature, cloth and leather bound books, books that could be discarded, books that, perhaps, merited a second look, and also books which he had kept aside to read himself. There would also, some days, be a pile kept aside with me in mind – books which, not necessarily, always held drama in its words but which had beautiful line illustrations, colour plates, interesting colophons, typography, gold embossed cover art, maps etc.
At the end of each day we would all have palms covered in fine grey dust to show for our efforts. And a few pictures to show that we didn’t just have fun but also worked.
‘IN THE CITY, A LIBRARY’, a collaborative effort with Jerry and Vedika Singhania, opens in Bombay on March 9th, 2017 at 7 p.m. at Project 88 as part of the line-up of the latest edition of the Focus Photography Festival.