Different Faces From Different Places By Mukul Bhatia
Can you tell us about your deep yearning to travel and live your life in the shoes of others, especially those who are lost amidst conflict?
I was always a shy kid, and grew up in a safe city environment. I’d dream of distant lands, folklores, and newer ways of living through the books I read. I think it was then that the romantic in me grew, and as I got older, I simply followed my curiosity and love for this planet, and documented the process. Personally, I think challenges and conflicts are beautiful. I see the world in a 16:9 ratio, like a Wes Anderson movie. Every subject of mine has a quirk. I love this fight of not giving in to the status quo and making a mark, however big or small that is. I truly admire, and learn a lot from my subjects and their struggles.
What was the transition from being a war-photojournalist to travelling around the world by yourself like?
Being at war taught me the real value of kindness, intimacy and compassion. Being a brown-skinned solo traveller across the remotest parts of the globe taught me how to practically use skills I learnt on the war field. There were so many experiences of being totally alone in places so different from anything like home in every way. But there was always a stranger who guided me to the right track.
In what way does fashion influence culture?
It has always played an important role in ancient and modern cultures, and helps distinguish identity, be it the tribes in Africa or fighters of our very own Independence movement that used khadi or Jimi Hendrix, who wore kimonos made out of heritage African prints. I learnt how we are what we represent, and we represent what we value by what we wear.
What’s the most profound learning you’ve acquired from your journeys till now?
To be effortless, kind and compassionate. The world really is a small village and the only way to be out there, and really act on your dreams is by trusting. I’ve seen some phenomenal interactions of kindness with humanity in places where I would never imagine help was available, and I actually thrived. This project made me more responsible, taught me to be a better human, and fearlessly fall in love with this crazy tribe called humanity, over and over again.
Can you recount some of the most memorable subjects you’ve lived and worked with for your visual anthropology, Nomadic Origins?
Living with the Hmong tribes in the Tonkinese Alps in Northern Vietnam in this little anonymous mountain village, where they practice shamanism, I used to wake up to clouds in my room, in this faraway, dreamy place. I had very little in common with them, but in no time, we had so much to share, despite the language barrier. It was then that I learnt about the mysteries and magic of nature, and how getting closer to it is the most rewarding.
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