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From America, With Love

An exhibition brings in the personal through archived photos of famous personalities from the US and India.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at a spinning wheel in Delhi.

Images of a bare-chested Mahatma Gandhi, dressed in a loincloth, sitting beside the charkha, has represented his sentiment of Swadeshi in history books for decades. But a new face behind the wheel, former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, seated on the ground in her black dress and hat during her visit to Delhi in February 1952, takes viewers by surprise at the gallery in American Center. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore holding American activist Helen Keller’s hand during New History Society’s meeting at New York in 1930 is another gem that features in the photo exhibition ‘Celebrating 70 Years of US-India Relations’, which documents the relationship between the two countries since the 1950s. Keller’s visit to India in 1955 is also captured in the exhibit, where she is seen mapping the face of a Sikh at the English Speaking Union, Calcutta, and was called “America’s gift to India” by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The reason can be traced to the impact her arrival on Indian soil had on Indian organisations working for the blind.

With over 100 photographs sourced from the US embassy archives and news agencies like Associated Press, top leaders and renowned personalities from both the countries can be seen engaging in activities spanning fields of arts, culture, science and technology. American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr is seen removing his shoes before entering Gandhi’s memorial in Delhi in 1959. Famed cartoonist Walt Disney gives India’s second President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan a tour of Disneyland in California in another frame.

Sarah Ziebell, US Embassy’s Regional Public Engagement Specialist, says, “These images are more about the friendship between both the countries at a personal level. It is helping us remember how much we have in common.” Many photographs of ace photographer Avinash Pasricha, who served as the photo editor of SPAN — now a bi-monthly magazine celebrating India-US relations — from 1960 onwards, make their way into the exhibition. Having covered official visits of four Indian prime ministers to the US, the 82-year-old photographer says, “In the early days of print photography, for instance, when I photographed Nehru and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the steps of Rashtrapati Bhavan (in 1962), I would find a way to make them stop there and they would happily agree to pose. But nowadays, photographers are put 50 feet away from the leaders, so one has to use photo lenses, except for two VIP photographers who are allowed to come close.”

The iconic visit of former US President Barack Obama to India in 2010 is marked by him greeting students at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai in a White House photograph captured by Pete Souza. Serving as an apt exit point to the show to depict the height of this friendship between India and the US is a 2016 image of New York’s Times Square flooded with yoga enthusiasts at the all-day free yoga event ‘Mind Over Madness Yoga’.

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The exhibition is at American Center, 24, KG Marg, Delhi, till August 14

First published on: 23-07-2018 at 00:15 IST
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