Travel: Books

River of Colour: The India of Raghubir Singh

(Phaidon Press, pounds 35)

This is possibly the best guide to India that you could find. The least convenient and practical - it hardly fits snugly under the arm, let alone in the pocket, and gives no directions on how to get places, where to stay or how much it will cost - but River of Colour plunges you into the midst of this immense, multi-faceted nation and will leave you with a hunger for exploration that best serves the true traveller.

Raghubir Singh has been photographing his country for 30 years; the 130 pictures that make up this book call upon his journeys over those three decades, moving from mountain to plain, river to city, festival to private home; from north to south, west to east. He works always in colour, and in an opening essay lays claim to the "emotional plunge" of colour as peculiarly Indian: "Indians know colour through intuition, while the West tries to know it through the mind." Looking through these pages, it is easy to agree: stretches of ferric-red earth, open casts of river that throw back the sky's multitudinous hues of blue, lilac, grey, even, refuse to just quietly be. Instead they conspire with the sun-splashed yellow and marigold orange of a guru's garland; or the pea-green of a young boy's shirt; or the plastic scarlet of a mirror's frame on a market stall. The result is a dazzling array of life in all its fullness.

As with all great art, and Singh's pictures can be counted in these ranks, great craft lies behind these images. Take a photograph of a busy, chaotic scene and you will produce a chaotic picture; not Singh. He captures the bustle, the disorder, but is constantly directing the viewer's eye, so that we navigate the photograph from one element to another and life unfolds at its own pace within the frozen moment. He is a worthy successor to Cartier-Bresson, one of his heroes.

This is not a book that makes an inventory or catalogue of a country. Like the elephant that walks into a photograph of a man cleaning his bicycle, the implication is India cannot be so neatly contained. Religion, history, politics and pop culture all make vibrant contributions, sometimes creating bizarre juxtapositions: a barber's hands echo a statue of the multi-limbed goddess Kali; an imperial lion outside the Victoria Terminus, Mumbai, is apparently trapped in a market-trader's butterfly net. There are only a few notes to these photographs. One explains that the Dikshitar Brahmins do not believe in educating their daughters. It leaves you wondering about the slightly listless expression of the two girls pictured. Here, as elsewhere, River of Colour raises more questions than it answers - which is just as it should be.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine