For Satyam Acharya from Margao in Goa, lockdown gave an opportunity to bond with his father over preparing tea and breakfast; he would paint while his father made lunch and dinner. Satyam is Lonely Resident#3 in artist Kedar Dhondu’s unique online project ‘Lonely Residents’.
Kedar, who teaches at Goan College of Art had studied in Sarojini Naidu School of Art and Communication in Hyderabad and lived in the city for six years. Presently based in Goa, the artist was to travel to Milan for an exhibition scheduled in April (now postponed) and used to regularly check the news for updates. “When the pandemic reached Italy after China, many myths were floating around that the virus cannot survive in a hot country like India. But, when the situation changed and the lockdown was first announced in March here, there were fear and anxieties. We were not able to accept this isolation and wondered if we will survive,” he says.
People stuck at homes, their lives and experiences during the lockdown became a subject for Kedar. “We love to go out, meet friends, relatives or just travel as it relaxes us. Suddenly, we became lonely residents without any contact with the outside world. We were locked inside our own homes and the isolation was hard to digest,” he says on how he devised his project. “I wanted to discover people, study their lives and how they have been adapting to the new lifestyle in lockdown. I also wanted to share through these images that staying home is not boring; one’s house is not a limited space and one can do a lot even from their homes,” he adds.
‘Lonely Residents’ project on his Instagram account (kedar_dhondu) invited people at homes to send their close-up image with a few lines of how they have been spending time. The only requirement was to send a photo looking directly into the camera. “I wanted viewers to interact with the image and look into their lives.” Initially, he got six entries from Goa and later, from Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Odisha and later from London and New York too.
Out of all the submissions, Kedar made 35 drawings, uploaded them on his Facebook and Instagram accounts and also tagged the people who sent him.
For Bengaluru-based Raj Naik, ‘Lonely Resident # 5’, the lockdown experience was ‘bitter’. Kedar’s sketch shows a grim-faced man standing near his computer table at home; The front door is open with a pair of slippers near the door.
Raj had travelled to South Africa for work and returned to India just two days before the Indian government banned international flights. He had to quarantine himself in his apartment while his wife and a three-year-old daughter stayed at a relative’s place. Says Kedar, “The quarantine period was a real worry for him. He hid from neighbours so that they did not panic, but his wife told him that everyone in the neighbourhood was talking about how someone is quarantined in House No. 207 and that they have to stay away from him. His neighbour on the ground floor shifted to another place. So Raj couldn’t sleep well during the initial days, especially after watching videos of people dying due to COVID-19. Only his office work kept him engaged and calls from friends and family members eased his worry.”
Kedar hopes to colour the drawings and exhibit them at a gallery.