How a small farm in Gujarat became curator Siddhartha V Shah’s sanctuary
He tells us why it’s his spiritual home
There is a pristine farm in the village of Pardi in south Gujarat that has belonged to my relatives for nearly fourteen generations.
The farm in Pardi, Gujarat
My mother went there as a child, as did her mother, and many ancestors before her, and we all share memories of its incomparable beauty and palpable power. I was born and raised in the US, and our annual trips to India were always filled with social visits in and around Baroda, which I often found exhausting. But whenever we travelled to this farm, I felt instantly connected to the land, to my ancestors, and to a way of life so very different from my own.
As a product of the Indian diaspora, I have a very disjointed sense of home: I belong neither here nor there, always somehow different and out of place. But to watch the mango trees on this land transition from flower-laden to fruit-bearing, to feel the sweltering heat rise and finally break when the rains come, and to watch the sun rise over a vast field of lush orchards and palms has always helped me feel that I am a part of this land and its vibrant ecosystem, as well as a larger collective identity.
I have lived in many places throughout my life. And while I am grateful for what they have taught me, they have not helped me feel any greater sense of belonging. This farm in Pardi always embraces my spirit as a welcomed guest and a longed-for friend.
SIDDHARTHA V. SHAH is the curator of Indian and South Asian Art, Peabody Essex Museum.
Photographs: Bob Packert (Siddhartha V. Shah), Aditya Shroff