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Searching for Solitude in South India

This summer, I visited South India for the first time since my grandfather died nearly two years ago. A familiar space had suddenly become unfamiliar, and I searched for serenity, devotion, and solitude in a city where privacy is scarce.

I returned to South India in the summer of 2015 after not visiting for a couple of years. It was my first time in the country after my grandfather passed away. I spent three weeks there, visiting the streets of Chennai in Tamil Nadu and the hills of Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, navigating a familiar space that had suddenly become unfamiliar, a place now tinged with loss and a sense of forlornness. I wanted to be alone and understand my feelings in an uninterrupted fashion, but I was anything but isolated. With a population of 1.1 billion, India has three times as many residents as the United States, yet its land mass is a third of the size. Every turn I took I found a person, a group of people, a child, a cow.

I documented my trip in photos, and in retrospect I realize I was looking to capture moments of real solitude. I wanted to know if it's even possible to feel alone in a country with such limited privacy and personal space, where alone often means alone, together. I was searching for serenity, devotion, a connection to someone or something. In a country that at once feels both part of my identity and part of a past I can't resurrect, I forced myself to look within the chaos.

For more of Shriya's work, visit her website here.