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POWER OF THE INNOCENT ICE LOLLY

“Villagers Visiting Jodhpur Enjoy Ice Sweets, Rajasthan” (1978) forms part of the body of work by Raghubir Singh that is believed to hold up a mirror to India.

This particular image stands out for having captured the introduction of the ice lolly, a cultural artefact typically associated with the West, into an unmistakably Indian setting – a huddle of rural men settled on the ground, their lean appearance suggesting occupation at farms or as part of the day labour force.

The heaviness of their serious and steady gaze makes for an unusual accompaniment to the ice popsicle, which otherwise finds itself more commonly associated with the beaming faces of children on summer holiday.

Therefore, despite the presence of the joyous summer treat, what the onlooker takes away from this scene are not ideas of momentary boredom and easy fun, but the less light-hearted concepts of lifestyle fatigue and the brief intervals of relief.

It is a credit to the photographer for taking a more challenging interpretive route to framing the ice lolly, rather than simply resorting to apredictable visual of Indian children indulging in the sweet.