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Distributed for Seagull Books

The Second Wave

Reflections on the Pandemic through Photography, Performance and Public Culture

Distributed for Seagull Books

The Second Wave

Reflections on the Pandemic through Photography, Performance and Public Culture

Lessons in resilience in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.

Focusing on the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India between April and December 2021, Rustom Bharucha’s timely essay reflects on four interconnected realities that haunted this ongoing crisis—death, grief, mourning, and extinction. How do we cope with multiple deaths and the dislocation of rituals when the act of mourning is either postponed or denied? What roles do political surveillance, censorship, the regulation of lockdowns, and the sheer indifference to the lives of people play in the containment of civil liberties? Through vivid examples of photography, theater, dance, visual arts, and the cultures of everyday life, this meditative essay illuminates both the horror of the pandemic as well as its unexpected intimacies and revelations of shared suffering. Against the destruction of nature and the disrespect for the nonhuman, The Second Wave offers lessons in resilience through its reflections on the ethos of waiting and the need to re-envision breath as a vital resource of self-renewal and resistance.

250 pages | 10 color plates | 6 x 9 | © 2022

The India List

Culture Studies

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"An extraordinarily thoughtful meditation on the depiction of illness, death and displacement, the expression of loss and grief, and the possible positive potential of the pandemic experience for the future."


"The Second Wave is an unsettling read, deeply personal yet universal, horrifying yet infusing hope in the many acts of self-renewal and resistance during the pandemic. It is a book that merits multiple readings."


"The Second Wave is an intellectual tour de force of contemplation on the depredations and consequences of the pandemic in India."

The Statesman

"Rustom Bharucha brings a poet's attentiveness and a lapidarist’s precision to his analysis of an unforeseen time and India's response to the Covid-induced pandemic."

Jerry Pinto, author of The Education of Yuri

Table of Contents

1. Photography in the Pandemic
Censoring the pandemic
The Long March
Problematizing duration
Representing Jamlo
Ethics of crying
In the eyes of the law
2. No time to Mourn
Symptoms of grief
The Case of Ram Pukar Pandit
Living with the dead
Performing mourning: life and art
“Artistic” mourning practices
“Rudali”: mourning as survival
“Walk”: mourning as resistance
Mourning: performed or real?
3. Endings/Beginnings
On the Cusp of Multiple Times
Hiroshima museumized: aporias of peace
The ethos of waiting
Reclaiming the vitality of the body
Stillness in movement
Breath, breathlessness, and combat breathing

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