Subhash Sharma is a freelance photographer based in Mumbai, who frequently chooses his own photo stories rather than those handed over to him by editors. An admirer of the works of Ernst Haas, Andre Kersetz, and Sebastiao Salgado, he's primarily interested in photographing ordinary people in their daily environment and circumstances. His first book titled “Digital Glimpses Of India” was well received, and his forthcoming book “ The Land Of The Holymen “ is currently under print and explores the lifestyle of the Naga Sadhus (naked aescetics) of India.
For this week's One Shot feature, I chose Subhash's sobering photograph of Maina Bai, a Jain in the process of committing the act of Santhara. This is a procedure in which a Jain stops eating with the intention of preparing for death. It is differentiated from suicide as it is not done in an emotional state of mind, but is undertaken only when the body is no more capable of serving its owner as a instrument of sprituality and when inevitability of death is a matter of undisputed certainty.
Subhash tells me that Maina succumbed after 25 days of Santhara. She felt guilty that it was taking so long for her to die as her guru and disciples had to wait. He was witness to Maina's final days, and was awed by the certainty in her decision.
There's an ethical debate in India concerning the legality of Santhara. In India, euthanasia is banned and suicide is a crime, but proponents of Santhara argue that it cannot be termed as suicide... the persons who undertake it do so with an open mind and conscious thought, and it's part of the Jain religion and customs, traditions and rituals are protected by India's constitutional guarantees.
Subhash's other photographs on Bishnois, Jainism, Pushkar, Indian Islam, the festivals of Kumbh Mela, Holi and Dahi Handi can be seen in his Photoshelter Galleries