Mulkh Teri / Tell me where you live 2013, digital album, 39 minutes
The residents of the village of Gunehr, Himachal Pradesh opened a number of shops in anticipation of a tourism boom in the early 2000s. Not many years later, the highways in the region shifted, and Gunehr and its market got left behind as traffic began to be diverted through other towns. In 2013 the Shop Art / Art Shop residency invited 12 artists from Asia to work out of these unused shop buildings and explore guest-host relationships in the region. In the context of this residency, Mulkh Teri attempted to dwell in a place where borders are porous and people come in search of things that are often unfindable.
Ansh Communications (also Awaaz ki Dukaan), where I worked, has within its cassette collection an anonymous tape recording of a woman singing to a person named Nilli. This recording became an object of interest during my stay in Gunehr. Approaching residents who would pass by the store, I tried to find out who might have sang this song and who they were singing about. Everyone had a different opinion. Gunehr is at the cusp of many worlds between the forests of upper Himachal Pradesh and the markets of the Punjab plains. Between nomads and traders, tourists and Tibetans, the village extends much beyond its geographic location. And just as Nilli's song is one about searching, our conversations searched for the coordinates of the mulkh (from Urdu mulk: realm, kingdom) that is Gunehr. After three weeks of recording songs and conversations with residents, I invited singers and musicians to compose new lyrics to the song. We performed a new song for Nilli together. Some of the musicians hadn't played together in a decade. We held listening sessions on the roof of the shop.