Fenced, but not in soul

Fenced, but not in soul

Most tragic event in modern history of Indian sub-continent, year 1947, is a blotched epoch that forever divided communities across India and Pakistan.


The Indo-Pakistan region has always fascinated me. While I have been able to explore many border locations within India but I remain desirous of traveling in Pakistan to explore our roots of which I have only heard stories. Who knows when this dream shall get realized but there is one man (Salman Rashid) whose travelogues from Pakistan, I admire and follow closely. His blog is a treasure cove and every time I read him, it transports me right to the place.


Salman’s recent blog post on Madho Singh reminded me of my journey in the Thar desert of Jaisalmer, where I tried my best to get close to the Indo-Pakistan border to explore the undisturbed desert dunes. However, militarization of the 20Km desert land makes it impossible to get anywhere close to the line dividing the two countries.



Photo : Fenced desert border.

It is though fascinating that borders did not matter prior to 1947.

Reading about Madho Singh, to me it was not about outlawness of Madho Singh but the freedom with which he could move across two nations. In photographing the local desert tribesmen living in Thar desert, close to Indo-Pakistan border, I could imagine the freedom with which their previous generation could sail across, not barred by narrow divisions created by unfortunate politics. I share below photographs of local Thar desert tribe in Jaisalmer area and the excerpt on Madho Singh from Salman’s blog.


“Madho Singh (aka Jagmaal Singh) of the clan Rathore was a native of Bikaner and one of the three sons of a Thakur who held two villages as jagir. One day the Thakur was rudely put down by a neighbour whose cattle were grazing in the Thakur’s fields. The incident much distressed young Madho Singh and catching the offender at a lonely spot did him in with his steel-tipped staff. The long arm of the law reached out and Madho Singh became a fugitive.

Moving to Jaisalmir, the man fell in with a gang of petty thugs who terrorised local traders to collect a daily stipend.

……. That was a time when there were no border fences or ditches and the gang began to make plundering forays into India. But crime, they say, never pays.

……. Once again they began to operate across the border and in a few short months Madho Singh or Jagmaal became a byword for terror. Rajput mothers would get unruly children back in line with a whispered, ‘Jagmaal ayo ray!’ By 1963, so legend relates, Madho Singh was wanted in one hundred and thirty-five cases in India.

……. Indian government even requested Pakistan Air Force to flush the man out, but the outlaws could not be caught.

……. When the dust settled, Madho brought the hapless Bhoor Singh to the very spot where many years earlier Krishen Singh had breathed his last. There, telling him that he was to pay for that long ago death, Madho Singh needlessly did the poor man in. Not long afterwards, Madho Singh was shot in the arm and he and his gang taken into custody. But there were no cases against the lot under Pakistan’s law; they were held to be repatriated to India as her citizens. But Madho who had already sent his wife and two sons to India, refused to go. Caught in the byzantine corridors of bureaucracy, Madho Singh and his gang remained in custody for fourteen years without trial or conviction. Abid Minto, the renowned human rights lawyer, took the case to the high court and in 1978 secured the gang’s release. Madho Singh and his associates Moolji, Pannay Singh and Gopi Singh were free once again. Now they were also were granted Pakistani citizenship.

……. In 1983 Madho Singh, tall, slim and erect with little subtracted from his proud Rajput countenance, passed away.

……. Upon his deathbed, it is told, Thakur Madho Singh Rathore extracted a promise from his three accomplices: to forever be law-abiding citizens of Pakistan and to remain unflinchingly loyal to Lal Mian Abbasi and his family for taking them in when no other would. The word was kept until Moolji, the last of them, passed away in 1999. But for this family of the Abbasi clan and a few elderly people in Bijnot, Madho Jagmaal Singh fades from memory. And so I tell this story not to glorify an outlaw and murderer but to preserve a part of history that will never make it to the books and will by and by be forever lost.”



Photo : Thar desert tribe.

 bPhoto : Thar desert tribe

cPhoto : Thar desert tribe.

dPhoto : Thar desert tribe.

 ePhoto : Thar desert tribe.

 fPhoto : Thar desert tribe.

 gPhoto : Thar desert tribe.

 hPhoto : Thar desert tribe.

 iPhoto : Thar desert tribe.


jPhoto : Thar desert tribe.


  1. Ritu Sharma

    The luminous effect in your photos make even a simple daily life moment , so captivating!

  2. Geetali

    I am running out of adjectives to describe your work. Each image of yours is etched with your sensitivity and empathy. Can only thank you for letting your viewers see the world through your eyes.

  3. Manpreet Dhindsa Sahota

    Stunning !! All of them.

  4. Troy Harris

    oh i like these!

  5. Arshia Malik


  6. Vir Kashmiri

    …………..shared with thanks……

  7. Shailesh Lal

    Superb photos. Do share more of Thar pics if you can

  8. Raj Mehta

    Amardeep is that rare combo of a journo-photographer who’s work leaves the viewer stunned and unable to decide what he is better at…photography that reaches out to you or his words that do as much if not more…This guy is Raghu Rai plus plus.

  9. Rekhi

    You could consider taking pictures at the Wagah Border……

  10. Srikanth

    I’m at a loss for words. Can’t begin to describe the stunning visual beauty of your work.


  11. Karamjeet Singh

    Very captivating story of a tribal clan across the border of India-Pakistan.The pictures are beautiful and rightly connects to the life style these desert people live.In a way traditions are changing with education and technology,yet as photo journalist you have recorded their images at a given time,with a story of Madho Singh in support.Nice work indeed!!.I saw the movie’Reshma Aur Shera’ (1970)that connects to your story somewhat.Good work,Amardeep,keep going…

  12. Arjit Mahal

    Dear Amardeep: Art, any pure art really comes from from some spiritual connection within. I am convinced, you have it and your are unique. Best wishes always

  13. Rajinder Modgil

    Dear Amardeep,

    I was really touched to the core of my soul by the narrative of Madho Singh.

    It is a rare thing for an artist – Photographer to be a moving writer too. I request you to write your travelogues in the shape of books along with your photographs.

  14. Kishore kumar Biswas

    Is it a story ? Is it a torn and soiled pages of ” history ” ? Perhaps it the both. History of us is about the kings and emperors , battles and wars , pomp and glory . It rarely tells the ” story ” of Life that humbly flows for ages with tears and smiles , in harmony with the world. The kingdoms , the states , the ” boundaries ” are created , changed and gone to ashes. But that common ordinary ” life” never ceases to throb all over the world. The true ” civilization ” of human being flows on with them .
    ” Madho Singh ” or his ” clan ” belongs to that ” ordinary ” life that has ” soul “. They keep the world ” human ” more than our glossy lifeless mechanical life . Their ” story ” is the true ” history” of human kind .
    Amardeep with his compassion to human kind brings to us the ” essence ” of human life in this series of photograph. It touches our soul. We see the glory and color of ” ordinary ” life to which we generally remain indifferent. We realize we miss a lot about the world and human society.

  15. Charu

    The cover photo is mindbogglingly mesmerising- to me it depicts the beautiful juxtaposition brought about between the fluidity of the sky and the sand plus the solid stability of two strong beings within it.

  16. Shashank Sharan

    Great work! I don’t know how you do it.

  17. Jitender Pal Singh

    In the history of MIT(Manipal)batch of 1986 had 13 Turban Sikhs boys in a single batch -Amardeep & myself were a parcel of the same batch.4 yrs of our graduation passed away like a hurricane.After graduation all of us spearheaded in our respective fields.His job took him to Countries & Continents thus increasing his appetite & passion for photography.In fulfilling his passion ADS quit his cushy job of President with American Express Cards & started wandering in bewilderness from the sand dunes to the Leh Ladakhs’ & even higher. Hats off to you ADS!!!!!! & Long live our FRIENDSHIP>>>>>>>>

  18. Surupa Chatterjee

    Thanks for the story that transcends two countries and of course the stunning visuals…each frame is so enriched with romance and beauty of the landscape, colors and the people…and the expressions they hold with untold stories….

  19. Gurvinder Gumani

    You have depicted the version of the true story of a Rajput character in a very interesting manner supported by superb photographs. Thanks for sharing

  20. jasmeet

    you so successfully manage to make a haunting widerness and huge expanse of land so beautiful and captivating….what clarity..what a choice of lens, angle and what a play with light.
    Thanx for sharing madho singh and telling us about salman rashid. So many have us have a connect with 1947…..

  21. Nice write up and beautiful pictures

  22. Gurpreet Singh Anand

    wonderful work behind the camera …a great capture each one ..On another reminder of Our Vichoda From Our Ancestral Lands since 1947 …

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