Riding Solo A Legend – A Tribute To Gaurav Jani

It’s funny what friends can tell you. In 2009, Birendra Nahata told me about Gaurav Jani who travelled solo on his motorbike who he called “Loner” all the way from New Delhi to the Changthan valley in Ladakh. Biren handed me a DVD of the film aptly titled “Riding Solo to Top Of The World” and told me to watch it as soon as I could. Which I Did. 11 years later this morning, I chanced upon the poster of Gaurav’s film again on Radhesh Kaushik’s instagram story. Fond memories erupted and I started watching the film again on Youtube, when as a matter of habit, I scrolled down to the comments section. I was numbed when I read that Gaurav passed away in May this year.

Screenshot 2020-08-11 at 4.33.29 PM

We look for role models in life and tend to find them in our parents, grandparents, writers, artists, actors, athletes and in a rare case in politicians as well. But almost all the time, there is this one person who fills a void in the list – the void that must define the meaning of passion. This is where Gaurav Jani fits the bill for me. I never met him, infact I dont know anything about him and yet his entire act – right from mounting his luggage on to the bike in the first frame to the last frame where he rides away from our gaze is a lesson in how experiences can be life altering, not only for the one who endures it, but even for those who get to sense them irrespective of the source. For the faithfuls of the film like me, the visuals stay in memory not only in their primordial form, but also as a moment of motivation, to think that there was another person who faced an event in life and overcame it with their inherent qualities and acquired capabilities. There is resultant exhilaration, that pushes the self to realise a passion so preciously stoked in the deepest corners of our being.

For me Riding Solo is the epitome of travel documentaries. It transcends the confines of being called a documentary film. And deep down somewhere I want it to be like that. There should never be another like this one. The first two minutes of the movie hooked me to the entire running duration of almost 96 minutes. And over the years it has hooked many who’ve got the chance to see this classic. The film is a philosophy, an act of discovery of the self as Gaurav travels to the deepest corners of the Changthan valley in Ladakh. Places like Hemis and PangGongSo which are destinations for travellers like me, for him, are just milestones en route his great one man ride. 

I share with you this original soundtrack which was the mark of Riding Solo. The credits o this are entire to Mr. Ved Nair. It has played itself in my head numerous times as and when I travelled and was my phone ring tone for the longest time. I hope Gaurav whistled it as he made his final journey. 

Screenshot 2020-08-11 at 4.21.40 PM

I find it important to mention the fact that the film won the award for The Best Non Feature Film at the 53rd National Film Awards.   

Ruskin

May 19th marks the 86th birthday of Ruskin Bond. He is often described as India’s most loved author even as he has been writing fiction and non fiction for over 60 years. Ruskin Bond’s repertoire as a writer glorifies the art of writing – by his own admission in a televised interview he described himself as a writer inspired by his own life. Bond has written short stories, novels, novellas, essays, travelogues etc that have been published and republished and the reader has so often re read these over and over.

A few years back, Ruskin Bond published his autobiography called Lone Fox Dancing. As usual for all Ruskin fans, the book is a delight and was lapped up to know more about this ever so loveable man nestled in the hills of Mussoorie. I picked the book as a fan, and as i progressed reading about Ruskin and his life, I began to marvel at the man himself.

Today on his birthday, I am thinking about Ruskin as a child. At the age of 8, his parents separated and Ruskin started to live with his father in Delhi. Ruskin described this as a time of solitude – time when he was left to his own devices except weekends when his father would spend time with him. Reading about his time with his father, I thought of my time with my father; though the relationship that we respectively had with our fathers was perhaps very different. I assume he had a more informal relationship with his. At the age of 11, when Ruskin was in boarding school his father passed away. He was told by his principal. And ever since he built his life on his own. He moved to other boarding schools and took to reading & then writing his first short story at 16. A couple of years later his first book, A Room On The Roof was published and awarded the John Rhys Award for Writers under 30.

I assume that there isn’t a day when Ruskin doesn’t think of his father. There is not a day when I don’t think of mine. How can one not. For fathers often are that one mark of a person that a child wants to be. It’s a brooding aspiration – to be the silent wall, who stands behind like a rock & never sheds a tear. The father is the vision, he is supposed to set sights firmly on the future and guide the child with firm hands on their shoulders. Ruskin’s father did that perhaps, when he told Ruskin to read as many books as he could, took him to bazaars and cinemas. I imagine that he used to tell Ruskin that he would be alone for the weekdays when his father went to the office and that Ruskin should take care of himself as he was a big boy! And Ruskin would have believed him. And once back home, he would have asked Ruskin how his day went and what did he read that day. Later at dinner, he perhaps told Ruskin how his own day went. And at bed time, he would tuck Ruskin in and tell another quick one story from the day, till little Ruskin went off to sleep. Aubrey would then, stand out in the verandah of the big Atul Grove bungalow and perhaps smoke a pipe; or a cigar thinking about his day in actuality, about Edith and his time with her, about the Royal AirForce and WW2 before his thoughts came to rest to little Ruskin sleeping peacefully tucked in. I am sure in his last moments, Aubrey thought of Ruskin and how his life would be once he was gone. Perhaps he took confidence that the boy would do well, for he was shaping into a fine independent boy. A short prayer, if not to the Gods, then to the human spirit must have passed his lips.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake has an episode where Ashoke walks a child Gogol to the end of the wharf. Once they reach the point from where they cannot go further, Ashoke realises that he has forgotten his camera in the car and now they cannot take a photograph. He tells Gogol that now this moment in life would have to remembered as a place from where there was no where else left to go.

Ruskin must have had his moment with his father. And I guess so do all of us.

Happy Birthday Ruskin Bond. Wish you live long.

A Photograph

B5E071DF-9F01-4F5A-9A46-24E36C7C8385Is an immediate memory of an event that has been immortalised by a calculation. The calculation is mental, physical, chemical – all in precision – timely and sometimes imperfect. In the times of chemicals and emulsions that we perhaps now call Alternative,  the calculation was a laborious process; in the digital camera it stands watered down to the mental plus and minus of the frame, the lighting and what can be added or deleted in the post process.

I find the photograph to be a first mile. It is an easy access to a vault of facts, is tangible a and can serve a multitude of purposes – it creates opportunity to document, to discuss, to debate, celebrate or record keeping. The tangibility furthers itself with a print of a moment that one can always touch though the print is fast being replaced or rather has been replaced by the memory bank of the modern day smart phone. But as much as the phone claims to be closer to tangibility, I feel it does not come as close as a print kept inside a book, a journal or a diary.

Ive heard conflicting views about whether a photograph should have text attached with it always. The debate in itself is contextual – it is the prerogative of the photographer to elucidate the photograph with some text. This debate now extends further to the kind of cameras being used, post processing, the photography as a digital art form (modification of the raw file; addition deletion of elements within the same). The photographic ecosystem has evolved itself; more so mutated itself – moving beyond the realm of right and wrong.

Will continue.

 

 

 

 

The Quarantine Roll

In the 20th year of the 2000th century occurred a great illness that forced the world inside their homes. Offices were shut, shops closed, streets emptied as Nations and their governments went about locking their citizens inside their (citizens) homes in a bid to save their lives. Billion’s were hospitalised and by the time it all ended million’s had lost their lives.

More than a billion photos were shot and shared across the world. Instagram and Zoom lunged to become the tools of talking and people actually found time to stick to one conversation for more than 7 minutes; because that was the only way they could hear themselves talk. Phone cameras proved their Godliness as photographers created bibles of phone photography. FaceTime found itself shooting fashion portraits. Everyone wanted to be live and kicking.

I too joined the bandwagon. And worked with my collective recapping our journeys as photographers. We re-saw each other’s work, our own work and rediscovered ourselves in more ways than one. Suddenly in 2020 mortality was awfully clear and a timeline had to be decided in which work had to be done. One day I realised how over the years I had built a small but significant body of work which could be dissected and discussed. Another day I learnt how to retrieve the film leader from a canister using double sided tape. I put 35mm film into my 120 mm camera and shot with a happy heart.

One day I thought my time is limited.

2020 promised to change my life forever. It was a jailbreak.

 

Ghalib

In recent times, there has been none who has touched me like Ghalib. The credit of deepening a cordial relationship to intimacy goes to someone who I admire much. What started as a song that was shared in the most unusual of all platforms, is now an every night conversation with this great poet brought to life by four other masters of their craft – Gulzar, the Late Jagjit Singh (peace be upon his soul), Naseeruddin Shah & finally Tanvi Azmi who were part of its televised version. You can find it on Youtube.

Ghalib lived a life long enough to see some major social and political turns in his lifetime. The mutiny of 1857; the subsequent strengthening of the British empire,, the thinning of bonds between Hindus & Muslims and the last days of the Mughal empire. Personally his life can be described as tragic, losing all his children before they turned 15 months, living a life in penury, struggles of supporting an extended family. But the brilliance never dimmed.

The more I read, see and listen to Ghalib, I draw parallels between him and the Divine Madman Of Bhutan – Drukpa Kunley. Both these fine persons, went about spreading their verse in the most unorthodox manners. However this had no impact on their fame; in fact they only got popular as time went by. There is another important coincidence –  between Ghalib and VanGogh. Both wrote letters; VanGogh to his brother Leo and Ghalib to himself. Both had so much to say. Ghalib, perhaps was lonelier, maybe he felt short of people who could understand his take.  Maybe they did’t take kindly to his excesses. However the letters from these two are now revered texts.

बलसर आ गिरो अबशारग़ालिब में,

बहुत रहे सूखे सूखे अब तक

 

 

 

 

My Ten Most Important Pictures On Instagram

I’m on the cusp of 700 followers on Instagram. Knowing the nature of social media just a bit, I feel its better to write this note out sooner than later. I wanted to do something similar when I hit 600 followers; I wrote the note and slept off planning to post it the next morning. When I woke up, the followers were down to 598.

I started on Instagram in 2013. That time phones were more for talking and the cameras hadn’t evolved into the selling feature. Filters were basic, I remember my favourite being Amaro. I don’t use it any more.

Thinking deeply, the journey with Instagram has been an elusive affair – one that excites for a moment and gradually wanes into a shadow only to emerge again at a turn of life. I’ve created hordes of images and put them up only to see them disappear unless I scroll down to see them again. As filters improved along with my limited photographic abilities, I found myself doing images that were a shade(s) better than the earlier years. What’s remained constant is the number of likes I get – a mean figure of 18 – 22. But in a figure of speaking even Gods need followers.

I use this post to remember 10 of my favourite posts on Instagram and the stories behind them –

10. Transgenders In Celebration

IMG_1864

 

The photograph that got me featured on Instagram. A lovely moment & a wonderful story to go with it.

9. Zauk’s Delhi

Samsara

Delhi is where I grew up. It was my teacher in the formative years. But as life went by, I started to detest the conditions I lived in. I moved to Pune and was seduced by its limitedness. Until a few months back, when I visited Delhi again and lived as a traveller. That is when Delhi revealed it to me. On my flight back, I reminisced about the sights that I’d seen, the foods I ate and people I met.

8. Balamwa

Samsara

At a concert almost a year back, Pt Sanjay Garud sang an awesome rendition of the iconic thumri – Balamwa. I was recording video just before he started singing. As soon as he sang his first song, I switched off the video and started doing photos. A few moments later I realised how grave an error had been committed. Thankfully I have an audio of the same. I go back to it from time to time. The audio recording is here.

7. At 38

Samsara

While I like being photographed, there haven’t been many occasions when I have actually been. And as time landed me on the wrong side of 30, I became conscious of my ever thinning hair. Then I read that once someone crosses 36, he seems to be less mindful of the worries of the world.

6. Taken By The Hand

IMG_1865

 

 

Jaisalmer made me meet Deepa. She took me by the hand and made her way into my heart – forever. You can read about Deepa’s story here.

5. Important Things Are Said Softly

Samsara

During my trip to Nepal after the devastating earthquake, I came across this moment on the street which instantly took me to my childhood. I went to college in Bangalore and after that for work moved to Delhi and Chandigarh and then to Pune. As I moved forward, I made new links but forgot old ones. I am not in touch with any of my childhood friends and with very limited friends from college.

4. Manto

Samsara

I started reading Manto a couple of years back. I was taken aback. His stories shocked me. And they moved me. The raw language laying bare emotions at their naked best. Kingdom’s end struck me like a avalanche.

3. Mumma 

Samsara

Mumma has been my hero for ever and ever. And the one thing I’ve always seen her doing is change the bedsheets and pillow covers. She did it in times of happiness, sorrow, easy and tough. But this visual came at what perhaps was a turning point in her life – when her grandson came home after his birth.

2. Salaried for Life

Samsara

I met this family of 5 at the protests of 2013 in New Delhi. The family comprised the parents, two sons with special abilities and the daughter who was perfectly “normal”. The father offered to pay half of his daughter’s salary to anyone who could help her get a government job so the family could afford a life.

1. The Human Condition

Samsara

Shot while making Ecosystem, this image stands out in my memory as the most gripping visual of a human emotion. I don’t know what transpired in their lives at that moment but this moment was just so raw. The couple stood at the same spot for an hour or so. Her hands were around him and he dwindled between comfort and discomfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost In Wilderness

 

Delhi Summer -2

In a world full of images and inane words that describe them, I have been trying hard to find my space. In the last 3 years there have been countless times when I have been overwhelmed by the speed at which images are produced in this new world. I have been overwhelmed by the kind of images that have been produced by the people on view. Normal folks have become legends and then almost inexplicably have nose dived into a noise full of rubbish. Sounds are cacophony and colours are a riot that assault my senses. I hardly see any intelligence in work anymore and bodies are laid bare in the garb of intellect. Sounds are shrieks as one tries to over do another in an attempt to make the point.

But that’s my rant.

My reality though is this wilderness where I am lost. No one bothers me too much in this or rather should I say that I do not get bothered by anyone or anything any more. Growing up one realises that as days go by one must accept the world around them as it is. Life becomes smoother if not simpler and makes more sense. Like I go through my daily, people around me do the same, they have their laughs, pains and so do I. A world of transactions seems to be fitting in just too well.

I am tempted to write in detail about the last two years. 2008 had come as a decisive year and I have for so long imagined that there wont be a more impactful year in my life. I cannot say that I was proven wrong but I realised that there have been moments in the last 4 years that shaped up today and in the last 2 that have created this moment of writing. 2014 was a watershed – in just over 12 months I faced extreme mental and physical hardship and one day found my self working in Pune. The roller coaster continued and suddenly in 2016 I found myself quitting the corporate world and jumping into the art world formally.

Once again in life lay in front this amazing chance of challenge. There was and is a lot to be learnt and done. And in the last year and half I have done more than what I could have imagined. I get more and more comfortable and confident about my work and am pushing the limits. If life endures me this journey will only enrich.

You know, all the problems in life come with a purpose. Bigger the purpose, bigger the problem. Because the problem prepares you for the purpose. The purposes of our lives.

I am happily lost in the wilderness.

 

 

 

1st Jan 2018.

IMG_9061
Lavasa ©Kartikaya Nagar

For the last couple of years, I’ve made a habit of sleeping early on December 31st..and travel on the 1st day of a new year.
Today it was Lavasa; I’d heard about its man made landscape, its crowds, shops, the dam and lake.
What I did not know was the beauty that that I was about to encounter.
Accordingly I present some visuals on the music track called Nevada by Huma Huma. The heart yearns to go back for a longer stay. Click below to see the video.
This video is shot on the iPhone7Plus with the support of the Zhiyun Smooth Q. Edited on Premiere Pro.

A Day Before The Turning Of Time

Photos from my travels
Waiting as ever ©Kartikaya Nagar

Open boxes and folded clothes. Much like memories.

He was a king at sometime. Proud he sat on his throne and on his subjects. They listened to him, prayed to his power and sought his counsel.

Love is unbound. Blind and eventful, it brought me here. I stand as proof of its madness. I was sane once.

When I looked at the world, it  came to me that I am the world.

Vanity Vanity – how much I love this.

Bring me the stars tonight. Nothing else would do.. my love.

What do you know of love?

Rush Rush!!! Take me there and take me here. Dont stop.. just take me anywhere. I need to be somewhere. I belong nowhere; I need to be somewhere. Rush Rush!!!

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

My First VLOG

I am happy to share my short film on my recent travel to Jejuri. In a moment of absolute vanity, I’d like to mention that this is shot entirely on the iPhone7Plus.  I hope you like it; please do leave comments and thoughts that could help me make this (& the ones to come) better.

Jejuri Short Film

Events by Samsara Photos
When The Land Turned Gold ©KartikayaNagar