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.
50 Kms away from Pune, tucked neatly on a hillock called Jejuri is the ancient temple of Khandoba. Khandoba per legend is a manifestation of Lord Shiva and this is his main shrine in India. Khandoba is worshipped by a majority of Maharashtrians and in the modern age spiritualism finds significance in Shirdi. Apparently the priest of his temple in Shirdi bestowed the name Sai to the Sai Baba of Shirdi when he arrived in Shirdi at an age of 23.
The legend of Khandoba tells the story of 2 asuras – Mani & Malla being defeated in war by Lord Shiva in his Khandoba avatar. Also known as the Martandya Bhairav, Khanodba is seen in pictures mount on a white horse, accompanied by his wife Mhalsa and a dog.
On auspicious days in Jejuri, devotees from all around gather to pay their respects to Lord Khandoba. A 500 step climb on hard rock needs to be taken from the main entrance at the foothills to the temple. Passing by are small shops selling flowers, coconuts, incense sticks and the usual religious stuff that you need along with one things that marks the whole of Jejuri as special – Turmeric or Bhandara as it is known in the local langauge.
A drive of about 90 minutes takes one from Pune to Jejuri. And this was in peak traffic times so if one leaves early morning, it could be quicker. The foothills of the hillock is inhabited with parkings, small hotels and a series of shops on either sides of the road that leads to the first steps of the climb.
Cries of Jai Malhar rang in the air as devotees began their climb. Through the way I encountered multiple small shrines and shops. All in yellow of the turmeric. Walking up the path, devotees chanted the name of Malhar and smeared the temple precincts with turmeric. Some splashed it in the air and the offering flowed down to rest on the heads of other devotees and the ground. Fervour gave way to celebration as some devotees played a yellow holi smearing the powder on each other, danced to the local dhol walas and pulled others also into the act. An hour’s walk led me to the main temple which is a magnificent structure. All around the temple are statues of Shiva, Vishnu and other deities – all bearing the colour yellow.
The faithful have a way with their faith. I saw devotees praying, some getting the local pujaris to conduct special poojas for them. This is a place where dogs are treated with respect. Some people offered food to the dogs but not before smearing them with turmeric. And the dogs promptly shimmy shake the turmeric off them. Maybe its time for us to think more rationally.
India has been known for its occult. I saw scenes of men whipping themselves and getting into a trance. Once in the trance they would be whipped by other men and after 5 to 6 painful whiplashes be embraced by the devotees.
The occasion was festive to say the least and local folks must have made a ball as they put up temporary stalls for refreshments, souvenirs and most interestingly photo booths replete with Puneri and Maratha head wear, soft toy tigers, horses and backgrounds depicting wars.
On this trip, while I took some pictures which are here , I also shot a lot of videos on my iPhone7Plus. I will put them into a small vlog in the days to come. Meanwhile, please enjoy the pictures if you like them and leave comments in critique of the writings. Would help me improve.
If you have come to this post thinking that this is a rant of someone who is not making money through photography, please go away. While I am not making money from photography, I think it is a few moments (maybe months) away. And I am sticking my neck out.
Photography is easily accessible. Pick up your DSLR and you’re one. Pick up a P&S and you’re one. Pick up your phone and you’re one. Editing is simpler than ever with all the softwares around, especially the ones that play easily on our phones – snapseed, vsco et al. So all you have to do is take picture, put some filters and send them out to the world to call you a photographer. Some apps help one traverse that journey from human to what seems to me is a Chihuahua with ears and noses.
Those who have picked the trade up professionally, will agree that in the market of averages, cost is the determining factor. No matter how good you are, if you’re in the market of averages as I call it, the amount of work you get will depend finally on the price and the pocket. The middle class wont stretch itself and especially in these trying times of the economy. Even in lucrative markets like weddings, the averages play a huge role. They seem to rationalise everything when it comes to visuals.
Then there are many who undercut. Undercutting hurts big time – both to the serious photographer and the customer. Because the one who undercuts sometimes may not get the visual; plus he/ she has taken the business away from the one who could do it. The customer’s cries are over and above.
So while I am in this happy zone making pictures and videos, drawing my heart out and preparing for some exciting personal stuff in the future, one zone in my mind is always occupied with the bills, emi’s and savings. But it is an exchange that I am happy to settle for; because when I am photographing, the world doesn’t matter at all.
In my opinion, art has to reach the middle class. They need to have access to happy pictures of their prime, their kids and parents and all this must come at affordable packages. So the philosophy of bulk might have to kick in. But that requires a strong backend. Thankfully my team and I are working on it. Speed, accuracy and art remain the essence of our services and there are enough folks in the world outside who realise that they can bring happiness to themselves by either contributing or consuming. But pay your artist promptly.
I also think an artist needs to be multifaceted. Unless I am big enough to command a Steid to make my books, I am content doing it myself. Write, read, edit, blog, sponsor, network – everything yourself.
Some awesome baby pictures coming soon. Until next time.. which should be soon.
When I made pictures as an amateur, there were some that just stuck to the heart. I had no words to explain why I liked a certain picture that I had created. I would just look (I still do) at the photograph first in the camera and then the computer screen and wonder what had made me take that picture.
As I made my way through photo school and the years there after till today, the answers came to me. They come again and again reinforcing something that was told many a times by a lot of our teachers and discussed countless times amongst friends. Shoot what you feel; the camera is a mechanism of capturing emotions. Once you pick it up and think about the power it places in your hands, there is no going back to the morbidity of the usual. Point it at life and life points right back to you, mostly smiling; though sometimes it does stick the middle finger at you; but it smiles alright.
Last week I shot two assignments commercially. One was a maternity shoot and the other was a classical Indian music concert. While shooting both I was, countless times, overwhelmed. Making pictures is such a joyous process and it makes me so happy. In that moment of clicking the shutter lies my happiness and I have no memory to deal with. Check out this video from the concert.
The sound of the picture is my silence.
I am also happy to report that I have refurbished my website. I love the midnight hour to make these announcements.
2 days after the 83rd birthday of Ruskin Bond, I happened to pick up a collection of his fiction & non fiction writings this morning. And as I went from one piece to another I smiled and laughed at the tales he had to tell. A feel good book largely that kind of took me back to my childhood – especially the summer – his stories were about mangoes and baths in the canals in the towns where Rusty lived. One tale spoke about his journey to becoming the cook of the scouts team. Another took me to an attic in London; where in the loneliness of the first few days, a mouse was company.
As the day wore off, I took a short ride for business. Once out of the house I couldn’t help but notice the sights that were always on the roads when I rode on them, but never presented themselves in the manner as they did this evening. I noticed the small shop selling pakodas on a tiny turn; a dry wheat field across the stream that usually I fail to notice when I cross it. I also stopped at the highest point of the highest flyover in my city to observe the land scape that it overlooked. To a great distance in the sky I saw the roofs of buildings, open spaces on either sides of the road that the fly over crosses; I saw the sun setting in a golden hue.
As I sit and write this out, I find it imperative to mention how my heart yearns for travel; something that has not happened due to the commerce required to run life. Coming into May of 2017, I decided to bring pending businesses to a close so that the criss cross of the Indian Monsoon and Summer are months when I would be out to look around the country side. Usually May is a long month and its taken a toll on my plans, I am delayed in completion of all work by another 15 days.
But I did travel. Rusty took me to the canals and mangroves in his town. The words of his stories – simple and effective – painted their cities, caricatured their people – be it the bumbling Uncle Ken, the authoritative Bhabhiji – lady of the house or the two white mice who were gifted to Rusty by a station master when he landed up in Lucknow instead of New Delhi after an overnight train journey. What does also stand out in memory is the working miniature train model – I’ve seen those and in the days of the past planned to own one by saving a lot of money and building the collection one by one.
I have come to know someone (though not directly) who reads the book Shantaram but has never bought it. Thats because he finds the book every place he has travelled to. I also know a lot of folks who read up about the places that they intend to visit. Some also read famous stories from the place they are visiting. I think they do this because it gives them a sense of belonging and identification. I also know people who have remembered incidents/ lines from stories and put them into their travel experiences (read photographs). In his autobiography , Khushwant Singh’s descriptions of the places that he has stayed in across his life are beautiful; at a certain place he mentions a walk that he took from Simla to Kausali; one almost walks with him. In her biography of the Late Mohan Singh Oberoi, Bachi Kakaria recreated for me, the erstwhile pathways in Simla as Oberoi walked from his home to the Cecil – the first hotel he managed and ran. She wrote about the boilers and steam coming out of them, and the farm house where Oberoi lived till his last and how the sun shone through the windows in the soft Delhi winter. Such was the impact of that reading that I desired to stay at the Cecil and about 15 years post the first reading, I finally checked in to the Oberoi Clarkes in Shimla only to learn that it wasn’t the Cecil. Gosh I need to read that book again!!!
They travel – these words. They take us places.
And as my plans of travel for 2017 take another bout of delay enforced by my pursuit of commerce, the fact that I can travel with words brings a smile to my lips and peace to my heart.
Open your phone. Go to the photo gallery. See the last 10 photographs. No – not the last 10 pictures but photographs.
How many of them hold meaning?
Literature and history are full of experts and critiques defining a photograph. The world of today has made its way through the complexities of their words and myriads of their thoughts. Taking a picture is common folk. Everyone does it and why not. Technology allows it, apps glorify it, softwares ease out dodge and burn techniques and huge hoardings advertise the awesome photographs made by phone users across the world.
Personally I am averse to taking pictures randomly. I retort in the most haughtiest of fashions when I am asked to click selfies and photos of any near and dear ones. Of course I do as a part of my profession – I am an events and wedding photographer, but commerce needs to over rule the heart. However, in the weekly meetings of a professional networking group of which I am a part, I am expected to photograph the acclaimed folks every week and I get called out for it. Just that when I get called out, I am mostly in my most despicable avatar.
But what do photographs stand for. I have been asked many a times as to why wouldn’t I participate in a selfie exercise or click random photos of anyone.
The photos that you see as part of this blog post are from two recent vacations. In both I was with my closest. And these are the photographs that I could create. When I look at them, I smile. They give me joy. These are people close to me. Each photograph has a moment attached to it. Its a record; a happening of my life; an event or its precursor. This is not random. Nothing in my photography is random. Not even my weakest photograph(s).