Friday, March 31, 2006

Hitting the road for the first time

I think I was the only idiot in the whole of Bangalore who woke up at 5.30 AM on a holiday. It was pitch dark outside and i began to suspect my watch in trying to deceive me into getting up earlier than i should. I assumed that it would be light outside,considering that this is summer. Anyways i was up and ready for action by 6.00 AM armed with my laptop. As i was negotiating the car out of the narrow driveway , i felt a pang of nervousness. I was about to embark on my first photo shoot on the roads of Bangalore and i didnt want to come back disappointed.Would i ever be able to take nice snaps? Or was this all a figment of my imagination ?

I hit the road exactly at 6.15 AM. I gave a wake-up call to my partner in crime who promised to be ready in time. I suspected that i would have to go and wake her up. The drive to the runway was pure magic! The sun was barely above the horizon, the breeze cool and fresh. I had soft music playing on my radio ,with the windows lowered as i eased onto the ring road. I could feel the soft purring of Cleo's engine, the rythmic beating of the wasnt long before i was touching 120 kmph. Pure bliss!

I reached the runway on the brink of sunrise. Gul was still weary - eyed, but ready and raring to go.I was actually surprised seeing this. I must admit that i was wrong in my earlier assumption. I later realised that she was as punctual and excited about photography as me. Her enthusiasm and eagerness came like a whiff of fresh air. She didnt want to miss the sunrise at any cost. I learnt later that the sunrise on the first month of the year (on the occasion of Ugadi) is supposed to be really beautiful. By the time we got out with our camera, we realised we were just a little late. The sun had already begun to extend his rays over the horizon. It was still a very pretty sight. The cityscape was really beautiful in the soft light of the morning. The runway was gorgeous. Planes were taking off and landing like any other day. The time of the day didnt seem to matter. However the frequency of landings and take-offs kinda surprised me. You would imagine that flights in a metro like Bangalore would have a higher frequency than 4 minutes. We caught a lot of snaps of the cityscape, the airport, control tower, planes taxiing,I even captured a airforce hangar with a row of Jaguars parked and ready for action! The morning mist accentuated the distant buildings and the whole scene reminded me of "Top Gun".

We then chanced upon a set of 50 or more pigeons roosting on the roof top. Gul wanted me to shoot a snap of the pigeons flying away all at once. But her innate pigeon-attracting skills only kept them rooted to where they stood! Many blurred snaps later, we finally decided to hit the road. However , breakfast beckoned first. A quick call gave us directions to a place serving authentic Sirukudi food. The place was really nice and colorful. The food even better. It was nice seeing Gul enjoy her food so much. She sure misses home food.

After a sumptious breakfast, we hit the road again. It was barely 8:00 AM but the temperature felt like it was touching 35C. Our aim was to shoot snaps depicting the beauty of Bangalore. This being our first outing, we didnt really have a plan on what to shoot. We planned to cover quite a few roads around MGR. Gul discovered a tall tree with plenty of pink flowers off CMH Road. The tree was the highlight of the entire road. The next 20 mins saw plenty of clicking. We met Murugesh who studied in the 5th Std in the local Goverment School. That being a holiday, he was enjoying a game of cricket with his kid sister, his pet dog and its puppy.The enthusiasm and happiness on his face was infectious. More clicks followed.We shot candid pictures of florists, vegetable vendors, wolves, kids, flowers, an enfield, my car, almost anything and everything that looked inviting.

What struck us immediately was the sheer beauty of the place. Being one of the normal bylanes of Bangalore, you would least expect it to throw up so many interesting things.For diehard Bangalore fans, you still have plenty of hope. Bangalore still has a lot of its old world charm. You just need to look and you will feel its presence.As per tradition, the people here were at their friendly best. The florist who readily displayed his red roses for your shoot (they were covered to prevent them from wilting in the heat), the flower lady who gives you a warm smile when you click a photo of kids on the road, the passerby who readily guides you when you are lost, all add to this charm,the very charm that lies entrenched deep in the heart of this beautiful city.The colour that was splashed on the street not just by the wares that the shopkeepers sold, but also by their love and humane down to earth qualities had to be seen to be believed. What stole our hearts the most was the smile that a digital camera put on the faces of the poor kids on the road. These were kids who couldnt afford a lot in life. Some things that we take for granted were pure luxuries for them. But that didnt stop them from
smiling in gay abandon. The fact that they were going to be captured on film was enough to kindle their gentle spirits. We had all kinds of poses happening to our delight. I am sure Gul would agree that it gave us a warm feeling when we saw the happiness on their faces when we showed them their photos on the LCD screen.

By the time we finished taking snaps on this single road, we had used up our memory card fully! Nearly 400 snaps in a couple of hours is no mean effort. Even if we got 15 good ones, it would make it worth the effort. It was already 12:00 PM and time to head home. I realised I was a little disoriented .It was pretty exhausting and Gul's sense of direction definetly helped a lot. We went around a block two times before Gul vehemantly announced that she knew the way home and that i just had to ask!! From then on, she decided to give me directions in kannada at every turn and intersection.

We transferred the snaps onto my laptop and i dropped off Gul at the runway and headed home.
Driving back home, I couldnt help but reflect on the whole morning.The more i think about photography, the more excited i get. It has more or less become a passion now.I yearn to buy a camera someday. Till then i have Gul and Chandy (another good friend) to give me company and lend their cameras. What makes it all worthwhile is the moment, when you review all the snaps and you find that there is this ONE snap that takes your breath away. It is like immortalizing a moment in time... Little did those kids know that their faces would now be posted on the world wide web , accessible to millions. Its another thing that not many people see my pictures :)

I rolled down the windows,turned on my radio and headed home.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Things i want to do but haven't done....yet!

  1. Fly a Cessna
  2. Try bunjee - jumping
  3. Swim like a fish
  4. Go to the gym continuously for a month
  5. Explore the mountains in Kashmir
  6. Learn to speak fluently in Hindi
  7. Be a builder
  8. Feed fish in a local pond
  9. Learn german
  10. Adopt an orphan girl
  11. Fabricate a two-way radio
  12. Learn to type without looking at the key board
  13. Design a cd that can be written on both sides...and sell this idea to 3M..Then coax Creative Labs Inc. to come up with a cd-drive with a movable lens that can accomodate my cds :)
  14. Earn enough to keep my bank manager's tummy full.
  15. Be a good photographer
  16. Design my own home .. complete with a huge library, rock garden and with a minimalistic theme
  17. Own a digital SLR
  18. Dance in the rain
  19. Learn interior design
  20. Have a golden retriever as a pet
  21. Join the IAF
  22. Learn to play 5 musical instruments
  23. Shout my lungs out on a mountain top
  24. Make my gold fish respond to my call
  25. Work for IDEO and then Lockheed
  26. Live in the jungle for a week
  27. Try my hand at fencing
  28. Join the Red Cross
  29. Educate a poor girl child
  30. Stop coding

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

India's dark underbelly

I saw her sitting there, all by herself. She was the most beautiful human being i ever saw. She had the most expressive eyes. They were big and as black as the night...They were expressive to the extent that they mirrored her tiniest of emotions. Her rosy cheeks and dazzling smile only added to the aura that surrounded her. She brought about a sudden sense of calm in people she met. Right now , she seemed to be engrossed in the delicate act of feeding her puppy, which looked no more than a couple of weeks old. Her hair was disheveled and flying in the gentle breeze that had picked up.

She is Mary,the daughter of a poor man who could barely make ends meet. Having lost her mother a few months back, she is now the bread earner of her family. She tried different things but ultimately settled for the challenging profile of being a maid no less than 6 households. When you looked at her closely , you can see that the work was taking its toll. Her gentle white hands were bruised with all the washing and harsh detergents. Her feet were cut in several places because of walking barefoot to work everyday. Her body was getting frailer by the day because of the lack of nourishment. To top it off, she was being abused by her father for not earning enough to meet his apetite for country liquor.

Mary had no formal education. Upon questioning , she admitted that it was her dream to go to school and be educated. She said it was her dream to make it big in life. She wanted her country to be proud of her. She wanted to earn enough money to feed all the poor girls in the world and their poor puppies.One look at her and you could feel what happiness was all about. A smile was permanently etched on her face.Music was always on her lips. She was proud of earning money on her own.You could not help but be touched by her sheer innocence.The frankness and maturity in her voice almost belied her age.

Mary is all of 8 years old....