Saturday, 18 August 2012

Kites, Friends & Independence Day!

It was Independence Day! 15th August 2012. The country had been Independent for 65 years! It meant different things to different people.

Since my childhood, Independence Day was special in it's own ways. My earliest memories of the day meant getting a chance to hoist my very own hand-made paper flag, which used to be pasted around a stick with fevicol. Of course the process would not been complete without the preparation that went into the making of that flag the day before. It was like my little being was paying homage to something that was so important. Independence Day!

With time, the paper flag turned into a cloth one... and a little bit of more money turned into the fine silky one! THAT was special! With time I lost the motivation to hoist one on my roof... lost respect for the day? No! Not really! Lost innocence, perhaps!

There was another tradition that really went hand in had with Independence Day celebrations - yeah besides the "holiday", the patriotic songs on radio and television and a loudspeaker in nearly every neighborhood. Something more than Sir Richard Attenborough's Gandhi which had Ben Kingsley playing the Father of the Nation - Kite Flying!

The sky on the 15th of August would be dotted with kites. The energy and excitement palpable from every terrace, every landing that was good to fly one! It was a ritual... it was something you had to do!

Here I must confess that I never ever managed to take one off the ground... but I would still go and buy a few, some colored, toughed (with glass powder, adhesives and what not) thread and a fancy looking spindle - latai in Bengali, charkhi in Hindi!

This year, a few of my school friends decided to play out the tradition that had maybe got lost in the vagaries of life and growing up! So all of us from all around the city landed up at one of our friend's place!

One of us had actually pinned the Tri-colour on his chest. Which at first seemed a little strange... but now that I sit and write this I feel it was really a wonderful gesture.

Everyone was prepared... with their arsenal! Latai's stocked with various varieties of "manjha" and another one for "kachha" the one that would form the later part of the thread since when you going to bring down the opponents kite the frantic pulling and tugging would make you cut your fingers. So sharp was the "manjha".

Honestly I never knew so many varieties of kites existed. In fact a day before one of the gang actually sent a message on our group's whatsapp saying he had got "about 1 dozen soyakatin... 2 dozen ektel... ordinary... 1 dozen kurimaar & 6 addha..." The last variety was specially for the two of them who were pros!! BEAT THAT! :-)

Here they are getting ready for the day!

And then when the conditions were just perfect, they started... and how... Krishnendu, Siddharth and Rajiv... and all the while they made fun of me and my camera! Yeah, I was the only one who had no idea how on earth could these things get off the ground!

Necessity is the mother of invention they say.. and this is never more obvious in these little innovations that the "pros" think up to take care of their needs... So what do you do when you need both your hands for the attack on the opponents kite? Where do you keep the spindle so that it is close and yet keeps on supplying uninterrupted thread?


All this frantic activity went on for sometime... little did these boys realize that they were not as young and pro at things like flying kites like they were maybe a decade ago. Rajiv was the saviour here... he got just what was required on a hot, sweltering afternoon... Nice, cold thick coffee!

And then the moment happened... the first of that afternoon... when all that the boys were hoping for came true... 




Bho Katta... - as my friend Krishnendu insists it should be spelled... (at that's Rs. 1000/- for the word - the spelling comes free he says :-) ) - is what the war cry you scream when you get the opponent's kite down!

And this was not the first... there were many more such war cries that afternoon!

We lost some... we gained some, but what were took back that evening was a time well spent with friends and a little brush with our pasts'... it was truly an Independence Day to remember!

Thank you guys! It was worth it... every bit!

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Saturday, 11 August 2012

Kumartuli Beckons...

It is that time of the year when Kumartuli is in a phase of heightened activity... Everything seems to be moving faster... Work is on full swing for the Pujos which are fast approaching. The straw work is mostly over, the basic structure is ready, and the models of clay and mud are finally getting an identity... a face!

The hands which are moulding these faces perform nearly an act of worship... one is creating God. Measured moves - a result of years of doing the same thing each year... What a feeling just to be in the presence of these artisans! Wow!

It is really an amazing time for one to go photographing here. Just so much to shoot.

And then there are times when one notices something funny... something that was not in the scheme of things.

Like this artisan wearing an "Enter The Dragon" tee with the "Demon" drying itself out in the sun.

Come, lets explore this wonderful little world of Kumartuli.

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Friday, 10 August 2012

Amul : The "Test" of India

Some times it does not matter what camera you are using... I really strongly believe in getting the picture... yes, the picture might not be "accepted" in a lot of places... but as an artist, as someone who likes photography and the pure joy of "creating" an image the mega pixels or the "D" before or after a few numbers really do not make a difference.

If I had let this moment go by, I would have let this moment go by. As simple as that... But here I was out to get some provisions and I saw this cycle stocked up all the way with these plastic crates stacked one on top of the other. It was such a long stack that the cycle just seemed to be there as a formality... And all I had was my phone - I must admit Instagram is making me use my phone camera much much more - so I did not waste a moment and here is the result.

I just let someone pass by the stack.. just to give an idea of how tall this really was!

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Monday, 6 August 2012

Oh Calcutta...

A plaid history of over three-hundred years makes Calcutta a unique criss-cross of rich visuals, diverse smells, and a patchwork of multi-cultural streaks. The city that was home to a Nobel laureate - Rabindranath Tagore, to a great philosopher - Swami Vivekananda, and where the likes of Amartya Sen, the great Indian economist, grew up, was also India’s first capital city and is presently one of the most prominent metro cities of India, offering a scintillating taste of cosmopolitan culture.

If architecture mesmerises you, consider immersing in the dramatic British colonial impressions etched dearly on the city’s concrete like the iconic Victoria Memorial. Or explore the fluid beauty of Paresnath Jain Temple, the historical remnants of the amazing building built during the 1800s at Dalhousie Square. Appreciate and shoot the construction aesthetics of St. Paul’s Cathedral which stand out for being bewitching feasts to the architectural eye. A few ancient buildings awaiting an ensuing collapse are a treat for the lens. Calcutta’s very own taste in structural design is beautifully reflected in myriad temples such as Belur Math, Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, and temple complex at Kali Ghat. Architecture in Calcutta is remiss without a mention of the mighty Howrah Bridge. It offers an exquisite platform to play with a combination of elements like water, light, and boats and the thousands that come down to the ghat, all in the context of this enthralling bridge spanning the breast of Hooghly River.

They say Calcutta has something for everyone.

So, if nature is your call, then in Calcutta you will find a bountiful endowment of natural beauty. Maidan, the largest urban park in Calcutta, serves as the city’s lungs together with the numerous parks around the Victoria Memorial. The queen of Calcutta’s nature palette continues to be the Botanical Gardens, with thousands of species of plants preserved with care. The city flows candidly in the arms of scenic rivers, prominently the Ganges and the Hooghly rivers.

It is the people, however, who continue to steal the photographer’s heart. Calcutta is a resplendent fountain of diverse cultures. The city enjoys a dynamic composition of Bengalis, the natives of Calcutta, alongside Marwaris, Biharis, Punjabis, North-Eastern Tribes, and also a minor component of people from almost all other parts of the country and even some parts of the world. The result is a plethora of faces, expressions, life-styles, age-groups, and occupations, all knitted seamlessly in the city’s social fabric. From the grand sophistication of the elite, to the dignified simplicity of the middle-class, to the blunt poverty of slums – Calcutta is home to one and all.

Calcutta is a city of contrasts. It could be too noisy at one point of time, and then it could suddenly relapse into absolute tranquillity. This moment a doe-eyed Bong beauty could make you smile, the next moment an old woman in rags begging on the street just to live one more day could rip your heart apart.

So, take out the photographer in you and let it loose in the City of Joy.

Experience richness! Experience Calcutta!

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About Calcutta Photo Tours

A vivid city rendered in elegantly striking contrasts, Calcutta is a treat to the travelling soul and a fresh canvas to photographer’s eye.

‘Calcutta Photo Tours’ is a unique travel company that has been formed with the spirit of celebrating the variegated flavours of a centuries old city. We are here to bring out the city before you as never before, in all its tastes and colours, striking all chords of life that churns up in the city. We believe that the beauty of Calcutta lies in its complexity that exudes unforgettable warmth and a raw charm, which can be best appreciated by a trained eye. This city is more prone to the lens than most people believe it to be, and so we are here to share with you ‘the Calcutta experience’, to enable you to be more responsive towards the powerhouse of emotions that Calcutta is.

So, what makes us different from any ordinary travel company?

We are here to offer you a combination of photography training and a chance to explore this wonderful city – its history, its culture - to understand its various facets. During the tours we will add value to your photography skills, and help you to translate this value by helping you take better photographs while guiding you through a city, exploring its major tourist attractions in the backdrop of its cultural significance. Live photo-shooting, photography tips and instructions, browsing through the instructor’s photographs for a more visual training, and a general view of the socio-cultural setting will enable you to go back from Calcutta with an enriching experience.

Calcutta Photo Tours is not restricted to tourist destinations – in a city like Calcutta you just can’t afford that! Of course, there are a few Photo Tour companies across the globe that offer a more ‘inside’ experience of cities, but it is the first of its kind in Calcutta. What we intend to offer you, is a more wholesome experience of the city, and in a sense, an experience that is more local. From major attractions to unnoticed corners, Calcutta can set your photographic taste-buds on fire. We will guide you to the city’s heart, providing you with relevant annotations on historical background where applicable, or sometimes just let you immerse yourself in the moment. A finely knitted mesh of information and experience can make the landscapes, streets, architecture, markets and people come alive before you – which we believe our mission to be!

If you are diffident about your photography skills, we assure you it’s the last thing you should worry about. We are here to translate your passion into skills that can be used to capture the soul of the city. A short interactive session with us can get you in sync with most aspects of the art, and then you can go on an adventure with your lens all on your own.

Calcutta Photo Tours wants to make your stay an unforgettable one at an intellectual and artistic level. Whether you come here alone, or with family and friends, we want you to have an experience here that gnaws at your heart to come back to the city again and again, long after you have left it behind...

As Henry Miller puts it, ‘’One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

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Friday, 3 August 2012

The Change Wallahs…

In Calcutta people make a living out of anything. And one such profession which made its appearance with the advent of buses, and bus conductors needing change, were these Change-Wallahs…

They would be found sitting on the streets – specially near the main bus terminus with stacks of change all neatly counted for anyone who could wave a wad of notes towards them and get change in exchange… ofcourse after a small percentage was duly deducted for all the labour they put in.

This man in the picture has been doing it for the last 16 years and the day I took this picture he said, he doesn’t feel like doing it anymore… says he is tired and the monotony of the whole process has set in…. every day reaching his spot as early as 7 am with mini sacks of coins and then sorting them up and making these tidy little stacks and after maybe an hour of hard work he would be ready to conduct business… now he doesn’t feel like doing it…

Like a lot of things lost since the yesteryears… these people would soon be gone too… my humble attempt to document them…

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