It’s Not About Photographs – V

It’s been a while since my last post. Given what’s been going on, there should have been a post every couple of hours. That itself, in a curious way, explains why there have been no posts for ten days.

And, even now, it’s not about photographs. But it is about the same two people I had mentioned, in my previous post. Not to mention, there is some photography involved. My artist friend and I, have had many conversations about a muse. Philosophical, practical, even commercial. That one word, as it works in art, has been a constant source of intrigue.

I recently took a photo. (I care little about the nuances of using the word click or make a photo or capture an image.) That’s for the writers, when they want to project a simple act as something that has multiple dimensions. I prefer take or took because that’s, what I think, photographers do. It’s already there; we just take it.

When I took this photograph, I was captivated, more, by how these two people: Amit and Sagar, would see this photograph. Somewhere, deep inside, I felt they would enjoy it (Seriously, no compulsion, guys). The photograph in itself is perhaps mediocre, a bad one, or perhaps the best, ever. It matters less. What matters, for me, (and that’s what happened in that moment) is that I imagined that it would mean something to someone. The joy, when my finger met the shutter was double-fold: one, of the act itself (I liked what I saw) and two, the future joy that someone; someone specific, would not just appreciate it, but relate to it.

Creation is incomplete without joy. It does not matter, if the joy is personal, shared, or public.

Here’s a spiral staircase, when I was far away from home, thinking of my friends.

A Spiral Staircase, showcasing the Poetics of Space

A Spiral Staircase, showcasing the Poetics of Space

In that one, very small instance, I was with them; they were with me. It was a moment of joy.

Sagar, Thank you. I continue to question why I take photographs. I am not necessarily in a comfortable space. Yet, I like the questioning.

Thank you for planting the seed.

It’s Not About Photographs – IV

Sagar came home, yesterday.

We don’t meet very often, but when we do meet, it is a time which we cherish. I am — clearly — taking the liberty to speak for both of us.

Every now and then we become complacent. We agree with ourselves that what we do is great, or at least good enough. We look at other people. We like their work, appreciate it. We think they are great; their work is great. Or at least good enough.

Then, Sagar comes home.

Everything changes.

A conversation, that once happened between Seoul and Mumbai is remembered. We laugh about it. I have taken a few thousand photographs after that conversations; haven’t published. (I like the word published – makes me feel important and famous – all I really do, is post them to my Flickr Account or to my Facebook Page).

We have a short conversation about where we are with photography. Since I started publishing photographs, I have said:

I use a Film SLR (Canon EOS 88) and a DSLR (Canon EOS400D). Not very technically competent. Always face a problem, when I say I am a photographer. People talk about lenses and cameras and filters. I think photographers should discuss photographs. Haven’t yet found a photographer who talks photographs. I will.

I found Sagar.

I should, with due respect, mention Amit Phansalkar; he talks photographs. (Only, that Amit doesn’t call himself a photographer; as yet)

Instinctively, we learn by imitation. To copy something, and see it close to the original is a satisfying act. Within this act, is creation itself, even if it is not creative. If we were to discard the imitation of the act, and realise the creation, we could do much more. Then we make a small change. We do a what-if. We like it, and then we do more. We slowly come of age; but importantly, we come of identity. Then comes the body of work. Which gives rise to signature. Then, comes the complacency, I mentioned above.

2015-09-20 22.53.03

Not that Self-assertion and Self-realisation are opposites, but that is the struggle.

Denying ourselves perspectives is denying growth. And how we offer ourselves perspectives is up to us. There are no templates, guidelines, rule-books, or formats; even though we are bombarded daily with 10-things lists. The lists have to be our own. And they may, quite curiously, contain just one list item.

We are not here to take photographs or see photographs. We are here to see, without a camera. [Paraphrased quote, by Dorothea Lange]

We’ll discover with each other, and in that, we will discover ourselves.


Sagar’s Blog | Sagar’s Portfolio

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Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

Wishing you all a very happy festival, full of fun with friends and family. And food!



Everyone Needs Band-aid

abstract  art - everyone needs band-aid

Paper & Me

If I was me, I’d issue a restraining order, against me entering a stationery shop, ever. Needless to say, it would save me a lot of money; it would also make me start using the many lovely writing tools and instruments that I have amassed over the years, rather, than just amassing them.

I feel very strongly about my notebooks, writing pads, pens, pencils and other assorted stationery. So much, that I am willing to be called a stationery snob. I generally refuse to write in a notebook that has a corny gold label proclaiming: Ajanta No. 5, or any such assembly line-like, engineering-ish brand, that has no respect for design, class, or even simple presentation aesthetic.

Photograph of handwritten post

The Original Post

Somewhere in 2000, I was in Singapore. There, I entered a stationery shop. My dear imaginative and curious readers, I leave it to your fecund fancies, what transpired, then. Done? OK. In the months that I was there, I visited that shop many times. I bought enough stationery to last me a lifetime. Couple of years before that, my sister went to Japan. She asked, what she could get me. I said — paper. writing pads, onion skins, notebooks, loose leaves, any kind of paper. And mechanical pencils. And pens with thin nibs. Lesser than 0.5, if they have them. She bought me all of that! Later, living with the love of my life, I discovered acrylic paper, and other forms of art paper. I bought all of those. I am not an artist, in that sense. But, I had to have that paper.

Most of my writing, now, is on the computer’s keyboard. As you can see, it has had a toll on my handwriting. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot stay away from a stationery shop. At least one small pocket-book has to be bought.

And then, just like that, Rubberband arrives in stores — real shops & online. In response to Moleskine, perhaps, but not entirely there. (PS: I have three Moleskine notebooks). This post was written in a Rubberband notebook. And much has been written in this Rubberband. Phone numbers, ideas, doodles, meeting notes, and various scribbles. It’s a weathered notebook.

And while I prefer notebooks (and books) that always look as if you just bought them from the store, the weathered notebook has a story to tell.

Apart from the obvious virtues of the notebook and the pen (or pencil, which I just adore), the one thing that writing with pen and paper is the sense of intimacy that a keyboard and a screen doesn’t offer. Perhaps, it is the sheer physics of it — the friction of the nib on paper — that disallows a thought to run ahead of its owner. The drag of the pen on paper gives the writer the time to evaluate, construct, and refine a thought as it first forms in the mind, and then imprints on the paper. If you have ever experienced your pen hovering over a comma, eager to touch the paper, you will know what I mean.

The absence of a backspace key doesn’t make your writing better — it makes your thinking better.

Most of all, the tangibility of dried ink on that blank, flattened, pulp is worth all the effort. No two letters ever look the same — unlike a font on a computer screen. Each word, each letter in a word, has a character of its own. Even the same word written over and over acquires a unique character.

Wherever we sit to write, whatever the circumstances, all our experiences — past and current — all of them twirl in our “g’s” and swirl in our “S’s”

As you read this, in fixed font, I trust, you get a flavour and a sense of what I experience tonight, as I write this post. All of it. On paper. With pen.

This weathered notebook, holds within, all the seasons of my life.

Happy Teachers’ Day, Mr. Shukla

I’ve been having interesting conversations with Mr. Shukla; the last few mornings.

Our conversations have mostly been about Hindi. No surprise there, Mr. Shukla did his Masters in Hindi literature, from his hometown, near Kanpur. He was also a teacher in the local school, teaching Hindi up to Class 5. We’ve duelled a couple of times with beautiful verses from various poems in Hindi. We’ve discussed the structure of the language, and argued about the value of learning and teaching Hindi in schools. Once in a while, he talks of his experiences in school. His students, his hometown. Once, we lamented the side-streaming of the language in society. Mr. Shukla also knows Sanskrit. Quite well, I’d say. He rattles off Sanskrit verses with equal ease. In those instances, I turn listener. Hindi or Sanskrit, the conversations have been interesting and educational.

Next week onwards, I’ll miss him, because I am moving away from this guest house. He’ll continue his work here, as a security guard, long after I’ve left.

He moved to Delhi a few years ago, when being a teacher became unaffordable. This person, who would have otherwise be securing our future and our children’s future, is now securing just one lifeless building.

The Fault in the Pattern

Happy Teachers’ Day, Mr. Shukla.

And, a Happy Teachers’ Day to all the teachers in this world. Never mind, whether you are working as a teacher or not.

The Same Newness

And way back, I had written how much I love airports.

I haven’t had a chance to feel that love much, in recent times. Haven’t travelled as much.

Today seems very much like that day, that year. And the memories come flooding by. No, I did not take a photo that day. And I am not taking one today either. These are memories, not memorabilia. Printed on your heart with thoughts, ideas, and feelings; not paper and ink.

The cushions are red, the airport is the CSIA, the crowd is very different.

And life’s good.