The thrill of photography.

Omkar temple, Bangalore, India. One of my favorite images.

Today, Aug 19th, is World Photography Day.  Why Aug 19th, you ask?

On Monday, August 19th, 1839, the Daguerreotype photographic process was released to the public as an open-source technology. Read about it in Wikipedia, if you want.

Thanks to this great gesture by the French, you and I can enjoy photography without paying hefty royalties to anyone. Vive la France!

Photography is my primary stress-buster. Keeps me sane, makes me really happy. Almost as good as sex. Almost. (I have been an involuntary celibate since many years, fyi).

In the days of celluloid film, photography was a demanding hobby. Composing a good photo required considerable skill, a great deal of patience, a lot of good luck and a competent studio that could develop film correctly. A professional photographer or a serious hobbyist who wanted to develop his own photos had to have skills in chemistry as well, and a dark room, and plenty of money for film and chemicals.

Scarlet darter at dusk.

Film photography was a time-consuming and expensive hobby, but it was fun nevertheless.

Things changed with the birth of the digital camera. Nikon introduced the first commercial digital SLR camera in 1986. And Canon, Minolta, Sony et al quickly followed. Those early digital cameras cost a fortune. Most of us photographers in India could merely dream of buying one.

Today, we have cameraphones, point-and-click digcams, gopro’s, webcams, god-knows-what-else, for any budget, any skill level.

Some questions about photography:

Is photography very expensive?

Of course not. If you have a decent smartphone, that’s enough to get started. Some of my best images have been made with my phone. If you have about Rs.20K to spare, you can get yourself a very good bridge camera that’s almost as good as a DSLR camera.

sks lalbagh-171333
Made with my cellphone.

If you don’t have Rs 20K to spare, there are hundreds of affordable point-and-click digital cameras out there.  As your skills improve, you can spend as much as you want, depending on how far you want to go. For most people, a bridge camera will be all they need.

Should I buy Photoshop or something?

Not necessarily. Most camera manufacturers offer free imaging software with their cameras. And there are many photo apps on the net, all free. Gimp, Snapseed, VSCO, the list is endless.

Do I need a computer?

Perhaps. For cameraphone photography, you don’t need a PC. Just click, process, share. For a bridge or DSLR camera, you do. Any unbranded PC is enough.

Where do I save my photos?

As you take more pictures, you will find yourself running out of space on your PC or phone. Not to worry. There are many cloud-based sites like Google Drive, Flickr and 500px that allow you to store and share hundreds of images. If you have the money, buy an external or internal hard disk.

What is the best time for photography?

In principle, any time is good. For outdoor photography, daytime is best. I do most of my photography in the hours between 3pm and 6pm, depending on the season. Dawn is also a good time. Avoid afternoons, in general.

What kind of photography do I get into?

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata).

Anything you like. Nature, wildlife, food, people, travel, street, candids – anything at all. There are on-line resources for every taste, every skill level, every person.

Does photography pay?  No.

Don’t even think of quitting your job. At the professional level, photography is really expensive and very risky. Save your money and time. Enjoy photography as a hobby, take great photos that you can share with your friends and family, spend as much as you can afford, and not a penny more.

Butterflies are difficult to shoot!

Which camera do I buy?

Buy only the camera you can comfortably afford, without the need to pay in instalments. Buying a camera ( or any other electronic device costing less than Rs. 20K) on instalments is just foolish. Cameras have negligible resale value. Remember that.

As I said, all you need is a good smartphone and a free app. Nowadays, you get all kinds of affordable lenses and accessories for smartphone photography, if you think your phone is not good enough on its own.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and immensely satisfying hobby, that will last for a lifetime, and that may or may not get you laid, I’d say modern photography is one of the best options you have. I’ve yet to get laid, but one lives in hope.

Go ahead. Put your hand into your pants. Take out your cellphone. Make your day.

Cheers … Srini.

Independence? From what exactly?

As I sit here typing this blogpost on the eve of my country’s seventieth Independence Day, my brain is being raped by the deafening traffic outside. It has been many years since I have had a full night’s sleep. The traffic is relentless. The pack of stray dogs in my street barks all night long. The students next door have drunken parties every night. Night after night, the noise of construction gets worse and worse. The administration, as always, doesn’t give a shit.

In my country, stray dogs roam free, to bite, maim and kill tax-paying citizens like myself. If I protest, I get intimidated and beaten up by animal activists. That’s because rabid dogs are protected by law. Their human victims are not.

In my country, a husband commits suicide every nine minutes. I’m one of those rare husbands who didn’t. If I protest, I get thrashed and then thrown into jail by Feminazis. That’s because women have laws to protect them. Men have none. None whatsoever.

In my country, I cannot decide what to eat. Someone else does that. In my country,  I cannot decide which God to worship, or which God I do not want to worship. Someone else does that. I cannot decide what I want to see on my TV. Someone else does that.

In my country, I cannot speak my own mother tongue. Because someone else wants to shove his language down my throat.

I cannot provide the education I think fit for my children. Because that education is reserved for someone else. I cannot get the jobs I want for my children. Those jobs are reserved for someone else.

In my country, less than 2 in 100 taxable citizens pay income tax.  I pay income tax for ninety eight other Indians who perhaps make more money than I do.

I cannot walk on the pavements. Because thugs on two-wheelers drive on them, in full view of the police. I cannot visit the few parks that still survive in my city, because there are too many garbage dumps in the way. And because crossing the street outside my home might get me killed.

In my country, more people are killed by vehicles than by terrorists and natural disasters put together.

We have the fastest growing economy in the world, boast our politicians. We also have the fastest growing population in the world. We also have the highest number of stray dogs per capita. And consequently, we have the highest number of deaths due to dog-bites. We also have the highest number of pedestrian deaths in the world. If I question those who drive on pavements and those who fling their garbage on the streets, I get beaten up and told that this is an independent country.

This, to most of my fellow Indians, is what Independence means. The right to abuse. The right to ogle. The right to throw refuse on the streets. The right to urinate in public.

Godmen in saffron robes sing praises about our ancient country’s hoary past, our glorious culture, our “sprirituality”. Their ashrams are dens of debauchery, their coffers are filled with black money, their beds are warmed by highly paid whores.

Seventy years after foreign rulers left our soil, we still go back to them for money to fund our development. Seven decades after independence, emigrating to the West is still considered the greatest achievement. Seventy years since we became a free country, owning the passport of another land is still the ultimate symbol of success.

Seventy years of self-rule, and I am still called a “Madrasi”.  Still abused as a “bomman”.

I am a loser you see. I chose to own an Indian passport. My former daughter dumped me for a rich old fart, because I refused to leave my parents and my motherland. What a fucking loser you are, her mother said to me in the divorce court – before joining her elderly lover in Canada.

We do have the biggest and the best Constitution in the world. I know, I read it. But yet …

As a husband I have no laws to protect me from my vicious wife. As a father, I have no rights to see my child. As a man, I have no legal defense against any woman who chooses to destroy my life. As a pedestrian, I have no legal means to protect myself from rabid dogs and drunken drivers alike. And as a Brahmin, I have no rights of any kind.

The foreign rulers have left, but we are still enslaved. By intolerance. By casteism. By religion. By over-population. By language. By the sheer weight of garbage on our streets. And worst of all, by corruption.

Ecologists across the nation have repeatedly warned that the country is racing towards ecological disaster. But the politicians continue to chop down trees, pollute our lakes and burn down our forests.

Where else in the world can one see a lake filled with stinking foam? Where else can one see a foaming lake literally on fire?

India is still one of the poorest nations on earth. One of the most corrupt nations in the world. One of the most unsafe countries for women.

In my country, a 1000 sq ft apartment costs more than a 2000 sq ft bungalow in the USA. Yet, a maid in that country earns more than I do.

Are you not proud to be an Indian, thundered my friend – who left India twenty years ago. I wonder how to respond.

The right question is not whether I love my country. Of course I do. Otherwise I would have left many years ago, when I had the opportunity.

The right question is – does my country love me?

I guess not.

Monkeys farting from the ceiling …

When a reporter visited him for an interview, he took her to his garden and introduced her to each of his friends, Janardhan, Raghunandan, Gangadhar, Jagannath, Budhuram and Jhatpatjhatpat-jhatpat. Problem was, all these ‘friends’ were trees in his garden.

And then he took her to his bedroom, to meet some more of his ‘friends’ –  a collection of human skulls.

During a hilarious interview in 1985 with Pritish Nandy for the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, he spoke about the famous interior decorator whom he had called to his home. He told the decorator to design a moat in his living room instead of a sofa, live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings, and instead of an air-conditioner, he wanted ‘monkeys farting from the ceiling‘. The decorator ran for his life.

He hung a huge notice board outside his house that read, “This is a lunatic asylum.”

When a producer paid him only half his promised fee, he turned up for shooting with half his head and moustache shaved off, and told him, “Aadha paisa, tho aadha make-up.”

He would turn up for song recordings in an old lungi, and refuse to start singing until his secretary called him up to confirm that he had received his payment from the producer. Once, when he did not receive that call, he called up his secretary, and asked him if his payment for the movie had been received. “But Sir, it is your own movie, and you are the producer”,  the secretary told him. “So what?”, was the retort.

A film director got a court order against him, for refusing to listen to him on the sets. The next day, the director forgot to say ‘Cut’ after a car chase scene, and so he continued driving for 100 kilometers more, right upto Khandala!

Only one man could get away with behaviour like that, and still be one of the highest paid stars in Bollywood.

Wild, wacky, unpredictable and uniquely gifted, Abhas Kumar Kanjilal Ganguly, or Kishore Kumar Khandwewallah as he called himself, was quite simply one of a kind. There never was another like him, and never will be.

Today, August 4th, is his birthday.

Kishore Kumar started out to be a hero, like his elder brother Ashok Kumar. He had no intention of being a playback singer. He was a huge fan of KL Saigal. One day, he was loudly singing a Saigal song in his bathroom, and was overheard by SD Burman. Burman had come to visit Ashok Kumar and he was impressed by Kishore Kumar’s singing. He took Kishore under his wing and trained him in the art of playback singing.

Kishore Kumar was the only leading playback singer of his time who never had formal classical training. That didn’t come in the way of his becoming an all-time great in Indian cinema.

From his film debut in 1948 till his sudden death in October 1987, Kishore Kumar excelled in every sphere – he was a hero, comedian, singer, music director, composer, lyricist, film maker and producer. His versatility as a film maker was amazing. On one hand, he made badtki naamzany movies like Chalti Naam Gaadi and Badti ka Naam Daadi, that had audiences rolling on the floors. On the other, he made serious and thought-provoking movies like Door gagan ki chaaon mein and Door ka rahi, that were acclaimed by film critics. The last movie he made, Door wadiyon mein kahin, did not have a single song in it.

As controversial as he was in his public life, he was equally unconventional in his personal life. He was unabashed about the fact that he married four times. His first wife, Ruma Ghosh, was a famous playback singer and leading actress of her time. So was his second wife, the beautiful Madhubala, who died due to a hole in her heart. Yogita Bali, his third wife, was a well-known actress too. She left him after a brief


marriage, allegedly since she could not stand his habit of sitting awake each night and counting his money! Leena Chandavarkar, another beautiful actress of the nineteen-sixties and seventies was his fourth wife, and remained his wife until his death.

For all his weird behaviour and eccentricity, Kishore Kumar was a political activist in his own right. He stood up against the government during the Emergency, by refusing to sing at a political function. As a result, he was banned from All India Radio and TV for two years, but Kishore Kumar didn’t bother. After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, he promptly bounced back.

His sudden death on October 13, 1987 due to a massive cardiac arrest came as a total shock to everyone. Kishore Kumar was cremated in Khandwa, his native village.

For die-hard fans like me, Kishore Kumar will never die. Along with Mohammad Rafi, he is one of the immortals of Indian cinema.

Enjoy this rare song from Half-Ticket (1961), a freaked-out comedy that was typical of Kishore Kumar. I think this is the only song of its kind in Indian cinema. This is a male-female duet in which both parts are sung by the same singer! Who else but a mad genius like Kishore Kumar could perform a duet like this?

Yoodleyoo, Kishoreda!

Cheers … Srini.