Today, Jehangir art gallery, Mumbai
Locked in frames
Burned in flames
She stood at a corner of the rectangular hall. Staring at the two walls, that met each other, adorned with a picture each, of the same structure, only in different times.
26/11/1990, Gateway of India, Bombay
“Boss, a family pic ? With the Gateway at the backdrop? Superb it will look. Instant picture sir” the street side camera man pursued Mr. Mehta with unflinching determination following him through the crowd.
“No baba , no pictures. I am not a tourist here and what will you even shoot in this crowd? ” Mr. Mehta replied with utmost disinterest.
Little Isha held on to Mr. and Mrs. Mehta’s fingers and stood in the middle with eyes wide open. The black cube like thing that hung from the Uncle’s neck seemed to have caught her attention.
“What is that thing Papa?” she sounded curious.
“Beta, that’s a camera. It is for taking photos. We will soon get one of our own. We can click as many as we want then. “
Isha did know what photos were. But it had never crossed her mind to question where they came from. Intrigued with the black thing, she pulled down her father’s fingers and in a most innocent way asked her father “Please papa, let the Uncle get us a photo like he is saying ‘family photo’. But I don’t want it with the Gateway of India. I want with the Taj Hotel.”
Mr Mehta gave in to her little daughter’s whim. “Alright dear , if that makes you happy.”
“Very good choice bitiya. Taj will look even better. Now all of you move around this way, look at the lens and smile. 1,2,3.”
Little Isha did not let her eyes blink even once, lest she missed some of action, until the Uncle clicked a button and out slipped a photo.
That was Isha’s first encounter with a camera. Polaroids ruled then.
“Wow, this is like magic, mama. Did you just see that? It is like the Uncle painted us and the background. I wish I could paint that well…someday.”
She stared at the smiling image of her family with the magnificent Taj towering over their head in the backdrop.
Few months later…
Isha had not gotten over the Taj picture, when the Mr. Mehta bought an analog camera as promised to his little daughter.
“A camera .Wow!” she exclaimed.
Isha jumped with joy every time there was a photo occasion. “Can I click please …one more please Papa. Please mama. 1,2,3 ..smile.” and done.
“This is not a toy, let’s not waste any more roll , Isha, only few more to go. We can click some when your cousins come next week.” Mrs. Mehta would say, carefully putting away the camera in the cover and keeping it in a safe corner of the Godrej Amirah where all precious things of the household belonged.
As a tradition, once the roll was all used up, everyone would eagerly wait for the photo prints to be collected from the studio and then minutely study each photo over and over again. While everyone was busy critically looking at themselves in the photo, discussing the faces they made or how they could have smiled or posed better, Isha would be thinking how to ask her father to reload the camera roll so she could click them away yet again.
“Good job beta, you did click really nice pics. From now on you are our family camera man.” Mr Mehta patted on Isha’s back.
Unlike her cousins, who loved to pose, she had more fun when she closed one eye and focused with the other, the camera between her hands, index finger ready for the right time to push the button.
She would wait with all the patience until she had her frame just perfect .Not a single roll can go waste was her rule.
Thus began her love story with photography!
Few years later…
Came the surge of digital age which washed away all good old things, came digital cameras. Easy to handle, point and shoot. Click, delete, click, delete as much as you want. The charm of those photo sessions, of the right moments, of huddling up and screening the photos was kind of lost.
Isha also got lost somewhere …lost in the digital fast paced life. Lost in the mundane routine of life of ‘studying, exams, marks, certificates, college, science’, far away from her love of life.
College and career go hand in hand. As if studying just to gain knowledge is a sin unless it can fetch you a career and a career is what fetches money. Everything is immaterial, non-existent. A camera and photography obviously didn’t fit anywhere. That, she had left somewhere far behind.
She swam deep in an ocean of career options, not a drop worth of drinking.
It was during this time that she met Mr. Ravinder Achrekar, a teacher by profession, photographer by passion.
A very rare combination found in those days.
When she saw him with a camera one day, she could not stop herself from intruding.
“Sir, is that yours? Do you do it as hobby? “
“If Science feeds my hunger, art feeds my soul. I do not know if I should call it hobby or a part of my life. This camera here, is my companion.” he replied.
It was as if the long hibernating cells in Isha had begun to wake up. A hobby she had given up found its way back.
She filled up her notes with ‘Aperture, Exposure, Shutter speed, Focal Length, White Balance …’. She would look at some of his pictures and not help but feel jealous. But theory was not enough. She would occasionally practice with Mr. Achrekar’s camera, but only for few minutes. It was too expensive a thing to be replaced if broken.
She started saving money from her daily expense, to buy herself a DSLR. Long way to go. Until then a second hand point and shoot took her to all available opportunities, be it college picnic, function, graduation ceremony or get-together. Lap of nature or city architecture, she loved them all.
Sunrise, sunset, seagulls and waves
Silent beaches, busy skies, dew drops of rain.
Domes, arches, ruins and skylines
The love that she had lost and found will not be lost again. She promised.
It was not until she completed her graduation followed by a MBA degree and a year in her job with a reputed Bank in Mumbai that her saving yielded enough to allow her, the most awaited gift to herself, the Digital single-lens reflex camera.
Still a full time banker, she nurtured her love affair with camera. She would look out for open contests and send her entries. Wins and accolades gave her the much needed fame and recognition in the small circle of photography. Her work spoke for itself when she was offered an assignment by a publishing magazine to cover the famous Kala Ghoda festival in 2007.
26/11/2008, Gateway of India, Mumbai
Isha Mehta, the celebrated photographer would sneak in the crowd and come to her favourite spot in the world whenever in town. Her eyes scanning through the crowd hoping to see a familiar face with a camera hung from his neck asking for a picture. ‘Would she even know if he was there in the crowd?‘ she thought to herself.
A month away from her first ever photo exhibition, she still felt her best was yet to come.
“Who knows I might get lucky today. The universe might conspire to give me a backdrop no one has ever seen the Taj Palace in. A shooting star may be” she thought to herself and smiled.
The mayhem brought her back from her thoughts as she saw people running around. Gun shots and screams deafening her, she stood there calm and aimed her camera for the best shot of her life, moments away from living the worst night of her life.
A wish fulfilled, she wished was not.
The above story is an entry into #Aspirations an Artale Greenhorns-2, Feathers Club Exclusive writing event entry.
Check out event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artale-greenhorns-2/
Check out Itali’s space here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/author/itali-madhusmita/