La Tomatina

In India, fashion is defined by movies.

When Kuch Kuch Hota Hai released almost a decade ago, basketball became ‘cool.’ Kajol’s… uh huh forgot what it’s called… dresses in DDLJ became a huge hit. And then there was the Karishma saris and Kajol saris. Every time a film showcases something new, it becomes a hit with the masses and goes beyond the movie.

Now, the latest in line is La Tomatina. I’ve always been interested to attend this festival. There are things that are more fun than flinging tomatoes at each other but this is high up in the list.

The festival, held in Bunol, is actually going on currently. The festival has been entwined with the Spanish culture for decades now. Perhaps it started out of a brawl between two friends or due to surplus of tomatoes, it is a part of the culture… and now the tourist culture.

In India, we have adapted various other festivals… so why does the announcement of this one make me slightly uncomfortable? Like we are pretending to be cool?

The movie that showcased this festival made it appear the ‘in’ thing to do. Isn’t it just lame? We have our version of La Tomatina already – Holi. It comes with various colours, bhang, dancing, fires and in the modern version, even eggs and tomatoes.

I’m all for cultural integration and all that… but this has nothing to do with culture. Will be start having bull fights here simply because some movie showcased this as cool?

What particularly irks me is this festival could have a much wider impact on people and vegetable prices. (Am I throwing a tomato at your wow-factor?)

But given current vegetable prices, droughts and floods and inflation rates, we barely have enough tomatoes to eat at reasonably prices… and there we go, flinging them at each other… simply because Hrithik Roshan did it in some movie!

I guess I would love to shoot the festival in Spain though… Here’s a little blog post a Reuters photographer did a while ago.

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A Photojournalist’s Tale

5 months ago… I was fresh off the boat, so to speak. I didn’t know a single soul in one of the biggest fashion events in the city.

I didn’t know a thing about fashion shows, except for watching one or two from the other side. Never been interested in fashion but shooting the event was such a joy.

This time around, I had to marvel at how many faces were now familiar – both among my peers and the models. I knew which faces I preferred to shoot and what I didn’t. I was a little jaded, a lot wiser about how these events worked.

People knew who I was and there was a seat saved for me to shoot if I walked in late. There were discussions about the event and I was a part of those conversations with snide comments about the show or anything else.

Having been on both sides – reporters and photographers, I think maybe photographers are a friendlier bunch. As reporters, particularly in lifestyle (not that I have done much of that), we tend to be a little more possessive about our beats. We want to get that one big story, that scoop and the drama that goes with it.

As photographers, you know that you need to lean on the other person someday. Sure, we are equally competitive but we also know that you need to share those shots with someone because you might need the same favor some day. And we all work together, and yet manage to get that award-winning shot.

I have been protective of my sources… that is a reporter’s bane too. I work to cultivate that source… I have been protective of my story ideas  because I have had them stolen when I have been too free… But there was also fun in bouncing ideas off my colleague and friend, fine tuning them over a cup of coffee, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Or maybe photographers are just more friendlier because your vision always differs. You can shoot the same thing but with a different angle, a different perspective.

I love that sense of camaraderie before we head into a shoot and how each goes into a cocoon while shooting… the jokes that come after or a slight huff when you miss that shot. You are in a group and yet you are not.

I guess I have to say this now… I’m more of a photojournalist than just a reporter now.

Dreams

“Dream carefully. Then you can achieve what you dream.”

The question isn’t about if you can achieve the dream. It is about what is the dream that you want to achieve.

There are many things we all dream of… an award, a big house, a beautiful family, a laptop, a camera, a bag, a world trip, a peaceful world…

Some of merely a passing fancy. An idle mind taking a break from focussing on where you are headed. We dream of being rich, of working as an RJ, of being a paratrooper… do all those exciting things… Passing fancies, fantasies, if you call it that.

The trick is to know what you want to achieve. Who you want to be. That one little thing that you’d rather be known for.

But we forget this little fact. We chase things that are… momentary. The tangible things, the intangible ones.

When someone asks you “what do you really want?”… where is the answer? A peaceful life, a beautiful and happy family and a career that satisfies me at the end of the day.

I figured these were simple things. Slowly, I learn that these are the 3 hardest things.

It would be easier perhaps if I dreamed of pots of money, a huge house and 3 cars. I would throw myself into that corporate job, earn those bucket loads of money and be happy.

It would be easier perhaps if I did not dream of bringing about a change, of wanting to be a better person everyday.

I do not know what I want yet… not completely. The things that I dreamt of when I was 12 years old have either happened or changed. I no longer want the glitter of the world… I perhaps never did… I only had to go there to find that out.

I am happy when I’m clicking, when I’m bringing characters to life. I’m happiest when those who love appreciate my work even if nobody else does. There’s true satisfaction in that.

People ask me how much money I make out of something… about what I want to do with it all. I don’t know. But I intend to find out the answer to the latter.

Closet Cleaning!

In the course of modern life, we accumulate a lot of baggage. Books, bills, papers, souvenirs… and junk. Much of the earlier stuff could also come under junk, particularly in the case of hoarders like me.

But today, after years of laziness, I was struck by a sudden desire to be organized.

Some people organize their clothes by colour, occasion and many other such things. Their jewelry is organized in neat trays or boxes, the shoes lined up according to type and books arranged alphabetically.

I am not one of those. But today, I had a sudden desire to be.

But I sifted through my clothes, I realised how much excess I had! There were clothes that were bought in the moment and never worn because I hated the colour/it was too big/the cut sucked on me.

There were clothes that I refused to throw out though they were resembling something used to wipe the dirty sink counter because I absolutely loved those.

And then there were those gifts that you do not have the heart to throw nor the nerve to wear.

And the clothes that you kept in the vain hope that you ‘home making skills’ would suddenly surface one day and the torn t shirt could be made into a beautiful pillow cover, the jeans into a bag and the broken sunglasses into… well, something.

There is a curious relief in unburdening yourself of all those excesses.

It feels good to throw out stuff!!!!!!

Once all the excesses were purged, I wondered why I had kept those in my wardrobe. They are just clothes… but my head feels so much lighter and clearer.

Now, I know I will probably fill it up again… and I had to hold myself back from throwing away all those clothes that I rarely use. But it feels good to live without the excesses.

Of course, there are things that could be given or sold… stuff that haven’t been removed from their bags, with the price tags intact. What was I thinking when I got all this? If someone wants it, it is yours!

Updates…

The day starts particularly hectic… one those days when you wake up at noon and realise that you have actually wasted half the day and this was one of those days that required daylight to get things done.

The day wears on and at one particular point you feel rather proud that you have gotten so many things done. And then you glance down on the list of things to be done and realise there are only a couple ticked off. And you wonder what on earth you are supposed to do. There are two choices that face a person at this point – either persevere and finish whatever that has to be done, regardless of the time or agree that you won’t really be able to finish anything and knock it off and enjoy this awesome weather the city has decided to taunt you with.

I caught the IPL match live a couple of days ago… at the stadium. Even through the veil of fatigue, it was quite an experience. How did I go so long without ever having set foot in the stadium during the match? I have been there otherwise. Just not during the match! Ridiculous!

What’s more… I got to see Sachin play, so that’s one thing I can cross off the bucket list! The noise, the exhilaration and the Master Blaster’s strokes. I should have been supporting RCB and all that… but when you see Sachin playing, you pretty much forget who you are supposed to be supporting and start cheering for him. The cheerleaders wore their frail legs out, climbing the stage every time he hit a boundary, which was every other ball anyway. The IPL has lost its glamour and it wasn’t the best match nor a memorable one. But it definitely sticks in my head… hot dogs, water, cheering and batons. Maybe I should take up those special box passes the next time I’m offered them.

***

Here is something I just realised… I have barely read the news in the past couple of weeks. I have not opened the NewYorker, The Atlantic or even the Onion. I managed to browse the NYTimes a few times on my phone while waiting for people but I have no been so out of touch with news and I really do miss reading. The debates, the arguments and the wonders. Of course, I know what is happening… surprisingly, thanks to Facebook. But it isn’t the same as analyzing and reading the news.

The burqa in France, the earthquakes in Japan and Delhi, Libya/Yemen and all those places, quirky news articles the Times always put out, silly updates about the Royal Wedding on the Guardian or the Telegraph. I miss being a reporter.

Bengaluru

It has been a long while since I came home just a little past midnight, when the city… most of it at least… was winding down. People were finishing the major part of the partying for the night and the actual homebodies were headed home. Cabs and autos filled the streets… people were driving carefully, avoiding roads that had cops if they were really drunk.

It was winter the last time I did this… and I huddled in the corner of an auto, against the biting wind. The wind was cold enough to wake me up and make me happier in a way that alcohol could not. The numbness in my face fell off and I reveled in the wind against my face and the sound the trees made. Alas now, it is summer and the night breeze holds only a hint of coolness… just enough to make you glad for skirts, if you were wearing one.

My ipod pulled out songs not heard in ages… chand sifarish from Fanaa and a few telugu songs before ending with Timberlake’s Sexy Back for the night. Each of those songs has a memory… traveling to Brisbane to watch that Hindi movie, and trying to find the one highlight of the movie so you would not feel that the night and the 3 hours of traveling was wasted. Admiring Kajol’s beautiful eyes and wondering what the hell was the movie all about. Sniggering at the white couple in a theatre with ten people… and wondering why they were even there. Getting soaked in the rain… and even then insisting that the trip was totally worth it as you sat in the car, shivering and trying to put the heater on full blast…

Summer evenings by the ocean, sitting up in a tree, day dreaming… watching the moon grow smaller and the night grow quieter. Evenings in front of the television, reveling in being one of the few houses to have cable, even if all you had the time to watch was VH1. Timberlake’s song playing at every club… which was quite a rage considering the top music in the country dated about two decades old. Oreo icecreams on the beach, Scissor Sisters on the radio, evenings at the restaurant, days at the kitchen, hair smelling of chicken or fresh shampoo…

And then I look around and I realise that I am back in love with the city. The crappy traffic, the heat, the lack of trees and so much more of my city that has changed. Bangalore will always own my heart, no matter where I travel… this is where the people I love live, this is where I know the nuggets on the city like no other and I discover new things everyday. GC might be my other love, and Rome my fantasy… but Bangalore remains home and my first and only true love.

Mis-Communication

Relationships are tough in the best of times. Add busy work lives, different temperaments and quarter-life crisis to it and the picture never looks pretty. And now there is also the problem of too many ways of communication that just confuses things.

I was accused recently by a friend of mine of contacting him only when I wanted something. It hurts… particularly when the friend is a close friend. I know the background of the statement and that he would probably forget he said that and be perfectly okay in a few hours. But the first reaction is temper… and wanting to prove that the statement is not true.

I randomly sifted through some previous conversations in my mind. Times when there were random coffees and conversations… the kind of conversations that there is no record of. Ironically, the one conversation that is on record is where he does not believe me when I say I just pinged to say hi and see how he was doing. He didn’t believe that people did that.

Strangely, most people don’t. Facebook and cellphones, SMS, emails and Blackberry messages have made it so that we can convey what needs to be conveyed in a few words and there is no space for embarrassment generally in those few words. “Hey can you get me this?” or “Can you do this” is generally the message and there is no space for concern and niceties. People don’t take it the wrong way if you just send someone an email on Facebook and say that you want something. Unfortunately, that also means there are fewer of those ‘what u upto’ mails.

For personal conversations, I actually prefer the phone. Or lengthy emails, when I’m broke. I’m used to having friends across the globe and every once in a month, despite busy schedules there is always a ‘oh shit i’m sorry i forgot to mail’ calls or messages. And that generally suffices because you know the person thinks of you.

I try hard not to fall into the trap of non-communication with friends. It is really easy to do that. You see feeds on Facebook everyday and seeing the name everyday makes you think you are in touch. Which is why is rankles when someone makes such a statement. I am selfish, bitchy, impatient and a lot of other things that are probably not politically correct. But when I’m wrong, I accept it. And when I’m unfairly accused, I also hate it.