A Photographic Retrospective of 2011 – Part 1

So Year 1 of a Photography Career… Much of my style and sense of imagery has evolved since January last year. A quick look back at the best images in 2011..

January… My first ever official assignment as a photographer – to cover an arts show. I wandered around, juggling shooting what I liked and what I was supposed to shoot.

February: The season of fashion shows begin. My first ever Fashion Show – Bangalore Fashion Week. I knew how to shoot… but I wasn’t sure what to capture. And fashion shows actually seemed exciting!

March: Kids. Celebrities. Weddings. The three things that seem to be the theme for the month.

I start my project at the Indriya Foundation, working with kids and covering their everyday life.

I start working for magazines, which requires shooting a lot of celebrities.

I get a hint of my interest in weddings that are to follow in that year.

At the Akon Concert

April: April was a month of concerts. Summer sunshine makes it perfect. There is something absolutely awe inspiring about being right underneath the stage and watching the performance. Of course, I got to shoot one concert and just listen to the other. But it worked out quite well, in terms of music.

May: Winding roads and a bike trip, and a lazy afternoon spent shooting beautiful antique jewelry.

The Easy Generation

If the 21st century had to be defined in a single word, it would probably be ‘speed’. This century is all about technology, gadgets and each faster than the other.

It makes me wonder if this makes everything come too easy to us, making us lose the ability to have the patience to work towards anything.

Everything is ‘booming’ and technology makes things that were previously expensive dirt cheap.

Cannot find a publisher to publish your book? Do it yourself. Or better, just put it online.

Cannot find a studio to record your songs? Do it yourself. And release the video on YouTube a la Justin Beiber.

Beiber was a mere speck when I first heard of him… and look at him now. Does he give YouTube royalties?

‘course, in the end, talent does really stand out (not thinking of Beiber here). But you can still sell those 1000 copies of your book and maybe 500 to all your friends. you might even get lucky with a few blogger reviewing your book and you are the next big thing… well, till the next big thing.

Kids are taught that too. No place in the dance school? Get another 4 kids together and start your own. You finish the exams and you have a certificate. You can buy an engineering degree and a medical degree. And a certificate for anything.

Quality? Myeh!

‘Course the creme always rises to the top (or is that froth) but there is a lot of more crap floating out there to find that ‘creme’.

I would also argue that the cheaper cost has made it easier for everyone to live their dreams. So what if it isn’t good enough? You want a book published and you got it done.

Everyone does deserve a chance to live their dream…

I had this strange obsession a while ago… I wanted to find a ‘good’ Indian faff writer. You know… like chick lit but not bodice rippers. Something like the Shopaholic series or maybe… fun fiction?

We do have our share of Naipauls and Lahiris but I did not want to read another tale about the NRI. I wanted to read about my city and someone like me, perhaps. I searched everywhere and read some really horrible stuff. They were written in such bad english that I wondered what the critics who said ‘english writing in India is booming’ were smoking.

These were copies of Chetan Bhagat’s books – all about IITs or the call centers.

Women authors were worse. They wrote about ‘independent’ women. The definition of ‘independent’ though were women who slept around, worked in HR/PR, wore skirts, smoked and drank. And in the end, were more desperate to simply find a guy and get married.

I found redemption in a book titled ‘Keep The Change’. But one book in millions?

And then I find out that a lot of these books were self published. Like a movie director who wanted to live out his fantasies. We all dream of being Speilberg… but the reality is something else.

True, thanks to this new ability, a lot of people have been published or done stuff and recognized, as it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

But are we creating a generation of kids who simply take the easy way out, or they would be known as ‘go getters’?

We could cite the examples of Bill Gates and Zuckerberg who went their own way and created something. But are those geniuses the exception to the rule or the new rule?

Therapist’s Couch

And i’m back to being controversial again…

While chatting with an old friend, she mentioned some  of her concerns about her child. He is about 4 years old and he managed to get his hands on some skin magazines the couple had hidden. Well, not so well hidden, but the kid (toddler?) managed to pull them out and found them hilarious. Nudity is not really an issue at the age of 4 and I do not think that the kid would’ve thought of it in any other way. But my friend was seriously freaked. Freaked to the extent, she tells me, that their house is now ‘clean’. And she wonders if she has to start saving up for therapist’s fees.

I was a little confused. I am absolutely not qualified to make a comment or offer her anything more than general reassurance that her son would not be permanently scarred by the sight of some naked boobs at the age of 4. But it did make me wonder if we pay a little too much attention to psychology these days. Ignorance can be bliss. Our parents did plenty of things that psychologists today would not approve of and we are perfectly fine (for most part).

This blog I read ‘Mad Momma’ talks about how it is difficult holding a party these days… there needs to be special kid entertainment areas and nannies and such she says. And compares it to the time when they were kids and were allowed to roam around as they wished till they just fell asleep on the couch. The parents would scoop them up on the way home and dump them into their beds. That’s how I grew up. I watched people enjoy a drink, flirt and laugh and had my head ruffled more number of times than I care to count. I did not believe that everyone who drank was an alcoholic, that everyone who flirted would end up in bed together, or if people were sleeping together, it was their business.

Why do we have these fake ideas in our society? In conversation with a friend from New York recently, he mentioned that he absolutely enjoyed reading the matrimonial ads in India. He says that if he ever starts a band, he would definitely have a song called ‘caste no bar’. And then maybe something about ‘being pure’.

It seems harder and harder to bring up a child in this environment. And a lot of the confusion that a child has seems to be arising from the parents’ own complexes and confusion about their identity. That constant struggle between being ‘truly Indian and traditional’ vs. ‘we are open minded’.

Can we just live?

My Two New Friends

I met two new girls yesterday. They were sitting on the stairway and painting their backpacks.

One was named E and the other one was also named E, but said like Y. They were 12.

The most interesting conversation I had in months was with these two girls. It is easy to hit it off with kids. I smiled when I saw them sitting on the stoop, decorating their backpacks. Y had already done her bag and was helping E to do hers. They were writing E’s name in fancy letters, filling it in with sparkly colours. Except the bag was black and it was quite hard to see anything written on it.

I smiled as I walked past them, thinking about the time when I tried to decorate my black backpack. I used a whitener to write what I thought were rebellious, deep quotes on the bag. And drew a “peace” symbol as well for the heck of it. I was 16.

Waiting for a friend to call me, I hung around watching them till they introduced themselves. I squatted on the floor with them, trying to figure out the best way to get the glitter to stick.

“Paint glue and pour glitter on it,” I suggested and they both instantly took to the idea. Except the had only a glitter pen and the packet of glitter was in E’s sister’s room. The 14-year old sister who wouldn’t appreciate the brat stealing her precious glitter. Oh to be 12 and 14 again!!!

As we spoke, E squeezed the tube of paint to hard and it fell on her skirt.

“FFFFish!” she said. For a moment, I expected the other F word to come out of her mouth and realized it was pleasantly cute to realize that kids still used Fish. Fish is good. Fish is fun. Fish is kids.

Girls being girls… they liked my earrings and my shoes. And my phone.

“I thought of buying this phone actually, when I needed to upgrade to my third phone but then I went with something else,” E said.

I stared at her dumbfounded. My precious phone. Which cost 20 grand. That I was reluctant to part. I mean 20 fricking grand!!! And here is this 12-year old brat who casually is talking about how she wanted my phone and the features in it, better than I could’ve known. Will these kids be born with electronic chips in their heads next?

They spoke about Halloween and weekend plans. E’s parents were taking her away for the weekend for a trekking thing. Y was annoyed. “I hate you and I hate your parents, no offence,” she said.

Of course, E was a city girl and hated trekking and the mosquitos and all that. Having just returned from an awesome trek myself, Y and me bonded. And E was curious enough to give it a real shot this time. Glad to have helped, aunty.

They even knew about my college. “That is the coolest college ever!” they both said, adding that they had cousins who attended there.

Good to know that I’m still among the cool crowd.

12 year olds. Wow.

Link of the day: Actually a photo


The Race

My mind goes back to 2007… July and August were hectic days then too. I had just graduated and there was the graduation ceremony to attend. So had all my friends, so there was the party to plan. It was frantic because it was almost time to go home after being away for more than a year and a half.

It was summer. The days were long and the beach was right there. There were no more assignments and the rush of the university. Only the fun of knowing people were free and partying. And working. Late nights at the restaurant, with tourists filling it every night. Funny people, stupid people, clever people, gorgeous people. Guys you wanted to date and wouldn’t ask you out and the ones that did whom you didn’t want to go out with. Shopping for a “graduation dress” and wondering what else you could do to while away time.

Partying till wee hours in the morning, knowing you could sleep late. I had just met someone and it was fun and exciting and absolutely comfortable. It was perhaps the most idyllic time of my life that I enjoyed.

3 years later, it is a shock how much has changed. I know I have written so often about this but every year, I begin thinking about this stuff. So many people are married and many more are on their way to be married. Actually, forget the marriage race, now it is the ‘having a baby’ craze. Which means I can safely drop out of the whole thing because there is no way I can catch up, if I wanted to.

I guess life can be simple that way.

Recently, a friend was planning a party for her 3-year old kid. It was the first major party… and she was going a little crazy. “What do I do?” she asked me. I was a little confused… it was fairly simple right? Get the cake, give a shout to all the surrounding bacchas… who would already be waiting because they saw you get the cake out of the car, buy those party balloons, some caps, put on the music and you are done.

But apparently, it is a little more complicated than that. Which I realised only when another friend offered to help. This one just had a similar party for her kid so she knew what was involved.

That was when I felt a little out of touch. Yeah, I still don’t see what the fuss is. I mean… fine, even if you have to invite every friend you have… call up the caterers, book a hall and the rest follows. And with thoughts like these I wonder if I will ever be cut out for such a life… I would like to do it. Oh yes! I already have the party plan in mind… but am I cut out for it.

I guess I am the slow bloomer… when my friends are planning birthday parties, i’m thinking of a steady relationship. It follows the natural course… when they were drooling over guys, I was still rolling my eyes at my best friend – who happened to be the object of their affection.

Indian movies perhaps ruined us a little bit… all those stories about how a boy meets a girl on the road/in the bus/across a room/in the classroom/on the cricket field/in a fight… the girl says no, the guy pursues and she eventually gives in and gets married. And then she becomes boring. So people thought life follows the same track. Guys didn’t think twice about approaching a girl they thought was pretty, or sending “frandship requests” to random women. And while I was laughing about these idiots, I realise the girls right next to me are reciprocating.

When did I miss the booklet passed around about how to respond to such guys? Or I got the wrong one.

So some of them dated, some of them broke up… and I was still in the phase of thinking “bbbut… he’s some random guy off the street! (and he aint cute and he stinks)”

So I missed that bus. And because most of the people I knew got onto that, our worlds just split into areas complex than the bermuda triangle.

I guess what I’m really trying to figure out is what race am I running? Am I in a race? Who makes up these things?

Indians Abroad

I had planned to write this cutesy post about pen pals… but then I came across this blog about Indians returning to India – okay, to be fair, I read only One post on it about why India is a better place to rear kids – and it just zapped me back to the time I spent in the US.

Indians have this mega obsession about culture. It is prevalent in other Asian communities as well but I’m going to talk about my own.

The obsession goes into hyper drive when we live abroad. Perhaps it is the mentality of years of having to defend ourselves against invaders but we see anything new as a threat. So, even if we do live in a different culture we hold onto “Indian-ness” with an unmatched paranoia.

We obsess about maintaining our culture – which broken down into different things go something like this:
1. Fashion – no short skirts, shorts or anything short.  Wear jeans, because well, you get stared at if a 13 year old is wearing a salwar. Not to mention the price of a salwar there, bullying and all that. Plus this little desire to say that you are “open-minded”
2. Religion – The kids need to learn hymns, know all the important festivals, the exact way of performing a ritual, even if the parents fail to tell the kids the significance of the festival
3. Food – No beef. No meat in some cases.  Constant complaints about how the kids hog on burgers and other junk food (that may be a valid point, actually)
4. Music – The kids need to learn shastriya sangeet, and perform at the Indian meetings. Rock is frowned upon and heavy metal is definitely a no no
5. Other cultural activities like dating, clubbing, dancing etc – Absolutely NO! *ayyo ayyo* *praying to all gods for forgiveness*

I am not sure how much the situation has changed in the US right now but when I was there more than 10 years ago, I found it beyond ridiculous. I was barely a teenager… and at Indian parties when i’d be hobnobbing with the NRI kids, I’d be shocked by their statements. They seemed to live in an India which had passed away before my parents were born.

These were well-educated, city-bred people who had moved abroad. I understood the need to let their children know about our culture but this was sheer madness.

And it was ironic that they told their kids to look up to me – wearing jeans, short, skirts, sleeveless tops, a brat who couldn’t even mutter a hymn (but had really decent knowledge about the stories behind each festival) and who ate what she pleased and liked rock music.

Then Australia happened. Though I didn’t run into many Indian families with kids there, the other Indians met I were notoriously… a clan. It took some of them several years to mingle with the locals and some still do not beyond the basic necessities. “We do not have anything in common,” they say.

The Australians remain goris and goras to them, an object of fascination and mockery. Some simply lacked the confidence to talk to the locals. Some took it overboard, refusing to talk to Indians.

Despite all of that, I figured somewhere things had changed. But this post made me wonder if they have or ever will. Some of the concerns the parents have voiced there are valid concerns. But they are concerns in India as well. Most major cities in the world are homogenous, thanks to globalization, Dominos and Walmart. Teenagers in India are as badly off as their western pals. Cellphones, internet, computers and other fancy gadgets, top brands and an access to a lot of money just made things exactly the way it is in the US.

Are they not aware of the situation in India?