Steps and stairs

I have to admit that when I held a camera in my hands for the first time in the summer of 1992, it wasn’t an earth-shattering moment. In fact, it felt very awkward to hold one. At that time, if I didn’t need one for my dissertation, I would probably never have picked up a camera. It was only later, in 2008, when I got a digital camera, that I really got interested in photography. A digital camera gave me the chance to experiment.

Within a month of sharing the first results of my experiments with a digital camera with friends and family, the feedback started rolling in. Predictably, some of it had to do with the quality of my photographs and suggestions for improving the same. But most of the feedback was on the choice of the subject of my photographs. Till the feedback came in, I did not even realise that the subject of most of my photographs were that inanimate objects like doorscars, stations, public transport, etc.

I periodically try to make sense of the vast collection of photographs that I have by ordering them into collections. Not only does this help in streamlining my photo library, it is also a great stress buster. This time around, I was able to identify and tag a trend of photographing steps, stairs and escalators. Presenting some of the interesting ones from my collection :-D

Chepstow Castle

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Mumbai Lens: Framed at the Pavement Art Gallery

Whenever I am in the Kala Ghoda area of South Mumbai, I always make it a point to visit the Pavement Art Gallery, also known as the Art Plaza. Located outside the Jehangir Art Gallery, this Pavement Art Gallery offers exhibition space for artists to display and sell their works. Not all the stuff is good, but there is always something for everyone. Over the years, I have picked up pen and ink drawings of birds, charcoal sketches of Mumbai’s iconic buildings, as well as some miniature landscape watercolours from here.

So here I was at the Pavement Art Gallery on a January afternoon. It was a pleasant weather day, with a cool breeze blowing. As I was browsing at the paintings, I saw a couple doing the same.

Checking out the art on display at the Pavement Art Gallery

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Loss of privacy vs. Loss of dignity

Till about a few years back, we did not have any domestic help at home—either full-time or part-time. It was not because we could not afford one; on the contrary, it was because my mother, who is an intensely private person, could not bear to have any help afoot at home. She abhorred the inevitable gossip that came as a package deal with the domestic helps. We once had a domestic help called Kashibai, who would step into our house and start off on the goings on in the other houses she worked in. Even if we told her that we did not want to hear about the affairs of other houses, she would continue with absolute relish. We were quite sure when she worked in the other houses, she would be speaking about the goings on in our house !

All this led to Amma preferring not to have any domestic help and do all the household work herself. The rest of us would pitch in whenever she let us help her. But with advancing age, this state of affairs could not go on for ever and about 8 years ago, Amma finally agreed to have someone to clean the floors. Then, about 2 years back, she agreed to appoint someone to clean our windows, and recently, she agreed to have part-time help in the kitchen. Each appointment was made after battles galore with Amma, where I simply wore her down with my nagging. Today, Amma has learnt to just about tolerate this intrusion into her privacy for the little time that the domestic helps are there in our house every day. Then about 2 months back something happened that upset this little equilibrium of having part-time domestic help at home.

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From B&W to 3D colour

This post won an IndiSurprize at the HP Take Flight with Colour Contest

Source: Microsoft Cliparts

Imagination is such a wonderful thing isn’t it? We all use it in our own unique ways. I use most of mine to give colour, form and shape to characters, places, and scenes described in books.

I was very fortunate to be smothered surrounded by all sorts of books growing up (and I still am—that is, both growing up and surrounded by books ;-)), which gave ample scope for my imagination. Even today, whenever I read something—even something as dry as a research paper that I am copy-editing—the B&W words on the paper immediately transform into an image matching the description, but shaped my imagination. This whole process is so instinctive and automatic that all I have to do is to pick up something and start reading for the B&W words to coalesce in my mind to form 3D images in full colour. This image could be static or moving; as I continue reading, the images flicker, change, or transform keeping pace with the narrative.

I find it easier to conjure up images of some words and narratives than others. Predictably, familiar contexts and settings, particularly those that I have experienced, are easy to imagine and visualise, but unfamiliar ones present a challenge. But, hey, that’s what a colourful imagination is for, right?

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RTE: Right to Education, Elitism or Exclusion?

Maha delay in notifying RTE Rules: State’s Slowness Has Ensured That Destitute Kids Won’t Get Admission In Pvt Schools This Year.

This was the headline of an article in the Times of India of June 13, 2011, the day all the State Board schools in Maharashtra re-opened. According to the article, along with  15 other states and union territories of India, Maharashtra had yet to notify the norms of the Right of children to free and compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009. The RTE Act, which came into operation on April 1, 2010, has the same legal status as other rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Two of the defining rules of the Act say that (i) every child from 6 to 14 years of age has the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school, and that (ii) private schools must take in 25% of their class strength from “weaker sections and disadvantaged groups”, who will be sponsored by the government.

The RTE is a much discussed Act with its share of supporters and critics; one can find many critiques of the Act—you can read an excellent one by Parth Shah here and this blog that is entirely devoted to the RTE. Most of the critiques that I have come across discuss the lack of clarity (particularly with regard to the economics involved) in the rules of the Act as well as its implementation. In an article in Mint Lounge on how an English-medium education is a way out of life in the slums for many, Aakar Patel weaves in how the RTE Act could be used to achieve this goal. He also discusses as well as the possible hurdles in achieving it—hurdles that are not just economic, but social, i.e. those related to caste, class, etc.

In my opinion, the RTE Act is noble and idealistic in intent, but completely un-implementable in letter and spirit. Like Aakar Patel, I too believe that the reasons are not economic, but social due to the class-ridden and casteist nature of our society—a society that very clearly propagates differentiation of an “us” and “them” at every level. I draw from my experience to support this opinion. Let me elaborate.

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Travel Shot: The apology !

It had been a hectic Friday at the University and I was glad when I boarded the tube that would take me to Baker’s Street station, which was closest tube stop to where I lived in London. It was a cold January day and all I wanted to do was to get into the warmth of my room. As I hurried towards the exit, I saw a notice on one side and idly glanced at it as I passed it.

What I saw stopped me in my tracks as I had seen nothing like it before. I mean, nothing like it before in India.

I was amazed to not only see an apology over a delay in the services of the Bakerloo Line (of the London Underground) that day, but also the reasons for that delay. And to top it all off, the apology was sincere and a personal one from the General Manager of the Bakerloo Line himself !

Anybody who has travelled by any system of transport in India, would understand why I was so astonished to see the apology. The only thing we get to hear are the “we regret…” or the “hamein khed hai ki…” — a line which is used for delivering a condolence message or delivering automated messages!

Can you imagine seeing such a poster or apology put out by the Indian Railways, or local transport services in the various cities of India?