Thursday, April 19, 2018

Life on the Water, Cochin, Early 1970s

Cochin is a fascinating city.  It is situated on an island which is connected to its much larger sister-city, Ernakulam, by bridges over two waterways, with the island of Willingdon in the middle.  One is easily confused as to where the labyrinthine waterways end and the Arabian Sea begins. 

Willingdon Island belongs entirely to the Defense establishment.  It also contains some small commercial places at its edge and a hotel, the Taj Malabar. The 'real' Cochin, on the Arabian Sea, is surrounded by bobbing boats, with fishing nets cast into the air, and fish being caught in a way that has to be seen. 

All my visits were to Defense-owned Willingdon Island, on which Taj purchased the best property, at the northern end of the island. I was a guest in one of the largest suites there. The picture above has been taken from there. I often regret that I enjoyed the suite in the hotel and looking out at the sea and waterways, rather than spending more time in Cochin proper. Cochin is an old city with a unique character, with architecture which is very photogenic. The above photograph does not contain that, I am sad to say. 

Vasco da Gama and many other travelers from Arab lands and beyond, were not aware of Gujarat or Maharashtra when they landed between Cochin and Trivandrum.  If I am lucky, by and by I would find other pictures, showing you the distinctive charms of Cochin, which not only a migrant from the north (Calcutta, like me, or others) would be able to admire.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dreams of Far Places

A small window in the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay. The main Taj building has many curved, straight, oblique, semicircular architectural styles built into it, culminating in a central dome which has become iconic.

Nine times out of ten, I stayed in the new wing on the 16th or 17th (top) floor. This was a rare occasion, when I was offered this ornate room in one of the minaret structures, while the Reservations department sorted out some confusion about my booking. There was a small window with a bamboo blind. During the hour or so that I had to while away, I was looking through that blind; lifted it, looked at the sea, and, not finding it interesting photographically, dropped it and took this picture. 

If one travelled to the left of the boats, one would reach Elephanta, Aligarh, and several resorts and suburbs, which, in 1982 when I took this picture, joined Borivali/Thane on the left, and on the right, took people to Lonavala via Panvel and Khandala, and onwards to Pune. For those passing through Panvel, it was a must to stop for a snack of the local alu bonda, which was supposed to be the best and most authentic of its kind.

I have gone a long way from that little window, and I am sorry for people for whom the story would not arouse their own memories of a terrain familiar to me.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Beauty in Asymmetry

We were going out one day in 1982. As I was getting into the car, I saw a cluster of bougainvillea hanging from the terrace at the back of my house, which I had cross-bred into multiple colours. In a flash a composition appeared to me, a challenging one: to convert the ordinary into the extraordinary. I took my camera out of the car, and mounted the old-fashioned telephoto lens (the biggest I had was 300 mm). Without a tripod, without a second thought, I reduced the depth of field, eliminated the entire bougainvillea plant, and took only three flowers. They looked as if they were spinning away, like the propellers of a colourful airplane, like a poet's dream. I clicked the shutter, and as far as I am concerned, I took one of the best pictures of my life.

Thursday, April 12, 2018



growing out of adolescence
you watch the world

a little quizzical, perhaps
maybe just about to smile

I remember you
there, in the past
looking at the future

Bhashwati wrote:

The image and the text are so compatible.
The expression contained in the eyes and the meaning contained in the text are equally evocative,.. in the past looking at the future and in this moment looking at the past where the future was barely beginning to form even as the consciousness of your subject evolved..

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Friday, April 06, 2018

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

I called this picture A Bridge Too Far because I saw in it the abstract form of a bridge. My title is also the name of a movie, set in Norway during the Second World War, directed by Richard Attenborough in 1977.

But in fact, the movie that I was thinking of as I looked at the picture was The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), directed by David Lean.

Just for the record, Richard Attenborough was mostly known as an actor. He had a brief foray in India with a small role in Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ki Khiladi, which he performed only out of respect for Ray. Perhaps that spurred him on to come back to India in a very big way as the producer-director of the epic Gandhi. His career after that is more or less obscure. He is the brother of the documentary director David Attenborough, who was inspired by Carl Sagan's Cosmos. He went on to write many books and make documentary serials on nature, animal life, and evolution in general.

David Lean, on the other hand, made movies which had to win Academy Awards, such as Brief Encounter, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago. Ryan's Daughter, set in Ireland, which I and many others loved very much, did not succeed, but it did not make him change his mind, and he was so hurt that he vowed not to make any movie again. I lectured on it and defended it at a seminar at the time. Just before his demise he came back to India and made his last film, A Passage to India, which neither he nor his audience understood.

When E.M. Forster, the author of Passage to India, was contacted for clarification, he laughed it off and said that even he did not understand.

E. & O. E.

Monday, April 02, 2018


elixir of countless moons
in a teacup
forming pearls of temptation

Bhashwati wrote:

Just now i realised that you have turned one crescent into countless moons!!! like the mythical grain of rice that Krishna turned into a feast for the untimely guests..

but i repeat that i heart the arrangement of the words a lot. Each word is like a pearl plucked.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Way We Were


In the little that I have traveled in the United States, my mind has chosen the Adirondacks as the most loved and reminisced about place; starting somewhere near Syracuse, and going all the way north to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Beautiful mountains, hills, and plenty of lakes. This picture was taken in 1972, on one of those lakes.

Sunday, March 25, 2018



Charu said...

A beautiful picture. I love it.

Not too long ago I entertained a thought that if the glass of reflective property, including mirror, had not been invented there would be less of Narcissism, self-absorption, in the world. That was quickly negated by another thought that as long as there existed any reflective pool of water a Narcisssus with a death-wish will be born every minute.

I see here that the rose wanting to be the Narcissus,the flower, is alreday dying at the edges.

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy said...
Dil ke arumaan "aayine" mein rahe gaye.....

My reply...

Ab dil hai na dil ke aarmaan hai
Bas main hun meri tanhaai hai
Sheeshe mein dekhkar
Sochta rahta hun
Akele Akele
Kahaan ja rahe ho
Dekh li teri khudaai
Bas mera dil bhar gaya

Aansuon mujh par hanso
Mere muqaddir par hanso

Friday, March 23, 2018


delicate as tissue
fragile as the beating heart
of a butterfly
it flagrantly displays itself
to every pollinator
who happens to stop by

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Man In Nature

Earth is infinitesimally minuscule, its resources even smaller; humans are among the least of all. Yet we have taken everything as ours, to explore, consume, subsume, deprade. Even though we know that we will be destroyed along with our world, we have ensured that we cannot turn back.