Saturday, July 28, 2018


the leaf landed

where I sat contemplating
the meaning of life

as I took the picture

suddenly I felt
that its fall

detached from its tether

aimlessly blown by the breeze

told me a lot


Bhashwati wrote:

Thoughts on
A leaf no more ...

From a shimmering spot of colour 
where light and breeze marry
to a rusted relic of itself,.. 
the leaf's life is all too brief 
as it lies defeated by death.

Just as, shadows of former selves, 
frayed at the edges and weary at the core
discarding all quests for the meaning of life,  
withering away we await,  

the triumph of death

Wednesday, July 25, 2018



 Does one really know, at that age, the meaning and purport of the word?  The irony is that by the time one has learned its meaning, one has generally already lost it.

(This is my first picture ever with a Rolleicord twin lens reflex camera, which was lent to me by a friend, the brother of this girl. In appreciation of this picture, he left it with me for the year that I stayed in a college hostel in Matunga, Bombay.)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

From the Window, the Convalescent World


This small hotel in Coonoor was originally a British-owned hotel called Hampton Court, built in 1857. When I first visited it in 1968, it was owned by a Parsi couple. At that time it was still a bastion of British/English colonial culture, adjoining All Saints Church with its old cemetery, filled with mostly young English men and women who had failed to acclimate to what they called pestilential India. The hotel subsequently changed hands several times, and was later owned by a British executive of what was then known as Imperial Tobacco Company (now ITC), and his wife, Mrs. Das. Mrs. Das, who doled out breakfast marmalade and pats of butter very frugally, and locked up the bar at 6:30 p.m., expanded the hotel a little, and eventually sold it to the Taj group. It was renamed the Taj Garden Retreat, but now it is simply the (Taj) Gateway Hotel, Coonoor. Film crews and actors, who lip-synch songs, and dance in and around the trees and gardens of the area, regularly stay there. Its small restaurant is now much more liberal with its butter and marmalade, which, along with the lovely views of tea gardens and hills, make it my favourite place to visit in all the Nilgiris.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

In Search of Kanchenjunga

This building is part of a charming hotel where I stayed in Darjeeling in the early 1980's, Hotel Windamere.  Satyajit Ray and his team had also stayed at Hotel Windamere during the making of Ray's film Kanchenjunga, in 1962.

From what I read in newspapers at the time, Ray had been vacationing in Darjeeling, a popular hill station, and watched tourists strolling around the Mall. One of the goals for visitors was to catch a rare view of the Himalayan mountain, Kanchenjunga, which was usually hidden behind clouds. Ray conceived the idea of making a film told in real time, about a visiting family who walk around the Mall in varying groupings, conversing and hoping to see Kanchenjunga. (Chhabi Biswas, who was among Calcutta's ultimate actors, played the father of the family. He also acted in Ray's films Devi, with Sharmila Tagore, and Jalsaghar.)

The film's story is a slight one; the most dramatic thing in it occurs in the last scene when, after almost everybody has given up looking for it, the mountain suddenly appears, and the film ends.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Friends, Calcutta, 1950: An Experiment in Reflection

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon when I was fifteen.  Using a borrowed sixteen-rupee Kodak box camera, I tried a composition with layers of images, which would retain clarity, but also contain mystery.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

A Proud Father’s Indulgence

One day in 1942 or '43, my father, Bapa, took me and my baby brother, Bhupen, who was about two years old, to Metro Studio to get our pictures taken. The Metro Studio must have been so-named because it was next door to Metro Cinema, a Calcutta landmark. At that time, all the theatres running Hollywood films were owned by the studios that made them. Metro, for example, was named for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, later streamlined into MGM. (I took this picture of Metro Cinema using a borrowed camera. Judging from the movie which was playing: Greer Garson in The Valley of Decision, the year was 1945 or '46.)

At the studio I was seated alone in front of a curtain, and given a prop telephone to hold. Then Bhupen joined me, and dozed off against my shoulder, completely uninterested in the proceedings. (Unfortunately, I am unable to locate that second picture, though I hope it will turn up, at which time I will post it too.) 

I have no idea why my father dressed me, Bhupen, and even my sister, who was 12 years old, in khaki: it was not common among any of the children whom we knew. Was it because World War Two was going on, or in solidarity with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army?

Calcutta, now Kolkata, as far as I can recall, was the last bastion in India for the War on the Eastern Front. There are many references to the city in British and Hollywood films set during the War, along with Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), Thailand, Myanmar (then Burma), Hong Kong, etc. I do recall that Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, and other government assets were painted black, in order to make them invisible to Japanese air raids. Sirens went off at odd times of day or night, warning people to get into the shelters, which were built on all main thoroughfares, many of them underground; including three near our barsaati on Brabourne Road.

So here I am, in Metro Studio in wartime, apparently enjoying myself very much.

Sunday, July 01, 2018


so what if I loved you
like a fool
and lost

is it not enough
that I burnt myself
in agonies
of waiting and yearning
that you must now insist
that I hate you

having lost all
I cannot lose more
but only win
to avenge my fallen pride
by hurting you
by smothering you
by only loving you