Thursday, August 30, 2018


Red Hills, near Chennai, 1969

I am a traveller 
of that path
which has a beginning 
but no end

Bhashwati wrote:

Distance and expanse is what i thought of
And how a human life is but a speck and how the distance between its beginning and end that is a human's journey from birth to death, which seems so momentous to us is of no import in the unfathomable expanse of the unknown which carries on with business as usual, regardless of all the lone travellers that come and go.

The composition is very humbling. 
Clouds, cumulus, the tree multi limbed and man all alone in the twilight zone straddling the light and the dark, the diabolic and the divine.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Home, Once Upon a Time

In the centre of the house was a six-sided atrium, lighted by a hexagonal pyramid-shaped dome made of triangular panels of wire brick glass in a concrete frame. The dome was so out-sized that all builders, contractors whom I contacted, took a look up and declined to undertake the installation. I had to finish the job myself, so that it would not rain inside the large area, which contained boulders, three small pools, an artificial waterfall, and plants, including palm trees which reached two stories high. It was some insane idea of mine, who designed that house, which actually worked. When the moon rose it lit up the whole space, and when it rained, the sound was like thunder.

As I aged, maintaining the house, its terraces, utility areas, a badminton court and 'whatnot' began to be difficult.  At the same time, it became popular, and evenings were full of people who gathered together to play badminton, listen to music, laugh, drink, and 'whatnot.'

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Night Window

night window
moonlight window
light on the outside
inner darkness

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Darjeeling Toy Train, 1948

At the age of about 12, I captained the first tour from my school in Calcutta, with 16 other boys. We took a train from Sealdah station to Siliguri, and then boarded the so-called toy train, which chugged very slowly up to the hill-station of Darjeeling. The toy train still exists, but India's steam engines have all been retired.

We were full of mischief, curiosity, enormous appetites for food, sight-seeing, and staring at the local children, with their cheeks as red as ripe tomatoes, especially the girls. We found the cheapest place to stay, in the basement of a Marwari dharamshala. Since it had a dirt floor, we had to unroll our own bedrolls and spread them out in order to walk on them instead of the mud beneath. It was so cold that for seven days, I was the only one who bathed, and that too with great difficulty, in the icy-cold water coming out of the tap.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Rickshaw Puller, Calcutta, 1972

The rickshaw-puller is ubiquitous in Calcutta. I used to wonder why the hand-pulled rickshaws were not replaced with cycle-rickshaws; eventually, they were introduced, but the hand-pulled rickshaws still remain.

As a child and a teenager, I tried hard to examine my mixed feelings about them: I refused to ride in rickshaws; but when they followed me, clapping their bells against one of the long poles, hoping that I would jump in and let them carry me, I really did not know whether by walking I did them a favor, or made it more difficult for them to earn a living.

Sometimes I would stop by a footpath vendor of sattu, the powdered, roasted grains which seemed to be the pullers' main diet, and watch a group of them eating. Three or four of them would squat by the road near the vendor. He or she would give each one a shiny brass plate,  one onion, one green chillie, a small pile of powdered grains and dals, and a brass vessel of murky water. The pullers would use their hands to mix the powder with water until it cohered into lumps, then eat it with carefully-paced bites of onion and chillie, so that they would last for the whole meal. At the end of the meal they would use the remaining water in the vessel to wash their hands and the plate. The sattu was the cheapest food available, yet I never saw them ask for seconds. After eating they would rest for awhile before taking up their rickshaws, and pulling them slowly once again down the streets looking for business.

Today, when my income is so much higher than theirs, I know that their sleep is more peaceful than mine. I have rarely seen the tranquility which I saw in the rickshaw-wallah whom I photographed, while I felt guilty, apologetic, and helpless.