Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mahabalipuram Shrine: a New Perspective

This small shrine is slightly away from the main structures and carvings in Mahabalipuram, and whenever I have gone there, my companions and I have had the area to ourselves.

I was trying out different camera angles and lenses, and this version struck me as endearingly wonky, as if the large boulders were growing out of the ground, and pushing the puny human architectural effort aside.  If you see it from straight on, the shrine is not, in fact, crooked or unstable.

Just for fun.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Girl at a Well

Taken in Velachery, when it was still a village. The dog has found the only patch of shade around.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Children, Darjeeling, early 1950s

I was thirteen when I took this picture in Darjeeling, where I had captained a group of thirteen boys from my school. The picture, by coincidence, fell under the eyes of a professor of Calcutta University, and he asked if he could have a print, to which I easily agreed. He at once named it 'Is Poverty a Rarity?', and had it published in the University journal. I had felt that the picture acquired fame out of proportion to its merit, but was happy that, with a camera which was not mine, I had produced the first picture that got published.

As a postscript I would like to add that, after posing for the picture, the girls, who were cheerful, regardless of the poverty in which they lived, were very happy when I offered them tea, coffee or milk.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Pipal ki Chhaon me

pipal ki chhaon me
chhota sa hi sahi
ghar ho apna
aur aashaayen naache
baansuri bajaate bajaate

sheltered by a spreading pipal tree
let my home even if small
be filled with little hopes
which dance to my tuneful flute

Friday, April 26, 2019

Summer Languor

An old, faded negative, probably one of the first times I used colour film. Seeing it made me feel the burning sun, the delight of sitting in the shade of a tree, perhaps during vacation time, with nothing much to do.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Silence of Stone


the silence of a building
whose inhabitants,
unfathomable to the present,
and to whom it was a fitting
 and familiar backdrop,
are long dead

it doesn't miss them.
it has withdrawn into
 the dim, slow life 
of stone

the birds that rest 
in its cool crannies
then flutter back to the adjacent trees'
rustling brightness,
and the mice, the insects
the other, smallest creatures
are the only ones 
that can know it now
even unto its darkest, most intimate crevices
after the tourists leave

Monday, April 08, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Chair

not restive

but not for long

for new occupant

Thursday, March 21, 2019


I took this picture, which is one of my favorites, at the Taj West End hotel in Bangalore many years ago. The scanned negative has suffered, like many of my old negatives, so that the viewer of today may not see what I do, when I look through the eyes of memory.

The staircase led to the suite where I always stayed when I visited Bangalore. (The small building, deep within the hotel grounds, has been remodeled into the Tata Suite, and the staircase is no longer visible from the entrance.)

When I took the picture, I first removed a distracting vase of flowers from the niche on the left. The simplicity and warmth, the sense of expectation caused by the dark staircase ascending into light, perfectly expressed my feelings about coming home.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Portrait: Who Are You?

Bhashwati wrote:
Aap ne tasveer kamaal ki lagaayi hai aur log garden garden ho rahe hain dekh kar.

i hope the subject of the composition is also feeling garden-y.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


I studied for my first-year science degree in Bombay in 1954, while staying in a boys' hostel, VMKBS (VM Kapol Boarding School), a Gujarati charity.

I still didn't own a camera, but I believe that I took this double-exposure with a borrowed Rolleicord twin lens reflex. The negative from which this scan was taken was badly damaged, but it gives an idea of how we entertained ourselves in those days.

I took a number of such pictures, with enthusiastic cooperation from my hostel-mates. I mainly used the parapet on the building's roof-terrace as a set, because it offered a big blank sky to serve as a backdrop.

Bhashwati wrote:
And mr god looks doubly exposed in your composition.
Exhausted and disinterested in his devotees lekin auto pilot mein raising hand to bless.

Bach ke rehna re baba aise blessings se bhi

Sunday, March 03, 2019


abject enslavement

half-part of man
his victim

Sunday, February 24, 2019


The only thing I can say for sure about this picture is that the place is Darjeeling. I went there for the first time, captaining a group of fellow students, when I was twelve, in 1948. I would have been using a borrowed box camera.

I must have wanted the fountain to be the picture's focus, but now when I look at it, I see a lot of life, at the edges of the frame, and a woman in Tibetan dress walking briskly past. I wonder why I was apparently standing just behind a rickshaw, so that it frames the rest of the picture. I surely would not have chosen that composition intentionally. The Art Deco store behind the fountain has a sign reading "PRA..A..CO.", with panels beside the open doorway which presumably contain details of the goods to be found within.  The protruding shop front on the right has signs reading "VISIONS" and "CIGARETTES". Everything else is a mystery.

In the light of the fact that this picture is old, and was taken when I was very young, the absence of great composition and photographic skill may please be overlooked.

Bhashwati wrote:

Guzre waqt ki saral si tasveer.
That tibetan lady looks most elegant.
I am surprised film songs were never shot around that fountain!

Monday, February 18, 2019


in the innards of earth
more than a million years ago
to turn into
coal, gas, diamond
volcanic exudate


something else


who knows
even perish

Monday, February 11, 2019



once, youth
here and gone

Anonymous wrote:

my thoughts on Inbetween:

The pile of bricks that your subjects are placed against is what lies "inbetween" the 2 stages of life that they represent.
Rickety, uneven, collapsible life coordinates, a perennial threat and yet the only support available.... all along their journey from youth to old age. 
Brick by brick they have put together the feeble infrastructure of their existence with no other purpose than to exist.
An ancient cliche, c'est la vie

It also strikes me that despite their emaciated forms, particularly of the younger man, they must be in possession of strong spines. Had that not been so they would have been under that very unstable structure and not beside it! 

And then i see, in between the two sections of that apology of a wall, a strip of green, episodic goodness and wellness that must make an appearance in the bleakest of life journeys and sustain them.   

Friday, February 01, 2019

Beyond the Shadows of the Distant Sky

where human greed and impurity
where air
does not contain the scum and filth
that man's neglect and indifference
spread and pollute

there, there beyond the shadows
of the distant sky
is the dwelling of the innermost core
of my mind and body
my being
my existence

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Riddled Rider

charmer on the road
drawing attention
only at traffic lights
or tight jams
ignored otherwise
as the world and its harried people
pass by

Bhashwati wrote:
Jab rangeela riddled rider tayyaara ho ke ghar se nikalta hoga for his day's work... us se pehle apni gaadi ko saaf karta hoga, apna make up karta hoga, apne rangeen accessories ko tarteeb se rakhta hoga, tiffin dabba leta hoga, ghar ki mahila se.

Aur sochta hoga

Do teen chaar meherbaan logon ki nazar padhe to baat ban jaaye.
What do people want?
Dont they like the colours?
the gods? the tassells?
Why are they so unseeing?
Should they not be paying for the spectacle i offer them on the drab street?
Is a shiny car better than my rainbow chariot?

i wish i could ask these qs in his words, in his language.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Through the Glass, Brightly

better to wonder
than try to comprehend
wicked contours
and splintered splices
of bewildering chaos
and contradiction
of populous life

drown it
to the point of distortion
until breathing halts

Anonymous wrote:

ek taral sawaal
wo gagan vishaal
par jhoomti daal
kya kiya kamaal
kaisey buna ye jaal

Anonymous wrote:

wicked contours and splintered splices of bewildering chaos and contradiction of populous life ... 

What an arrangement of words, what a 'fantastic' realistic description of the myriad shades of the existence phenomenon . Drowning it to the point of distortion would amplify the contradictions and magnify the bewilderment... perhaps liberating one from the need to comprehend. i love the audacity with which the djinn of chaos has been bottled (or glassed). 

And how deliciously the gold and green cascade down to nestle in the shaded base.

Friday, January 11, 2019


having knit
no nit-picking

plain and simple

shading light
shaping darkness

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Evening, Ennore Beach, 1949

Trying to bring back a damaged and underexposed negative.

For information about my trip to Ennore in 1949, at the age of 13, with the noted photographer Shankarlal Davey, please see my earlier blog post:

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Waterfall: Drying Up

Look and you will find signs of scarcity, drying up, approaching extinction. Everything in the Universe goes through the process of being created from something larger, then fragmenting, and more fragmenting, and getting farther and farther, by its own natural forces. But to accelerate things, put Man into the picture, and, if given a chance, he would proceed, even if he fails to destroy, even the universe, he would even try to scratch vacuum. It makes even making a statement like, Long Live Mankind, difficult. Because while he destroys everything, the insanity will drive him to a state where in his own muddle, he will perish also. Good for him.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Spark of Life

Myself, at 16

Spark of life, the moment of being born alive. The journey begins, rarely straight; if and when, then by accident, always curving, crooked, backwards forwards. One goes through being human. Only some do so consciously, if they are curious.

Animals are automata. They exist, perish, without ever becoming aware of what humans name them; or even of their own signs or sounds, languages to which we are not privy unless trained.

Coming back to humans, they are a mixture of vanity, sense of inferiority, almost all of them not aware that pain and suffering, even happiness and joy, are figments of circumstantial situations and imagination ...