Friday, December 06, 2019

Portrait of a Young Dog


Sheru took his job of watching at the gate very seriously. You can see that any burglar would be terrified.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Sheru


Sheru, a German shepherd, was officially named Rolf Regent, but I quickly re-named him Sher Khan, which was just as quickly shortened to Sheru.

He was the best dog ever. He was alert, ready for fun, friendly with everyone -- even with those he was not supposed to befriend. We used to joke that if a burglar came to the gate, Sheru would run up and bark, "Welcome! Come on in!"  As it happened, he grew up to be so large that he sometimes frightened people, much to his confusion.

Sheru died in 1992.  We still miss him, and tell each other stories about his goofy ways. This picture of him when he was just getting to know us, and the world, seems to exemplify him somehow.

(This was a colour film negative, but the colours had shifted and faded, so I converted it to black and white. Sheru was just a puppy, with big paws and ears, and an enormous nose, which I emphasized by bringing the camera right up to it.)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Daughters of India

(1969)

Trying to rescue a very old and damaged negative, I was reminded of the poster for the classic film, Mother India, with Nargis shot from below, a vast sky looming behind her. These girls present a much more hopeful picture, pleased to be photographed.



Monday, November 11, 2019

Search Within

1952

what is the path
that I want to choose

ahead
I see miles of silence

here
years of loneliness

what is the purpose
that I am

what will I give
what can I take

I can cry
tears of rivers
but can I swim in them

what is the purpose
why am I here
and not there

but where is there
where is, what is, there

nothing is mine
yet my eyes fill with tears
at losing it

if I cannot understand
why I am
do I expect to understand
to recognise, to embrace
  the place I do not know
where I am headed to

I am lonely
and I cannot see ahead
because my eyes are filled with tears

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Symmetry / Asymmetry


I'm really not sure what I am looking at here; to the left is a piece of the Taj West End in Bangalore, while the right half looks like a cracked outdoor wall. Yet there is only one negative. So, is it one of those things where the tail end of a film roll accidentally joins half of one picture to part of another, because you wound the film over the camera's spool incorrectly?

At any rate, I like the way the curve of the sheer curtain on the left almost mirrors the curved crack on the right. Symmetry-assymetry of form, of refinement and harshness, of delicate carvings and mud.

I tinted it sepia because I could.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Eye-Catching


At an outdoor restaurant in Bangalore, sometime around 1980

For more on the girl in the picture, see my earlier blog post, Familiar

Sunday, October 20, 2019

memories overlapping


memories overlapping
other memories
likewise overlapping others
intermingling
until they diffuse
and fade away
into nothingness

=

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Bang


Color film negative. 

I find it difficult to sleep. One night I was sitting up late, taking pictures to pass the time, and I picked up some foil gift-wrap which had enclosed a bottle of wine. I took a few pictures of it and then decided to burn a hole in it, to see what that looked like. I put a light behind the hole, and produced what might possibly be a new galaxy coming into being. Or something quite different, what do you think?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Conversation 2: Past Present


--------------
Bhashwati wrote:

Actually not one but several conversations are happening here.

The diminutive adult who may have been a helper or attendant at an earlier point and could be conversing with his memories of those "better" days which actually may have been hard days of toil for him but considering the ravages of time on the building and his own life, the present must seem far more unbearable.

And then theres the gnarled knotted tree bent but not broken and still visited by spring. conversing with itself and with the walls that will never be revisited by old glory.

And the doors windows pillars passages conversing together in a perennial assembly of mourning.

And the light outside and the dark shadows within, they may be conversing too.

To say nothing of the embedded traces of lives that have lived loved lost within these premises. 
Would they not be conversing with each other too?

Bahut khoob hai.

i wonder where it was hidden all these years.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Little Girl? Or My Brother?


When my younger brother, Bhupen, was a baby, he had several serious health scares, including diphtheria. My parents made a vow for his protection, that they would not cut his hair for several years, and then the hair would be offered at a temple. Even today, one can see little boys with unusually long hair, sometimes braided and be-ribboned, waiting for the moment when it would be cut and offered to a deity.

I looked at this picture and saw my brother's face; but then my wife pointed out that the child was wearing earrings. Did my parents go that far with their vow? I don't know, but I like the child's open, determined expression, fearlessly facing the world.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Old Names, an Old Tank, and a Kingfisher


I think that I took this picture somewhere on the New Mahabalipuram Road (now ECR), between Madras (now Chennai) and Mahabalipuram (now Mamallapuram?).

It is a ruined tank, with steps leading down to the water. I was pleased to see, sitting on a rock near the water in the lower left corner of the picture, a kingfisher.  (A kingfisher darted through our garden several times every day in a flash of blue, before we left it behind. Now we try to make do with pigeons, two ravens and a couple of mynahs, but it is not the same.)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Doorway to Oblivion


open it and become
part and particle
of the elements
of the universe

Monday, August 19, 2019

Chik Blind


A worn chik blind, a chilman. The lining fabric stained and torn, afternoon light, a shadow on a veranda column. Nothing else.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Vacation in Darjeeling, early 1950s


I suspect that at this age, in my early teens, I was more interested in the girls than in the composition of the picture.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A Ruined Fortress (1979)



This is a picture from the first color roll I ever shot. I was in Bangalore, and some friends took me to Chamundeshwari Hill. When I opened my camera bag I found that I had run out of black and white film; but there were some color rolls which had been presented to me from time to time by various foreign friends.

The rolls were probably eight years expired by then, but I took a chance with one of them.

Looking at this picture now, I think of the many tragedies around the world, especially in the Middle East: images which I see on TV, where violence has left behind destruction and ruin, all of the inclemencies that man invents and inflicts.

I wanted to make this picture look very large, and I think that I succeeded; but in fact, the opening was only the size of a brick which had fallen from the wall.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Eye of Tranquility


your eyes
beauteous
brimming with life and living
compel me to stare in fascination
even as they force me
to continue to live

even as the brimming and surging ocean
calms
to watch you


------------------
Bhashwati wrote:

The tranquil eye

soothes with its gaze
caresses with its touch
moves with its expression
transforms with its beauty
_____________________________________________

The eye of tranquillity ...

does it greatly differ from the eye of a storm? 

One claims to be calm, the other seems to be calm

perhaps only a storm can know the difference.
_________________________________________________________

Extremely compelling image both for the colours and the composition.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay, 1975


Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay, 1975

crowning the vast expanse
to the name and the house
it heads: Tata
atop the Gateway to India

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Ba in Old Age



Here is Ba in old age. Time had worn her down, but she still read her prayers every morning. My father was still alive when I took the picture; she never wore jewelry, except for a sacred tulsi mala, after he died.

When Ba died, in 1992, my wife, Nancy, wrote several poems about her. Here is one of them:

     Sorting Ba's Things

Sorting through cupboards in Ba's old room, 
I tugged a stuck drawer open, 
pulled the string of a small cloth bag, to find 
pink and white grins of outgrown false teeth; 
in another, spectacles, blinking in the light. 

And there were her gods and puja implements - 
incense sticks, oil lamps with wicks she rolled 
out of cotton and ghee, small statues of Krishna, 
elephant-headed Ganesh, Lakshmi the wealth-giver, 
the book of slokas she chanted every day. 

Sunday mornings she watched Mahabharat on TV - 
a miracle in every episode - gods' stately progress 
through the air, seated on lotus flowers; 
towering demons with big bellies and walrus fangs 
who laughed "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" just before 
a hurled fire-discus struck them between the eyes 
and they toppled like trees. 
Sometimes I sat to watch with her, 
and she would say, "Did you see that?!" 

Dear Ba, by the end all the sets of teeth hurt you, 
you wore them only for photographs, 
and the glasses could not make the slokas clear. 

May Lakshmi keep you beside her 
on the silky petals of her pink lotus. 
May Ganesh feed you the sweet ladoo he holds. 
And when you are sated and sleepy, 
may Krishna soothe you with the song of his flute.

-- Nancy Gandhi

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Ba, Reading the Gita


Ba ('mother' in Gujarati) reading the Bhagavad Gita, as she did every morning, with or without comprehenshion. I think of her as I knew her at the end of her life, ailing and grey, living with me, widowed, lost in a city where she did not know the language, had few friends, was cut off from her daily routines and rituals. Seeing this picture, I remember when she was the mother of three children, competent, humorous, respected by women, who sought her advice, the best cook in the world.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Playing Holi


These are my friends, or boys living downstairs from our terrace barsaati, in Calcutta. The little boy on the left, longing to join in the fun, is my brother Bhupen, seven years younger than I am. I am using a borrowed camera, as usual, and trying to keep it, and me, well away from the water and mess.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Shroud


behind the veil
a glimpse of red
a cover-up
blood
by a white cloth


-------------
Anonymous wrote:

My heart sinks at the sight of the shroud and its text. It reminds me of the red frock of the child in Schindler's List. The sharpness of the creases holds such a rigid finality... it is chilling rigor mortis.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Father and Child


Another very old picture, taken in Eden Gardens with a box camera. 

My own father wore a kurta, dhoti and Gujarati topi, and I certainly never had such swanky clothes. Still, the child's trust and pleasure at looking far, far up into his father's face must be familiar to everyone.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Gateway to Oblivion


for a man who did not want to be born
and having been born
wanted life to end early
and who continues to shout
about these or at least one of these

to unceasingly pry
into the origin of all possible life
in all possible parts of the vacuum
in which on a piece of a minor star
mostly called the earth
I am still alive

the path is alluring
the gate is blindingly illuminating
enough is enough
has been already forever
time to go

Monday, June 03, 2019

A Painting in a Palette


Note the subtle use of colour in the upper right hand corner, suggestive of a pale sunset.  Is the figure on the right wearing a jester’s cap and bells? It is reminiscent of Poe’s story, A Cask of Amontillado, with the vengeful killer on the left, and the sad tinkle of bells as his walled in friend calls out faintly, « For the love of God, Montresor! »

Read A Cask of Amontillado

Friday, May 31, 2019

Outtake


In the mid-1970s I took several long-exposure shots of a Russian dance company which performed in Madras. I had my camera, loaded with the usual black and white film of the time -- I used whatever came to hand; there was little choice in those days, and I was more interested in composition than in technical perfection. I had no tripod with me, so my pictures were not sharp, but I felt that they conveyed movement and expression.

This picture was one of my rejects, but I thought I could use it to experiment with some Photoshop-TopazLabs manipulation. It is not an expert piece of work, but I enjoyed doing it, and hope you will forgive its imperfections.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Looking At You


Another scratched-up negative, with fungus damage to boot.  I like the boy's gaze, waiting to see why you have entered his space, but not too bothered about it.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Vanitas



In the early 1950s, in my student hostel in Bombay, there were few sources of entertainment: movies, cards and other games for some. Singing, for those who could, jokes and talk. We essentially had to entertain ourselves.

At one time there was a genre of painting called vanitas. To quote Wikipedia, "A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death."

In order to compose my own vanitas, presumably with the active cooperation of my hostel-mates, I borrowed a skull and bones from the medical students, and imagined some appropriate sins: the "liquor" bottle was actually hair tonic, turned backward. The skeletal fingers hold something that must have been sinful, but I'm not sure what. There is a paper pack of Maypole Minors cigarettes, and another of Markovitch Red & Whites.  The skull wears a rakish crown of currency notes and a very big grin.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tulsi's Sisters


Tulsi, my friend from boyhood, had many siblings. When his father died, he became the head of the family. Some of the siblings married and moved away; some remained at home. When I took this picture as a young man, I would have thought of these women as background characters in Tulsi's life.  I can't remember their names. But looking at it now, this picture, taken in the family's home, has a darkness, a sense of stoicism, of concealed thoughts, which makes it poignant and mysterious to me.