Photojournalism

Jan Lokpal Revolution at Freedom Park

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Today on 21st of August 2011 I went to Freedom Park along with my friends Nikhil Ramaswamy and Ishaan Biswas to be the part of arguably the biggest revolution in India’s history since Independence Day in 1947. After decades India is at crucial crossroads where the path chosen by its people will help to cure the greatest panacea of corruption it faces today.

It was  heart warming to see so many people from all walks of life peacefully protesting for their cause. Gandhiji’s ideal still live in us, we just need to be reminded of them. This time Anna Hazare is up for the task. I tried to capture what little I could of this historic moment through my camera.

You can see more of my work at http://www.anupammaurya.com

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Independence Day – Lalbag flower show

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I have heard about the famed flower show of Lalbag in Bangalore. So I couldn’t resist myself from going there. Also I couldn’t wait to test my new Tripod.

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Lalbag is a huge and beautiful botanical ga rden in the middle of Bangalore city with a beautiful lake and varieties of trees and plantations brought from different parts of world. During Independence Day people bring flowers from various regions of Karnataka to display and sell there. The Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bangalore is of royal origin and was started initially as a private garden in an area of 40 acres by Hyder Ali, one of the most famous rulers of old Mysore in 1760. Initially designed in Mughal style, on the model of an extensive garden at Sira in Tumkur near Bangalore, this garden was further developed by Hyder Ali’s son Tipu Sultan and subsequently by the British and Indian doyens of horticulture by extension of area and addition of a number of plant species.

People come with their families to enjoy here as it famous with all age groups. It is a great place for children to play and learn about nature. The joggers association of Lalbag is very strong which forced the Govt to remove the entry fee in morning from 5-9. People come, workout, enjoy the pristine nature and then head for a breakfast at the famed MTR restaurant famous for its Dosas and other South Indian delicacies.

The glass house at Lalbag is very beautiful and housed some rare plant and flower species which are showcased during the Independence Day. During Independence Day it is like a fair and people from all walks  and shades of life can be seen here in their in their original best. If you ask me a photographer’s heaven…

Holi in Vrindavan

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Holi the festival of colours is perhaps India’s most favourite festival only after Diwali. Although it is celebrated throughout India but nothing equals the zeal and fervour of Vrindvan’s Holi. People from far flung countries come here to witness the pomp and enthusiasm with which it is celebrated. Undoubtedly it is the best place in World to be during Holi.

How to Reach Virndawan: Vrindawan could be reached from Mathura(U.P.) in 20 minutes by a tempo. Mathura is well-connected by road and railways to Agra and Delhi. With busses and trains plying every hour from either stations.

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After having a series of tests and weeks of hectic schedule Holi served to be the perfect and most dreaded escape from insanity to sainthood. For last two days I had just 6 and half hours of sleep because of two consecutive tests. But I was as fresh as a dew on a flower due to the excitement of the trip. We started on 18 March. We were three guys. We missed our bus at 1.40 as one guy came late. So we reached Delhi at around 7.30 pm. Then to fill our stomachs we went to the ‘Paratha waali Gali’. It is a narrow alley at Chadni Chowk with 4-5 shops just serving different ‘Parathas’. Though having limited cuisine it is immensely famous all over India for its delicious food. Even our late Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi used to come here with her family to enjoy the mouth-watering parathas meted by these small shops. But we were in for a shock to see stuffed ‘Puries’ instead of Parathas. Nevermind we ate it. It was good but not up to the hype and it definitely doesn’t conform to even the basic practices of hygiene.

After stuffing our stomachs we rushed to New Delhi railway station only to find that there was no trains for Mathura and the first train is at 7 am. So we were left stranded at the Delhi station. As we sat by the pavement one of us three started cribbing and crying out incessantly that the trip planning was bad and that nothing was happening to the plan. This was the very same guy who had come late. He unable to understand that we had no plan but the destination and hopes of amazing holi of Vrindawan in mind. Moreover this kind of journey was our idea of having fun. While he flipped on us we couldn’t do anything but laugh on him for being such a cry baby. Having lived a  life protected by parents throughout his life  he was surely out-of-place here. Fortunately upon enquiry  we got to know that there is a train from Hazrat Nizammudin, Delhi’s old railway station at 4.30 am, so we rushed there. Upon reaching there we found a nice café called Cumsum with amazing ambience and crowd. The place is buzzing with activity throughout the night. While we relaxed there the Cry baby also pacified upon watching the babes :). Finally our luck came back and we got the reservation to sleeper class hour before trains arrival.

To be continued…

Jodhpur

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The first important destination on our itinerary was Jodhpur. The absolute first was Nagaur, to which I will give a huge miss including the sleepless and restless night despite tiredness from travel spend over a dhaba bed under the open sky , with a blaring TV airing a third grade daily soap to make me twisting in a super uncomfortable rag bed.

Aargh! Wish I can forget that night! While I wished the night would end soon,  it did with huge difficulty only to lead to a disappointing day with an unforgiving sun sapping the energy out of us. The supposed fair of Nagaur, second largest animal festival of the country had no events on the  day we reached there so we left for Jodhpur and there the adventure began.

On approaching the city by road you see the long and bright fort over a small range which makes you wonder what sort of fort is this only to to be told later that is the Army base. Beautiful houses of sandstones ,with even more beautiful cupolas like crowns, line the wide streets. As we went further into the city two massive forts towered us from two sides on two different hills. We chose one to the right and reached a massive fort after several twirls around the hill. As we all marveled at its grandeur and behemoth size craning our necks to have full view ended with strained necks.

As we took the tour of the fort we got to a know a riveting history of the fort which I like to share with you. This fort has the glory of being one of the largest fort in the country. It was built by Rao Jodha starting 9 May, 1949.

The hill, a hundred and twenty meters high, was known as Bhakurcheeria, the Mountain of Birds, or Cheeriatunk, the Bird’s Beak. Its lone human occupant at the time was an old hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the Lord of the Birds.( Even today the fort is home to thousands of birds, particularly the Cheel or Kite, the sacred bird of the Rathores.)

Auspicious though the day, it was not a smooth beginning for Jodha because the disturbed hermit left his cave cursing the invaders of his solitary world. His curse, impossible to forget even today, “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!” A terrible curse anywhere, in Marwar heralding doom itself. Undeterred Jodha continued with his construction but he did take some measures to appease the gods. Besides building a house for Cheeria Nathji in his new city he also constructed a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit used for meditation. The cave and temple together with a pond in front form an enchanting spot today. And over five hundred years later fresh flowers are still placed every morning in the temple to placate the irate hermit…

Jodha then took the extreme step to ensure the new site proved propitious; he buried a man alive in the foundations. The man was Rajiya Bambi (Meghwal) and he was promised that in return his family would forever more be looked after by the Rathores. It was a promise that has been honored and Rajiya’s descendants continue to enjoy a special relationship with the Maharaja. A proud family they still live in Raj Bagh, Rajiya’s Garden, the estate bequeathed by Jodha.

Rajiya’s fate is an established fact of history but there are sources, albeit less reliable, which record three other human sacrifices in the foundations of Jodha’s fort. Four in all, one for each corner if these sources are to be believed. Of the three one is held to be Rajiya’s son and another a Brahmin named Mehran, both improbable choices. It seems unlikely that Jodha would pick two men from the same family and a Hindu king sacrificing a Brahmin or priest does not ring quite true.

The controversy remains alive because these sources claim that Jodha named his new fort after Mehran. Today the fort is indeed called Mehrangarh, Mehran’s Fort, and it has been for some time, but the origin of this name remains a mystery. Did Mehran really exist and was he offered to the gods? For the present these are secrets trapped in the depths of Bhakurcheeria. On the other hand the answer may, in fact, be quite simple; Mehr is a Rajasthani word for the Sun and it is not at all unlikely that the Rathores, who claim descent from the Sun, would name their first citadel in His honor.


Whatever Jodha named his fort, a citadel on which he spent all of rupees nine hundred thousand, it was very different from what the present Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh II, inherited four hundred and ninety three years later. To begin with, it was much, much smaller; the extremities of the original fortress fall within the second gate today. As the Rathores grew more powerful Mehrangarh, at once a symbol of their glory and the basis of their strength, expanded. Every ruler left his mark and therein lies Mehrangarh’s beauty, for it is today a magnificent blend of different reigns and ages, styles and influences, compulsions and dreams…

Its towering battlements, a hundred and twenty feet high, and stern walls, in places six meters thick, testify to the strength of Rao Maldev (1532-1562) in whose reign the Rathores reached the zenith of their power. The palaces, extravagant and exquisite edifices of peace and prosperity, whisper a thousand secrets; of machiavellian intrigues, dazzling riches and decadent pleasures under the imperial Mughal umbrella (1582-1739). The main gates, Fateh Pol and Jai Pol, sing of great victories, against the Mughals in 1707 and the Jaipur forces a hundred years later; while the lofty ramparts, fiercely brandishing Maharaja Abhaya Singh’s (1724-1749) war trophies, proclaim them to the world…

Mehrangarh has never, not even once, been taken in a siege. Invincible and mighty, inspiring awe, admiration, envy and fear in friend and foe alike, Mehrangarh is the very spirit of the Rathores. Indeed, no historian, no white-whiskered royal retainer, no chronicle, no ballad, no poem can rival the Citadel of the Sun in bringing alive the story of the Rathores of Jodhpur. Every mile-stone in their adventure, every triumph, every act of courage is immortalized here in stone and mortar, marble and metal. The palaces, lavished with delicate friezes, record successful campaigns; cart-loads of war booty and caravans laden with imperial favor. The cenotaphs recount stirring tales of valor and sacrifice; cannon-ball marks on the walls speak of repulsed enemies; the hand-prints, tiny and graceful on the portals, weep in remembrance of faithful queens lost to the flames of Sati…

Mehrangarh is superior in other respects and houses some of the dark secrets  through ages. Unbiased, delighting in wickedness, relishing scandal, sharing secrets…Did not the prince Jaswant Singh (1873-1895) throw his mistress out of this very window because she was really his father’s and the latter had just entered the room? Was it not from these ramparts that Maharaja Maan Singh (1803-1843) had his Prime Minister dashed to the ground four hundred feet below? Is this not the foul chamber where Maharaja Ajit Singh (1678-1724) was murdered by his son? Was it not from this balcony that Rao Ganga (1515-1532), reveling in an opium heightened cool breeze, fell to his death? Or was he pushed by his son, the great Maldev (1532-1562).

The fort has excellent architecture, paintings and houses priceless artifacts and antiquities. The Fort gives people the opportunity to visit it during night dressed in delighting lights  glimmering and shimmering under blue, green , red and yellow whenever the curator is present at Fort. I wonder why doesn’t curator stay all the time.

Photography – as I feel

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” Were you artistic right from the school days? “, my friend shot at me while I was enjoying my dosa in ANC.

I replied, ” Hmm, Ya sort of. I wasn’t downright artistic but I would like to believe that I was creative. Wasn’t a Picasso but my school projects were always better than the rest, even girls.”

” Cool! “, said my friend.

” But it was more of hard work than sheer brilliance”, I added.

By this time I had understood the true implication of his question. He meant photography. He was looking for a comforting answer as to whether he could do it too. We always like to believe that we are brilliant if we are good at something. But the real question was  –  Is photography an Art or Science? Am I really artistic or is it a science that I have mastered. I just present here what I feel from my personal experience. I am still too naive to be called a good photographer but undoutebly better than many amateurs.

my very first shot

Surely it is an art. But unlike other true forms viz painting etc. it can be cultivated. To me it is more than a hobby, a passion that keeps me going when I want a break from the usual to  get adventurous. It gives an outlet to flush out  my frustration when I feel down.  It brings out the sensitive part of me and helps me to understand the true nature of things. By relating to unrelated people, their emotions and understanding how life works for them makes me all the more human.

Photography happened by chance. I never expected to pick it up though being constantly  fascinated by compelling photographs, never bothering to look past it. Quite ordianary Huh? I know. I joined the Photography Club at my college BITS Pilani because of all the clubs it came out with recruitments at  just the right  moment when I decided to join a club. I wasn’t there for just the namesake and the social well being of being acceptable into a community as it is considered a hep thing, if you belong to any department or club, in my college. Like many who find security in a herd too satisfied with being cared and nurtured and blinded to see past their hedge while  living in a utopia only to be shattered by a little soul searching, I am more of  a free bird to belong to any and that is why I think Photography just works fine for me.

On given a camera for the first time all by myself happened when I went to Manali to Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports for Trekking . I just went bezerk with splendor of nature that lay before my eyes. Click click I would go without giving a second thought to how it might come out. I just wanted to capture all that was so beautiful. It was a magical experience and that is where I developed a keen interest in taking photographs.

At the club I met 3 people who had impact on me. One was the Living god Abhinav Toshniwal  aka Tullu, preached by all, count me out. He is an amazing photographer. checkout his photostream – http://www.flickr.com/photos/abhinavt. Although I never learned anything directly from him, his work has been a constant source of  motivation for me.  Second comes Amar Jain who has been a constant support when ever  I needed any guidance. Third  and the most prominent is Deepak Maloo. He taught to me not to take things seriously and let them go when you can’t help it. WE have worked together on numerous occasions. Other people who have been soul mates on the journey are Soumit and Harmohit. Despite Soumit’s errant behavior  we gel up like oil and water. Harry is just a darling, the boy next door. Lazy, lethargic and a passionate photographer. Apart from all this I am a self learned photographer. I read ebooks, better photography and google a lot. Looking at others photograph I try to emulate them. In nutshell this is what I did.

So in essence I wasn’t really artistic but I have trained my self to see creativity. When you spend sufficient time with your camera it becomes a third eye through which you see a different world as seen never before. This third eye come with patience and self training. No one can train you to be a good photographer but guide, they can. The best way to learn photography is to go out on the street and play with your camera. Try a perspective as tried never before and it won’t be long you will start getting good photographs.

Foremost thing to learn is about your gear. You should be thorough with every functionality of your gear. What ever it may be. You tryout innovative measures when the resources are scarce. Battery should be always completely charged and memory card in camera. These things might seem trivial but are not. Trust me I have been there, done it and it is out of experience. Always keep things like a torch, muslin cloth, lenses, shutter releaser and a tripod. Keep extra batteries when planning for a long trip or else you will miss on the coveted moment.

Once you are thorough with your gear you need to enhance your creativity and power of observation to see the world in a different perspective than the rest. You should be accustomed to get a idea of the shot without even looking through your lenses. Frames should form in your mind as you observe your surroundings. Ever wondered why your companion got amazing shots clicking a nicely textured autumn leaf just by your side while you were dirt searching thinking what to click. World is full of beauty, its all around you and all you have to do is see. Developing this third eye is the most challenging part of photography.

To get the perfect photograph, your dream composition you often need to go an extra mile, push your limits and do all what it demands. I have waited days for the right moment to click the compostion in my mind. Its not just how you capture but how well you understand your surroundings and try to control variables as much as you can. You need to things which would be considered insane by most. I once tried took a shot of a marriage procession only to be held by the collar minutes later by a big burly man. I don’t mind lying on the ground in front of thousand people, asking strangers to move in or move out, waking early into the morning and going for photography session, I don’t fear anything that might come in between my subject and camera. Once there was a very intriguing sadhu baba but very scary perfect for an eye grabbing portrait but all the fellow photographers in my club were scared to appraoch him. Later they got to shoot him only because had the guts to ask him. I once went inside the auditorium of IIT Mumbai with my camera to capture ADA the fashion show that too by dodging security  and changing shirt my my friends and hiding into the toilet so that the police doesn’t recognize us. These incidents if not fruitment certainly were thrilling. I always end up near the stage photographing performances in my college which is a restricted area. But making excuses and fooling people I got to photograph the Shankar Mahadevan Show!. Guess people are so used to see me around the stage that they don’t mind me anymore. As I photographer you need to camouflage in your environment so that you capture moments in their natural flavour. But I am not insolent, most of my clicked photographs are used for fest publicity. Guess some one needs to do serious job when responsible people are inefficient.

More to follow. Just getting warmed up. juggling time between exams. So sorry for incomplete post…

III stop: Railla

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Author: Anupam Maurya

            

          I saw her

                   Ascending slowly  in morning gown 

                She slipped, she gripped, casting silence down 

               And out she came opening the veil of silhouettes

                Singing and dancing to morning rhyme

              Out from my hood, I saw her, igniting young desires

              And her smile engulfed all mires

                Rejuvenated was my soul shrugging all slumber

                Raring to roar shredding lumber

         I saw her grazing out past the curves of hut 

               Whispering her secrets in her eyes

            So profane was the whisper shattering corrupt ghouls

             Causing them to rumble  true souls

                  I outgrew my hand and clasped

              But she slipped like a dream

                Oh yes!, I saw her in my dreams.

Thats how I woke up to a cold winter morning sweating under my blanket. As I pondered and tried to recollect the beautiful dream it was as foggy as the morning outside. Nevertheless out of my bed I was and smiled into the mirror as I splashed water on my visage. The day was going to be as beautiful as the dream. It was day for the 3 rural visit to Railla, a village 5 km from Pilani.

We started from the campus in our Phatphatiya Auto with rumbling noise and obnoxious smoke. It asphyxiated me and Harry as we sat behind. This time it was not just our coterie Photomaniacs but other enthusiasts too who accompanied us. We were around 12 people so we dispatched in one Phatphatiya and one red Swift carrying all girls except the driver- Chotu aka Piyush. Piyush, the A.B.S is a skilled driver who bumped over the speed breaker and skidded into a ditch on the way back. No casualtites though. 

In the Phatphatiya I realised I was in the company of some amazing characters. To mention one – Harjeet, a typical ‘sardar’, the one who illustrate why all jokes are made on them ( P.S. – no offence to any community, hold them in high esteem). I simply couldn’t comprehend  how does anyone let him speak and why of all people on earth he was on the journey with me and there was this female as obnoxious as the fumes of the Phatphatiya. Nevertheless, we arrived at the village to be greeted by familiar cheers and  hysterical children. It is so delightful to look at their beaming faces. We then carried out our routine survey of the village to get good photographs. With girls along the women folk were more comfortable around us. The usual scenario being women running into houses the moment they see the big camera.

Then suddenly each one of us had an insatiable desire for the Chai, the guilty temptation, and we asked our Autowaala to  arrange some free Goan ki Chai. He took us to a farm house. On the way we were amazed to see delicate gals jumping off into field through the shrubs. As it is exemplified they turned out to be not so delicate, after all. Whatever, we then waited for our chai on the Khats ( bed). Curiously there was a weigh balance hanging by a branch in the courtyard. Each one of us compared who was heavier and even girls played it and pretty soon the secret was out. Finally our Chai arrived and we sipped and sipped wishing it to never end but it did, and so did our trip.

Go Rural

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Socialising over cards 2
Go Rural is an initiative by Photomaniacs to bring fore the quintessential nuances of rural life.
It all started with a desire to break free from the shackles of  banal and bland Urban Life.  In our hearts each one of knew that we wanted something different, rather a drastic change from the cacophony of urban life and find solace in the symphony of nature. The much needed and desired opportunity came to us when we stumbled over the idea of Rural Photography as our new project for the Photomaniacs a.k.a Phookaas ( recently invented). Every one was delighted with the idea and started hemming dreams of the unchartered territory. The dreams didn’t dismay anyone as it is usually the case but turned out to be even beautiful. Our rendezvous with rural life engendered a new persona or may be mirrored the true reflection of ourselves before our eyes. We have loads of experience to cherish and here we share some of them with you.
To know more about it click:                                             www.gorural.wordpress.com
Boggled- sweet child of mine
We went to seven villages within one month. One fruitful result of our trips was we became very good friends with the Auto Waala. He even invited us to his place on Diwali. Now when ever we need an auto he is just a call away with super cheap prices. He even  let us drive his steering wheeled auto. We never scheduled our trips but were ad-hoc with our trusted Auto Waala taking to serendipitious locales. 
On our very first trip Soumit got his coveted shot. He captured ( in camera ) a girl whose pose was quite glamourous. 
Our first village was Jhareli which was our Auto Waala’s home. There we discovered a cool sand dune and had huge fun wrestling and running after each other. We were treated with ‘Chai’ which became a coveted item on our subsequent trips.  I must mention, hospitality of Rajasthan folks is terrific and unparalled. They just don’t welcome you but treat as their own and you feel at home. They aren’t swarmy like Urban crowd who don’t even know their neighbours and these people treat every child of their village as their own. This was evident by men fretting over mischeives of children under their close scrutiny. A man won’t fight other man for hitting his child as he knows it is out of fatherly affection which compelled him to do it. By coincidence our first host worked at our college’s workshop. He instantaneously recognized Soumit and then we were really at home away from home. A chance we get once in 5 months. 
On our second trip we went to Banghotli, an unauthorised settlement on waste land, early at daybreak. It is here we got some of our best rural shots. A beautiful small girl holding his even small brother in her grasp gave us stunning photographs. We all were astounded at her comfort level with the camera. See wasn’t bothered with our presence, a situation constantly desired.
vatsalya
There we met a local folk artist who played amazing local guitar and was member of a troop, frequently invited to perform at Rajasthan Palaces cum Hotel to entertain VIP’s and foreigners. 
The mukhiya of the settlement served us Chai and this was even better than before. With him very intriguing and enlightening conversation. He told us how Villagers help each other in the time of crisis and told us about their beliefs and creed.
” Agar kisi ke ghar anaz ka dan nahi hai to use koi anaaz mana nahi karta. Jholi bhar anaz ya patila bhar dudh to dena hi hai. Rah chalte rahi ko lassi to puchna dharma hai”,are the words of mukhiya if I recall correctly.
On asking whether their children go to schools he proudly announced yes. He has also aware of the difficulties and prejudices faced by girl child. But also explained the difficulties for sending girl child to school. The proximity of school is huge issue. The environment is not sound for girls to go so far away from thier parent’s supervision and care. 
We were apprised that barter system is still prevalent. He said a lot and we conceived a lot but I don’t wish to elaborate any further.
In search of Light
The amount of fun we had on our trips to villages is just amazing. After every trip we use to struggle to find the right words to describe the experience. It left us speechless and with broad smiles which soon use to give into laughter. Village after village the experience just got better. Now when i write about my experiences I feel like going back, I know we would soon. We all smoked Hukka for the first time, nothing to be proud of but still overwhelms us the moment we think about. In all the experience was just ecstatic. Never before we were in elysium with such subltle and yet amazing experiences.
Just have a look-
rural memo