Monday, December 14, 2015

The ZICAnalacious Rendezvous

Well, I'm writing this post with a very different mindset-
1. Because I'm pretty much overshooting on the pre-defined deadlines set by my boss (and I haven't even started)
2. Because I have a wedding shoot to cover in the evening and my 35 mm pancake hasn't even arrived from the cleanser yet.
3. Because it was our official book-launch day yesterday, it's called the "SoulCity- Inside Stories from Calcutta", my first publication as an author and photographer...I'm too overwhelmed by the gravity of the moment.
4. Because I have to start packing for my official tour to the North-East and
5. Because one of my research papers on has gone into the reviewer's room for the second time and I am extremely anxious..!

 Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: And he watches them sail along
© Sammya Brata Photography
Way too many excuses I see, but that's how it actually shaped up. I still remember that "dreadful call" on the eve of our Goa trip- "Sammya, I think we need your help in submitting a bid document tomorrow; you might need to travel to one of our neighboring states early in the morning on Saturday."
Good Lord! This has happened so many times in the past, and this time it was quite a critical assignment...saying "NO" was perhaps not even an option. Umm...so I decided to resort to my all-time favorite excuse-
"Dear Sir, you are pretty much aware of the fact that I am suffering from spondylosis for a while now; I've been also traveling incessantly due to work. Please excuse me for this outstation travel, it's not recommended by the doctors. Yours sincerely." ;)

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: Umm something brewing in here ;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
And it worked. I do realize that I'm running into the risk of being tracked down and sued by my boss, who incidentally follows my blog...but then at least I'm 50% honest. I've been asked not to drive for a stretch of 6 months at least because of this poignant blight...it's a rather suffocating exercise, but then that's how it is. Anyway, to cut the long story short...with so many "ifs and buts" piling up before the "Big-Fat" bloggers meet in Goa organized by Indiblogger and Tata Motors, I knew that something "incredible", something rather "fantastic(o)" was being chiseled out...it sure promised to be one heck of a ride. My colleagues keep saying that "Goa is my second home" considering the number of times I've been there in the last couple of years...."I think you know Goa better than Calcutta now?" ; and guess what, they are pretty much on the money with this one. Yes, if Calcutta is my "SoulCity", Goa is definitely my muse...there are a hell lot of congruity between the two cities- the people, the heritage buildings, the "doors and windows", the ingrained colors and of course the sense "euphoria" and "freedom"- I have participated in a number of "photo-hunts" in Goa and the experiences have been memorable. I have also stayed in a number of 'exquisite' resorts in Goa and must mention that our stay at the Alila Diwa, was refreshingly different. It's a beautiful property indeed, flanked by a dash of greens.

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'gorgeous Alila Diwa' :)
© Sammya Brata Photography
5 Key Take-aways from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa

1. Bloggers are fantastico collaborators:- Nah, I'm not even making an attempt to draft the 'minutes of the meeting' from our spontaneous "round-table" post-dinner discussion with accomplished bloggers like Arvind Sir, Anindya; I'm stressing on the very fact that bloggers with absolutely diverse genres coming together for such an unique event, is nothing less than sensational. Somebody had subtly raised this question in his/her registration form, and I would like to assert that it was quite a defining moment indeed.  It goes without saying that I'm really looking forward to the 'assorted' perspectives presented in the post-event blog-posts; could actually turn out to be a great case study. The fact that I have personally worked in a couple of recent blogger-and-author-collaborations, made it all the more interesting. It was great to learn that people have actually taken up blogging as a full-time profession and doing pretty well in that respect. I strongly feel that this event would form the basis of glorious blogger-collaborations in the near future.
2. Bloggers are extremely jocular:- I won't take names here, because of the simple fact that I might get trolled by the others (LOL!). I don't know whether the others would agree on this, but from what I gathered, some of the bloggers are funnier in real life than their blogs. And that makes it all the more interesting, you have been following their posts...you have been sketching their imaginary 'portraits' in your mind; and when you get to meet them in person and they 'outstrip' your hypothesis...you are taken aback in ecstasy. Candid interactions are vitally important in such blogger engagements because it allows you to quickly get out of your shell and stitch long-lasting bonds. Bloggers can be talented "Cartoonists" too, we did get to see a glimpse of their talent while performing one of the tasks during the drive. The "Mata Ki Chowki" hosted by our beloved Vinita-ji at the Dabolim Airport was just outlandish, we were almost on the verge of being thrown out of the airport I presume? Anyway Vinita-ji, I'm still waiting for those "prized portraits"...before you decide to put them on Shaadi dot com. 
3. Bloggers love their selfie-sticks:- This is something that I have been observing for long enough and the "Made of Great" bloggers meet in Goa was no exception. Yes, but the number of selfie sticks that we got to see this time around would perhaps break all the possible records registered so far. As a street photographer, I am more interested in capturing unprejudiced, guileless expressions and we got to see plenty of this under those "prized selfie sticks". To begin with, I was rather self-phobic...in-fact I had mentioned this specifically on my Instagram bio (that is pretty much a street-photography based handle); but then I slowly but surely realized that selfies are pretty handy, especially when the days of "self-timered" portraits are gone. Of course, being a huge fan of contemporary "self-portraits", I do feel that the art of taking selfies is evolving with every passing day...do take a look at some of the bus-fies, car-fies, room-fies and beech-fies shared by the fellow bloggers...there's a lot of learn for sure.
4. Bloggers are amazing singers:- Goodness gracious me, this is what I call "endowment"; being a trained classical singer I do realize how difficult it is to stitch those floating notes together into a rather mellifluous track...that too without prior rehearsal. BOY! I have had butterflies in my stomach already...and then we had the company of uber-cool bloggers like Rahul, MaitreniVaisakhi, Vinita who literally blew us away with their crooning skills. Special mention goes to both Cyrus (our host for the evening) and Vinita (popularly known as "BlogwatiG") for their mind-blowing rap-rendition, that was an amazing partnership indeed...you might just grab a decent sponsorship from Indi-Music when in launches in 2050. Also, Mr. Pratap Bose, Head of Design, Tata Motors can easily appear for the Indian Idol auditions next year...there's some serious potential in there. BOY! So much to talk about out here...who would have thought that a blogger's meet could actually turn out to be a glorious rendezvous of thoughts, ideas, vivacity and "flair".
5.  Bloggers are safe drivers:- Well, the fact that we returned home "without a scratch" is proof enough. The last time I drove at the BIC, I had clocked a whopping 240 Km/hr...and once you taste the "raw" charm of speed, it's very difficult to hold on to your horses. Thankfully Roshan (during our Zesty drive in Goa few months back) and Anindya (this time around) ensured that I never get a chance to grab the steering wheel. It's vitally important for the driver to adapt to a rather "alien" machine, and the fact that he has an additional responsibility of being the "carrier" makes it slightly challenging. Thankfully, all the team leads (who effectively turned out to be the chauffeurs- LOL) did a great job in negotiating the bends and loops of the picturesque Goan boulevard. The fact that we weren't fatigued after a 4 hour long drive proved that the driving was exceptionally proficient (and to take away a bit of "pride", the car was brilliant too). I also have this rather annoying trait of halting precipitously mid-way through the drive, just to jump out of the car and take a few street-snaps...and guess what, I precisely did the same this time around. Credit, of course, goes to my two team-mates Avantika and Anindya for bearing with me right through the course! The tasks/challenges that were thrown in by the bloggers from across the country on twitter made it all the more interesting and in turn, presented to me enough opportunities to click photographs- the replenishing appetite of a photo-blogger; always looking around for 'frames"!!


5 Key Aspects of the Tata Zica (ZIppy CAr) that blew me away

1. Looks like Tata had a Fashion Blogger in the Design team - Ermm, no..before you start assuming things, I DO NOT have a soft corner for beauty bloggers...it's just that I have shot for a number of them and I love the association. I think the Tata Zica is substantial level up with respect to it's "seniors" in the family tree; fresh memories from the "Zesty" ride flock in as I write this...ZICA has undoubtedly has the "WOW" factor ingrained in it. It's just the kind of a design that will immediately attract your attention...and as they call it a "young" ...rather a "fresh" variant, it has that alluring charm. As a photo-blogger, who roams around the Streets of Calcutta in search of colors, a generous dose of sunburst orange adds that newer dimension called a "Photogenic creation". The first glimpse of the Zica, when it emerged from the "Depths" of the Locker Room and I had made up my mind- "That's my model for the next fashion shoot". The unique tail-lamps and the horizontal grille add to the splendor; the accessories of a classy model. Now that Messi, the youth icon, is their brand ambassador, there's all the more reason to fall in love with it's "Exuberant design". Rating: 9/10 for the first impression it created on my mind...a photographer & car-enthusiast's unbiased POV.

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica ;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
2. Looks like the Zica could be a virtuoso's paradise - Yo, my favorite ConnectNEXT, that's a Tata Signature, makes a glorious comeback in Zica with the bliss of Harman Kardon Infotainment system transforming your ride into a symphonic one. Studded with a series of 8 speakers and surround sound technology, I reckon, this could be the "ideal road-trip vehicle", stack up your play-list with riveting numbers and experience the spirit of on-road euphoria. A special mention goes to the inventive Juke-Car App that pretty much allows you to control the playlist even from the back-seat; this is indeed a boon because people sitting behind often complain that the driver or the person sitting beside has full liberty of choosing what song to play- that becomes quite a pain during long drives. Tada, why should "they" have all the fun? Through this app, one can create an assorted playlist simply using their mobile phones and there you go; the song navigation system is pretty user friendly too...and of course the audio-quality is MIND-BLOWING. We did the acid test by rolling the windows up and switching the audio volume right up-to it's maximum threshold- BOY!! That was breathtaking! The turn-by-turn voice navigation system is another great addition indeed, but at times, it does become a distraction since the music stops abruptly in the process. Rating: 8/10 because of it's impact on a music lover..!!

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
3. Every long-lasting relationship needs sufficient "space"- They say, "Do not judge a Facebook Profile only by the Display Picture", you should "step in" and see what's inside. And surprisingly for a relatively compact looking hatchback from the exterior, Zica is extremely spacious inside. There's enough of leg-room (especially for the back-row) in there...that's an extremely critical parameter while judging the overall "comfort" factor of an automobile and the seats are very comfortable indeed. The textile quality (that includes the seat covers) used and the ergonomic contour is indeed gratifying. The fact that Roshan could fit in there and drive for so long, is proof enough (:D). The boot-space (242 L to be precise) is pretty sizable too, now you know why I corona-ted Zica as a premium "the road-trip car". I won't risk dumping my camera accessories in there for sure, but it certainly has enough "space" hold an entire set of archived files stacked in a Government office. Not to forget the abundance of utility storage space (22 slots) inside the car where tea/coffee cups as well as bottles of soft-drinks can rest; they have actually displaced the hand-brake slightly to create this additional and much needed space. You have no clue what a fantastic addition this is. It is also equipped with the 9th generation ABS, for that extra bit of refuge. Rating: 8/10 for striking a balance between the interior & the exterior. Amen!!

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
4. Saves more so that you can opt for an extra scoop of ice-cream- For a diesel variant equipped with a 1.05 L Engine, clocking 19.6 Km/L right at the end is nothing less than phenomenal. That is quite a bit of saving considering the regular surge in fuel prices. And considering the fact that we drove at a moderate speed right through the journey, the experience was pleasant. The car is perhaps custom-made to suit the "Rush-hours" in city-life where would need a calm head and amicable patience in order to reach your destination. The car did ensure a smooth and cozy experience in-spite of the occasionally rangy terrain; however the acceleration quotient is perhaps "average" I would say. One thing is for sure, if you are straight out of the sets of "NFS Underground", this is not your type...I think it was a brilliant decision for me not to drive, no nitro-boosters in this one for sure. I'd say, I'm slightly disappointed with the fact that the petrol variants make relatively more sound than the counterparts while accelerating; something that the engineers might need to look at closely. Rating: 7/10 because of the fuel efficiency factor...!!

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
5. Looks like it's pretty much "within my range"- I've been good with predictive analysis in college and testing of hypothesis too. From what I deduce, Tata would hold on to their forte of creating splendid fuel-efficient and design-enriched vehicles that are pretty much affordable; analyzing from the point of view of middle-class families, Tata, historically has been their best bait. The car hasn't been launched officially (scheduled to happen in January 2016), neither have the "figures" been disclosed...but from the smile on Delna's face, it's pretty much evident that we are in for a surprise here as well. We have seen how Tata has effectively marketed their path-breaking creations - the Zest and the Bolt, no wonder Messi's entry into the scheme of this has added that extra bit of zing to their latest addition- The Zica. I reckon the Zica would pretty much fall in the < 5 L range; that considering the advanced features and upgrades, is an incredible "WIN" for all us out here- the car-enthusiasts. No rating - it is the benchmark.

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: The 'ravishing' Tata Zica;)
© Sammya Brata Photography
Super thanks to the entire Indiblogger crew- Anoop, Vineet and Naveen (and of course Renie who's coaching Brett Lee in Australia right now ;)), the Tata Motors core team- Pratap Bose (Head of Design), Delna Avari (Head of Marketing and Communications), Anand Kulkarni (GM, Vehicle Integration) and our favorite host and dost Cyrus Sahukaar for making this happen. We should do this more often you know, helps immensely in bridging the gap between the brand and it's consumers.

Scenes from the "Made of Great" Bloggers Meet in Goa: On the boulevard of reincarnated dreams
© Anindya S Basu

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Lazarus....

Hey life,
YOU have been a preceptor….
YOU have been a paradigm…
YOU have been a salvager….
Because….
Once I ran up the slope and stumbled…
Once I dived into the surly brine…
Once I stepped into the broiling inferno….
I knew that I won’t survive.
But then, YOU had other plans.
“Follow me”- YOU reassured…
And shepherded me along the edge….
“HE” stood there at the end of the crooked brim…
Waiting for me to cross-over…
“HE” didn’t stretch out HIS arms to aid…
HE stood there and smiled….
And as I limped and slithered in the slime….
“Rise from the ashes….and you will survive”- HE announced.
The “hope” of survival was already inbred…
Yes, I did ‘cling on’ and withered the storm….
And with the first rays of the sun kissing my forehead…
Let me divulge…
Hey life,
YOU have been quite a redeemer…
....Enough said!
“Dada, aap please jaldi aa jao, lagta hai wo mil gaya” (Bro, come over real soon, I reckon we have hunted it down) - The exuberant voice from the other end whooped.
I was yet another gloomy day in Calcutta and my mood was right back off; almost as if in sync with the forlorn weather….it was as if somebody was stitching the blue-print for a tenebrous conspiracy- if the beastly impact of an unanticipated disaster was appalling enough, the aftershock was as gruesome as ever.
“Tu mazak to nahi kar raha hai na?” (You’re not kidding me, right?)- I desperately pumped, I was rather skeptical. The news was unbelievable, it was too good to be true. Human psychology, my word, is convoluted.
“Dada, aap aiye to sahi…hum bilkul bhi mazak nahi kar rahe” (Bro come along and see for yourself, this is not a joke) - The adolescent voice from the other side reassured. Technically I should have been overjoyed at this unexpected ‘bulletin’, but strangely I didn’t know how to react. Perhaps the news was too good to be true; but then I had to respond to the “Divine memorandum”.

On a rainy day in Calcutta, the city looks absolutely beautiful bathed in the holy rain.
Photograph: Self Shot
It had started raining like Godzilla's and King Kong’s by then….it was as if Mother Nature was conspiring against me and my ‘drive’ all over again. It generally impossible to get out of office before 7 PM, but then I decided to take the gamble and guess what, just before the appraisals. The “Call” meant so much to me….you know, at times people should “mute” their judicious bent of mind and take a few instinctive calls, it does assuage your imminent agony. I almost trying to convince myself that the “Caller” was actually bluffing; but then the confidence and the immaculateness in his voice was apparently credible enough. It was extremely difficult to get a transport on that particular day, but I knew that this was my very last chance. Sector V was bitterly water-logged as always, with almost zero traffic movement…and I decided to walk right up to Karunamoyee, I wasn’t even carrying an umbrella. I was literally drenched, my corporate jacket…my trousers were soaked in rain-water, I desperately needed a cover; I had a very important client meeting to attend on the following day and falling sick wasn’t even an option. The yellow taxis were pretty much in a “Refuse-By-Default” mode and the radio taxi services were flamboyantly running at a 4X price surge; I had no other option but to frantically wave at those slow-moving crammed “Shuttle-vans” – my last ray of hope. At last I did manage to get hold of one, and almost miraculously the cabbie agreed to drop me off at the North Port Police Station near the Howrah Bridge. It also meant that the dreadful prospect of walking down the Howrah Bridge, wading through the torrential rain was pretty much on the cards. I had no other option but to take this route, it was going to be very tough...but “hope” was pretty much the driving force in this battle….

On the way to the Ramkrishnapur Ghat on a rainy day in Calcutta
Photograph: Self Shot
I had to tramp and ‘hike’ for almost 45 minutes in the rain; set off from the Mullick Ghat, across the Howrah Bridge, crossed the jam-packed Howrah Railway Station and the Railway Museum, through the muddy alleys of Howrah down to the mythical Ramkrishnapur Ghat- that’s where it all happened. I could see him waiting there in the shade….looking straight at me, with an invigorating smile on his face- he swiftly took out his umbrella and ran in to “greet” me. I could distinctly hear the holy chants and ‘divine euphony’ of ringing bells in the background…Ganga Aarti had just begun. I knew that "He" has been there all along........

On a very gloomy day in Howrah, at the Ramkrishnapur Jetty, spells "doom" isn't it?
Photograph: Self Shot
“Dada, us din bhi sham ko aise hi baarish huwa tha…! Hum uss din dhoond nahi paye.” (Bro, it had rained so much that evening, we couldn’t carry out the search operation.) He explained…he didn’t need to. I was literally shivering in anticipation; half of his words weren’t even registering in my mind. I was frazzled but at the same time, I knew that the next few seconds could be as incisive as ever. He, however, looked as calm and composed as ever.
“Dada, barish thora sa rukne dijiye…phir main lake deta hu. Waise bhi bohut der pani ke andar tha...humne koshish ki hai….” (Bro, will bring ‘it’ to you as soon as the rain stops. It was lying under-water for quite some time, we have tried our level best) - He recited; I was astonished by his placidity….for someone who had groped through the Ganges for the last 3 hours or so, in this rain, this was simply preposterous.
“Chotu, mujhe dekhna hai…abhi” (Chotu, I want to see it right now) - I was getting impatient with every passing second. Oh dear.

This is exactly the spot where my lens rolled down into the Ganges, that's Chotu beside me
Photograph: Preeti Roychoudhury

That's when we talked to Chotu and he explained how he risked his life, to recover the lens
Photograph: Sujay Kumar Das
“Achha dada aap idhar hi rukiye…hum leke aatein hai…” (Ok wait right here, let me bring it for you)- And he rushed out in the rain, I think he could sense the exact state of my mind, my concern, my wretchedness. Such maturity, such augmentation for an 18-year old! He returned in just about 5 minutes with a venerated cylindrical body wrapped carefully a polythene sheet and handed it over to me. I gently un-rolled the sheet; my heart-beats had attained the speed of light by then, I don’t know whether I was sweating or was the rain-water, my word, it was the most difficult 10 seconds of my life…this was “the moment”. Goodness me! This young chap wasn’t bluffing at all…he had, in-fact, quite impulsively pulled off something extraordinary. He was already a hero in my eyes. He had done something that perhaps nobody could have even dared to have attempted. UNBELIEVABLE.

That's when we talked to Chotu and he explained how he risked his life, to recover the lens
Photograph: Sujay Kumar Das
Such a lovely young man, full of life...full of dreams..his smile made our day, salute
Photograph: Sujay Kumar Das
Okay. Before I get to the details, let me ask you this question….how often do you expect to recover something that has been accidentally dropped in to the Ganges that too during the high tide? I reckon the chances are as slim as 0.0001%? And I think I am still over-stating. But then miracles do happen...and when it does, all you can do is to thank the Almighty for being there and featuring you an integral part of the script. My experience was nothing less than a sensation; when you lose all your hope and something crops up out of no-where, you do take time to sink in….it’s a bewildering experience indeed. In case you haven’t guessed it already, the heavy cylindrical object that I was referring to in the last segment, was my beloved Canon 10-22 mm wide angle lens that I had dropped accidentally dropped in the Ganges while shooting at the Ramkrishnapur Ghat. If you have followed my blog, you would have known that I am a street photographer based out of Calcutta and I’m mostly out “on the field” during the weekends to capture the “moods of the city”. This Sunday was no exception, it had been raining since the last couple of days and we, the core team-members of Calcutta Instagrammers, decided to go out and photograph the “freshness” of Calcutta…bathed in the rain. The photo-hunt did begin quite well, with some inspiring frames being shot at the Esplanade in the first half and we decided to head over to “the other side” of the Ganges to get a clearer perspective of the brewing cloudscape….that’s when it all happened. I was almost through with my shoot at the Ramkrishnapur Ferry Ghat and was merely changing my lenses when I lost my grip and the prized lens rolled down into the Ganges. It was partly attributable to the mini quake caused by an arriving launch at the very instant when it drops its anchor to the ferry. I have been a trained swimmer and my instinctive call was to dive into the water, but thankfully I controlled the stimulus…it could have been a suicidal attempt during the high tide. I held on to my nerves, took a closer look and spotted some teens with athletic built resting at the Ghat…judging by experience, I deduced that they could be good swimmers; I decided to make an attempt.

On an "Ascent"..at the Ramkrishnapur Jetty, in search of some mesmerizing frames....
Photograph: Preeti Roychoudhury
And I was right on the money; these teens have “braved” the Ganges on multiple occasions and one of them (the hero of our fable, Chotu) agreed to my request almost instantaneously. When he dived into the Ganges spontaneously without an inch of disquietude, I knew that he was my man. We all know how deep the Ganges could be and the lens had settled pretty much on the river bed…it was quite a challenging task to hold your breath for an extended period and also resist the flow. He frantically searched for an hour but in vain…the flow during high tide was too strong to cope with; I could see the disappointment on his face- this was perhaps the first time that he had failed in his attempt. We had, in the meanwhile, come to know that he has been a life-saver (he has saved almost 10 people from drowning), he has contributed a lot to the society already. He was a gifted swimmer and traverses the Ganges almost once every-day. I could sense the veracity in his ‘constitution’, his passion, his dedication and ‘candidness’…but I didn’t want to risk his life, it was quite an in executable task to track a tiny cylindrical object in this “ruthless flow”. I had requested him not to be go back again and rewarded him with a solitary hundred rupee note as a mark of appreciation for his gallant effort. I loved his spirit to the core & it was a mark of respect. He accepted it reluctantly.

They absolutely make it look easy, they are extremely talented swimmers- true bravehearts
Photograph: Sujay Kumar Das
That's Chotu after his successful mission, he searched for over 3 hours under-water....
Photograph: Sujay Kumar Das
But somewhere down the line, I knew that the fighter in him won’t give up and I was perturbed; the exuberance of youth can be precarious at times. And he did exactly what I had expected and astonishingly came up with unexpected results. A couple of days later, he decided to take up the challenge once again and after a breath-taking 3 hour-long under-water ‘expedition’, managed to dig it out. It sounds all too simple I know, my word…it’s nothing less than phenomenal. The lens had settled right at the bottom of the Ganges and had been carried away considerably far in the flow; more than skills it needed the power of estimation, tenacity and determination to get it done. I’m so proud of you young man, you have left a permanent impression in my heart. And I am not overstating when I say that we need people like you to turn up and enliven the sinking future of the country. The fact that you refused to avail any monetary compensation strengthens this impression; you are amazing !!
The State Bank of India is visible in the backdrop, yet limited funds for this brave chap....
Photograph: Self Shot
We decided to go back to the spot and shoot a small video testimonial (this video featuring my interview with Chotu was shot and edited by my friend Nabanil Sanyal) for this young man who aspires to join the Indian Army and serve the Nation. He is educated, can speak decent English and loves his family more than himself. Unfortunately, he has an ailing father to look after, and is genuinely running short of funds with every passing day. We have also decided to set-up a fund-raiser for Chotu to cover his education and family crisis, the work is in progress. If you would like to contribute, please do get in touch with me.
*An update, the lens was lying on the river bed for over 2 days and the moisture did do substantial damage to the internal circuitry. However, the good news is after being repaired by the “Lens Doctor”, it’s working just fine. It’s perhaps not as “sharp” and “agile” as it used to be, but it has recovered incredibly well and is doing a great job. My friends keep saying that it has been “revived” by Maa Ganga; I would rather give it to the Young Turk who fought against the odds and “rescued” it. You are a brave-heart my friend. I have certainly met two #madeofgreat entities through this moving episode, an inspiring human being on one hand and my gutsy little wide-angle lens that survived this crusade- it has been aptly christened as “Lazarus” by Preeti Roychoudhury who was there with me right through this ensorcelled chapter. Thanks Sujoy for your continuous support.

Oh yes, somebody's watching from somewhere I sure, blessing the #madeofgreat entities
Photograph: Self Shot
* Disclaimer: All the pictures used in this blogpost have been either self-clicked or clicked by my two friends Sujay Kumar Das and Preeti Roychoudhury and should not be copied/reproduced in any form without my prior approval.  
* Contest Time What do you think of Tata Motors association with Lionel Messi? Answer in the comments below. Answer this simple question and the best response gets  shopping voucher worth INR 750/-. Want to know more about the #madeofgreat initiative by Tata Motors? Click here

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Calcutta Instagrammers: An Insider's Account

Well, it’s funny how perspectives change over a period of time; so do the preferences. We often struggle to convince ourselves.
Of course, it’s important for us to cope up with the evolving social ecosystem…but that should come with the caveat that you shouldn’t deviate from your ‘originality’; I have seen people getting into the never ending loop of ‘metamorphosis” and eventually emerging out as a perplexed, perturbed soul. I think one of the major reasons for this change in behavioral pattern is the ingrained inimical trait; we hardly retrospect…digging out others’ faults eats up most of our time.
Anyway, this post is not supposed to be a rhapsody or a promotional post; it should rather be a crisp cogitation in line with what has been an eventful last couple of months. Lots and lots of updates, upgrades and refurbishments within a very short period of time; that takes a toll on you. However, the only positive aspect is that you eventually managed to respond to the changes, established something “concrete” and realized that perhaps it’s time for you to take “it” to a new level.
Well, talking about moving in steps and not in leaps, I think some of us have to realize that time is not on our side. With so many marauders around, an idea when it gets floated into the ‘cosmos’, gets ruthlessly replicated almost instantaneously. However, creativity….rather ingenuity, I believe has no expiry date. It’s a replenishing cycle…a visionary starts thinking right from where he left and goes beyond those inbred limits, he sets newer goals for himself and sets the tone for his consorts to take over. Relatable?
That's what we are talking about.
The largest Instagram Community of Calcutta, Calcutta Instagrammers
Let’s take a look at some of my key take-aways from a very eventful last couple of months. Lets try &  convince ourselves on these :-
1. Creating a closely knit community is a challenging task, on a personal ground, you tend to stretch yourself, and at times rather emphatically. You are constantly worried about the fluctuating numbers because you know that stats matter at the End of the Day.
2. People are often under the impression that once you are through with your creation, half of the job is done. I would beg to differ in this case, your real “job” starts right after you kick-start your treasured initiative. You simply can’t let your standards drop. Sustainability is the key.
3. Yes, you develop a new set of admirers and almost an equivalent number of haters…striking a balance between the two often becomes a challenge. It’s a ruthless tug-of-war, and the side that “holds on to its ground”, tastes glory. You guessed it right, this is nothing less than a battle.
4. You need to get the right guys in the right places. You might have started an initiative with a specific set of people in mind, but with time you might need to change the formation of your core team. Skills sets do matter and it’s important to put your emotions aside in this respect.
5. For a closely knit community, it’s important for the core team to ensure that each and every member is treated with equal importance. This is exactly what we mean by “hospitable harmony”; your audience is your Jehovah… there would be diversity in your assemblage, you need to handle them judiciously.
6. You should advertise yourself audaciously and leverage your strongest medium “of influence” in this very aspect. People often detest the idea of “shameless self-promotion”…yes there should be “restraint” but at the end of the day, what matters is the “footprints”- either in an offline or an online mode. If people are “talking about you”, you are heading in the right direction.
7. Once you start off with the endorsements on the digital platform, you are bound to attract “interest”, and this could be inform of collaboration offers and counter-offers. This is indeed a tricky scenario and you would need to ensure that you are not working for “Free”. Consortium, in effect, means sharing of credentials between the two entities and you should not be exploited in any way. But when it comes to credential building, at times you might need to do Pro bono work.
8. You should be open to ideas coming in from different layers of your target audience. These ideas might sound bizarre at the onset, but could turn out to be extremely relevant in the near future. Crowdsourcing has come a long way since its inception and should be a great ingrained asset for an evolving community.
9. Organic engagement is extremely critical for a newly developed community and there is absolutely no substitute to this. Once the gap (if it at all exists) between the mentors and the members is bridged, then we can talk of harmony, integrity and trust-building. The idea is to create a reciprocal environment.
10. Since investment is the key to any successful venture, at times, you might need to pay out of your own pocket. This is a policy every entrepreneur needs to follow, I reckon…and I’m not talking about lump sum investment. I firmly believe that you are creating a “bank of possibilities” in the process…the interest rates would work in your favor- a gamble that works wonders. Amen.
At an offline event organized by Calcutta Instagrammers and Streets of Calcutta- "Milestone Colloquy"
Straight from the Archives: An account of the Instameets organized by CI so far......
Some key information about Calcutta Instagrammers

# Set up just about 3 months back, Calcutta Instagrammers has turned out to be the first and biggest Instagram community of Calcutta. It's a platform where you can connect to like-minded people, of course, Instagram being the bridge. You can share your thoughts, ideas, tips, feedback and of course images in this group, no restriction what-so-ever.
# Calcutta Instagrammers is an integral part of the very popular photography community "Streets of Calcutta" led by eminent photographer Soumya Shankar Ghosal and popular food-blogger Indrajit Lahiri.
Calcutta Instagrammers has been instrumental in conducting Insta-meets for Calcutta including the official Worldwide Instagram meets 11.0 and 12.0 (#WWIM11 and #WWIM12) and World-wide Indiapictures meet (#IP_Meet). CI has also been involved in promoting social awareness programmes like Fanushi (Sky Lantern festival to promote Green Diwali). Take a look at "On The Rox"'s steller coverage on Fanushi 3.0 out here.
# Sensitization has also been a key aspect that CI has been focusing upon; in this direction a interactive workshop "Milestone Colloquy" was organized on 14th November 2015 at the Oxford Bookstores, Calcutta that received phenomenal response.
# Calcutta Instagrammers is a free platform and anyone and everyone can register. With mere exceptions, almost all the events conducted by us are free of cost.
# Calcutta Instagrammers can be found on FacebookTwitter and of course Instagram. We have a regular feature mechanism to highlight the best photos from across the city, clicked by talented photographers. We also have a dedicated set of admins for all the above mentioned platforms and all the posts are closely moderated.
# With a fantastic buzz and mind-blowing organic footprints on all the platforms, Calcutta Instagrammers is now open for brand-campaigns. So do get in touch if you are interested.
The official hashtag for instagram upload is #ig_calcutta that has already recorded a whooping 6,500+ uploads on Instagram till date.
# We have also been featured in Telegraph on account of our successful initiatives. You can read the article here. Cheers...!!!

The Official Calcutta Instagrammers Logo

Monday, November 16, 2015

To Calcutta with Love...

Before I begin with this photo-fable, let me confess that I am not a photographer, neither do I aspire to become one any point of time in the near future. When somebody asks me - "Why don't you take this up professionally?", I prefer to smile and walk away, I honestly don't have an answer to this. I'm sure that my camera smiles back at me almost instantaneously...it's a bond that is perhaps intractable, invulnerable, unyielding; heavy words eh? As a consultant, we are known for equivocating facts and figures...perhaps predilections as well, but then there are certain things in life that are above all these. As per the general principle in our line of business, we are billed for every second that we spend on an assignment...the synopsis takes an U-turn it comes to hunting perspectives, it's nothing other than alchemy. The preferences vary, but as far as my understanding and derivation goes, nobody has ever turned away from a good photograph. Of course, the scenario changes drastically when you switch from in-front of the lens to behind it...that's when you comprehend your propensity. I am currently a part of a number of Facebook Photography Communities and I get to see so many amazing pictures everyday; that has been the defining factor as far as self-development is concerned...these posts inspire me everyday, they help me identify my lapses, my frailties. This comes with the caveat that one shouldn't be typically influenced by others' style of photography, the choice of frame, angle or perspective because art, in any form, shouldn't be replicate; the essence of creativity makes it alive. I am been mostly inclined to street photography of late, the ingrained challenge in composing a street-photograph turns me on...the prospect of scouting through the familiar streets in search of "not-so-familiar" frames- that's what makes me happy. I feel the adrenaline rush at the prospect of capturing an eloquent moment, the moment that might vanish forever in a split second...the moment that could make a historic picture, could fade in the blink of an eye. There are no retakes, no second chances in this genre of photography...that's life for you, there are no action replays. Honestly speaking, spontaneous photography has always been "my thing"...as a kid I used to silently pick up my dad's Kodak KB10 and head out to the bylanes. BOY! I have been caught red handed on multiple occasions and gravely punished...I don't think that made even the slightest of impact. My replenishing thirst for capturing perspectives had breached the thresholds by then....Oh wait! There must be a hidden inspiration somewhere. Yes, you guessed it right the inspiration lay in the rugged, tousled, hustling kaleidoscope that lay right in front of my eyes- The Streets of Calcutta, the apparently grungy cradle that looks like a paradise through the lens. This post is an ode to the indomitable spirit of this city, the city that has given me the reason to survive. Presenting 10 of my favorite photographs taken in this city, they might not be "technically correct" or perfectly framed in connection to the principles of photography, but they are precious to me. This city has given a lot to me..I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life...!

The Calcutta Archives:  This picture was recently shot in an instameet, on a hot and humid summer afternoon. 
A very common yet touching scene on the Streets of Calcutta.
The Calcutta Archives:  These are the perks of working with the Government, 
you get unhindered access to such amazing view-points.  The weather was equally spectacular.
The Calcutta Archives:  I had seen a number of pictures of the Nakhoda Masjid before I shot this, 
I wanted to take it "one step higher". It was a very cloudy day in Calcutta...
The Calcutta Archives: One of my most recent captures during the Amazon India's photowalk in this city. 
In the frame- 350 year old Adinath Ashram in the Shyambazar area.
The Calcutta Archives: The flavor of Calcutta expresses itself to the fullest in this image 
that portrays the love for cricket in this city. The passion for the game is absolutely unmatched.
The Calcutta Archives: This picture, shot at the Mullik Ghat is again one of my favorites 
because this image portrays the ingrained purity and euphoria in the denizens....
The Calcutta Archives: "Just a couple of minutes left for the clock to strike 4"- 
That's when she can break the shackles and rush on to the streets to join her play-mates. The jubilance...
The Calcutta Archives: This picture, also shot recently at the Mullik Ghat, 
is a stimulating depiction of the ebullience that is in an intrinsic component of the city life....
The Calcutta Archives: I used see this kid almost everyday at Park Street during Christmas, 
vending these colorful balloons...just to add those vivid strokes to his otherwise colorless life.
The Calcutta Archives: One of the very common scenes at the Mullik Ghat Flower market, 
this one is special because of the nonchalant yet intriguing expression on the man's face.
*All the pictures used in this blogpost have been self-clicked and should not be copied/reproduced in any form without my prior approval. Just to clarify, these are my personal favorite photographs only from the ones that I have clicked; if you wish to share yours, feel free to drop a comment so that I can get in touch you. 

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