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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