When did I, a teacher of English, begin this dalliance with photography? The Moment of Truth began in the summer of 1975 with the June issue of Imprint Magazine. R.V. Pandit, the owner-publisher announced the release of India’s first picture book: ‘Even though I say so, Ganga: Sacred River of India, with photographs by Raghubir Singh and text by Eric Newby is the finest pictorial book Indians have ever produced.’
I was smitten, sold hook — line and — sinker. ‘Someday!’ I said to myself, ‘I will have my own book!’
Later, the phone rang and a baritone boomed: ‘Ganesh would you consider teaching photography to our Officer Trainees?’ Santosh Mathew, coordinator for the foundation course was on the line.
‘Ah!’ I teased: ‘A joker in the pack?’
‘Of course not!’ He assured me: ‘It’d be good for future all-India service officer trainees to cultivate a hobby.’
‘Like a safety valve on a pressure cooker?’ I mocked.
Anyway, over the years, I have spent long hours initiating youngsters into topics like subject, composition and exposure.
Of course a few took to photography like ducks to water; others sank without a ripple. Dipping into the past, in my mind’s eye, I see Keshav Chandra, producing crystal images of places far and wide. More power to you Keshav! Meanwhile I shall ignore gossip that has you developing a glad eye for water-colours nowadays.
Of course gossip had little to do with the thief aboard the night train during Bharat Darshan. He nipped in the bud a promising photographer in Himani Pande. For a handful of silver, he deprived us of pictures of Jharkhand. But what he couldn’t steal was the brilliance of her images. She carries on regardless of her loss.
Nothing was lost though as I judged a photo-exhibition in the Officer Trainee lounge, alongside the redoubtable Mr Binod Kumar. Nudging him, I almost spilt his coffee. He was not amused. ‘I hate to be the one tripping you, but you’re giving all the prizes to the same person.’ I ventured.
‘How do you know?’ Suspiciously, he growled. ‘Are you into match-fixing?’
“Look at the vibrant use of form and colours!”
“Not possible!” he muttered, taking the prints off their mounts, as he turned them over, each had same name: Nawin Sona! He later held exhibitions all over the country – capturing moments that would be lost forever, impossible to recreate.
But in the 2016 batch, there were no stiles to clear for Abhinav Shivam. He was born with an eye for pictures. And no matter who wins the toss, I know soon there will be stunning pictures of Nagaland on their way.
Looking back at the years, as I lug my load of cameras home, I find the past is another country, where things were done differently. Today standing on the cliff’s edge of three score plus ten of our allotted days, one thing I know for sure is that humans, not places, make up memories.