Jaipur and an 1850s Camera  

Posted by Praveen in , , , ,

For anyone visiting Jaipur, the main reason for doing so is to soak in the 'periodic sets' of the umpteen palaces and to saunter along the streets immersed in pink. But for us, there was one more reason - Tikam Chand and his camera from the 1850s. It all started some months back, when we came across some black and white images in Ra's wallet. He and his friends looked like they came straight out of 19th century because of the slightly faded, high contrast images. So, we all wanted one for ourselves too.

The 1860s camera

As you walk down the road from Hawa Mahal, you are bound to hear a weird whistling sound that goes "oooohooooo, ooohoooooo". Well, that is Tikam Chand calling out to his customers. He stands there on the footpath with his huge wooden camera. Tikam tries to bring in the business, the actual photography being done by another man. When we reached there, a family was already getting themselves photographed. It all happens in that crowded street. Against a background of garments strung out from a nearby shop, he made them all pose, one by one. Passersby sometimes walk right in front of the lens. Tikam keeps an eye out to avoid that too.
Tika Ram and his assistant with the camera

Even though the huge camera is right in the middle of the footpath, few give it a second look. And so, Tikam and his assistant were happy to see our interest in the camera. We proceeded to spend the next three hours there. He gave us a run down on the history of the camera and also demonstrated to us the process of taking photographs with that monster. According to him, his grandfather got the camera as a gift from the royal family, who were impressed by his photography. It was later handed down to his father, who started the photography on the street and later Chand took it up. He proudly showed us a number of articles about him and his camera that came in international newspapers, among them the LA times and the Vancouver sun. 

Tika Ram in L.A. Times

Tika Ram in Vancouver sun

To adjust the camera’s focus, he makes use of a sliding lens, a much less sophisticated version of that seen in our DSLRs. The photo paper is slid behind a glass plate and if you look closely through the back of the camera, you can see the inverted image being formed on the plate. A piece of cloth is attached to the backside of the camera. The dark room is inside the box itself. The photo paper is treated with the developing and fixing chemicals inside this. And it’s all done by just feeling the plates. Then this negative is used to produce a ‘positive’ using a similar technique. While explaining all this to us, he even drew it all out on paper.

Vikram's inverted image being formed inside the camera



                                                              washing off the chemicals

                                                      A couple posing for a photograph

                                                                  Us with the camera


a collage of our group shots (courtesy niti)

ok..me :P

a collection of our group shots

The pic that Tika Ram took of Ra during his last trip.

We went mad posing, with everyone taking more than one individual photograph. And yes, the epic group pictures! Though to be honest, the end result didn’t have the timeless quality of the photos that Ra took here last time.  We decided to visit the Jantar Mantar before sunset. On the way, Sid K was particularly attracted to a man selling ‘cheap violins’. For the next few minutes, all of us became virtuosos as we played or rather ‘think we played’ our masterpieces. Sid K bought one of those from the man as a tribute for his patience with our tunes.

Sid K gleefully playing the 'cheap violin'

 Will you click us?

Jantar Mantar was like a maze for me. A sundial here, another complicated dial there, a throwback to the engineering days, and all I wanted was to get out from there fast. A huge bunch of Japanese was gleefully running around and studying about the dials. As our group didn’t have any nerds, we beat a hasty retreat from the Mantar.  
 Nikhil eating a huge pappad

An evening walk along the busy Jaipur streets was a perfect way to end our stay in Rajasthan. It was kite flying season and the twilight sky was filled with shapes cutting across each other.  There were shops exclusively for selling kites. Right from the Indian team to B-grade Bollywood posters, they have kites with pictures of just about everything. There was another aim for the aimless walk too- to buy black and white films and chemicals for developing film. But many kilometers of walk turned out to be futile. And all hopes of some inches from my belly being reduced from that long walk were vanished when we entered Akbari hotel. On the contrary, some inches were added to the belly, thanks to some of the best mutton and roti that I’ve ever had.
The Akbari hotel in Jaipur

At the Jaipur bus stand, there was this tall well built guy dressed in business attire, who behaved like someone planning to bomb the place. He had a book open on his hands but he kept on observing everyone around, the kind of observation which has ‘cruel intentions’ written all over it. Then his attention fell on us and he kept on staring at us. We decided to stare back and before long he started walking around, looking all unsettled. That was one hell of a mysterious guy! Soon we bid goodbye to Rajasthan..


Don Ke Baad Kaun, History and Kolaveri  

Posted by Praveen in , , , ,

It says a lot about how much happened on the very first day of the trip that am still left with things to say even after two blog posts. After the biology lessons in Ranthambore fort, we decided to walk around the Sawai Madhopur town in the evening. The chilly weather was back with a vengeance by then. Ra was insistent on finding the local theatre and watching a movie. Talking about movies, the first thing that caught our eye was the poster of a movie called ‘Don ke baad kaun?’, which had C- grade written all over it. It was being marketed as a sequel to ‘Don’, and to top it all, they had fixed the poster just adjacent to the poster of the original ‘Don-2’. Much time was spent on analyzing the poster of a local porn movie called ‘Madhu ki baatein’. Pondering on the socio-political and aesthetical aspects of the movie, we made a ‘deep’ study of the visual elements in the poster.

                                                     Kaun?Kaun? Don Ke baad kaun?

Film studies...Me and Vikram discussing the nuances involved in the design of this particular poster :D

A particularly disturbing sight for us all through the trip was the mysteriously covered statues of Dr. Ambedkar that we saw at many places. There should be more to it than the oft repeated reason of renovation. Spurred by this sight or maybe due to his usual habits, Ra went from shop to shop in search of the state syllabus text books for high school social studies. No idea if he has read it, but it indeed is a good idea to look through these texts to study how the state redefines history to suit it tastes. We walked on in search of the theatre, until we came face to face with ‘Prem Mandir’, where ‘Don-2’ was running. What an apt name for a theatre! We didn’t linger much, as we had better things to do.
                                                               Ambedkar covered up?

On the walk back, we heard the ubiquitous ‘kolaveri di’ song from a small hotel, sending Sid K into a fit of clenched fists, gritted teeth and unrecognizable rants. This was not the first or last time that we were treated to this scene, during the trip. All through the 8-9 days, wherever we went, be it in trains or local shops or at the Varanasi ghats, we came across this song, either as a recording or from someone’s vocal chords. At a shop in Varanasi, the guy there asked us, “Chennai? Kolaveri people? Mast Gaana hai!” (Sid K was luckily not present at this time). We were truly surprised at the reach of this song. And of course, worried at the flurry of similar songs that will follow.

                                                                   [Drinks break]

It was a huge task waking up early next morning to catch the train to Jaipur. And even worse was the task of waking up Ra, blissfully snoring in his sleeping bag. We somehow reached on time and got onto the second class with general tickets and occupied the vacant berths. The TT was a surprisingly kind guy (unlike the ones in my homeland) and didn’t throw us out. After a quick sleep and more kolaveris and jawanis from a Rajasthani kid’s speaker-like-headphone, we chugged into the pink city. Ra’s old contacts made sure that we had a place to keep our bags safely while we roamed around. The above house has the smallest room for a toilet that I’ve ever seen in my life. You can’t sit in that Indian toilet without touching one or more of the four walls. And, the door can’t be bolted. It doesn’t matter because once you are inside no one can open it since your body will obviously block it. I consider it as one of the greatest achievements of my life to have successfully completed my bowel clearing activities inside this.

Our first destination in Jaipur was the Amber fort, a 16th century marvel overlooking a lake. A perfect reflection of the imposing frontal view welcomed us into the fort. A notable thing about this fort was the huge number of pigeons that were flying around it. It spelt doom for Vikram, the lone guy without a camera, as five of us went crazy clicking them in flight. Vikram made up for it by running behind them gleefully like a nursery kid (Check video for proof).
Vikram chasing pigeons

As usual in other historical monuments, here also we came across ‘X loves Y’ and ‘heart symbols’ neatly carved into the walls. A million love stories are becoming part of history here…Rejoice!

                                                       'Tiger' chasing pigeons



Am not qualified enough to describe the architecture of the palace. Let the pictures speak the rest…

We also met a traditional puppet seller inside the fort. We ended up buying a pair of puppets each.

Its a dull day...Let me get some rest.

Another of the gems from the streets of Jaipur. Two porn movies for the price of one.


Are Karnataka ex-cooperation minister Lakshmana V Savadi and ex-women and child development minister CC Patil listening? Stop watching porn on your phone and watch it in the big screen, idiots! Coming to that whole brouhaha over them watching porn, its pathetic that most of them are making a noise about the porn as such and not about watching it in the assembly. It is hypocrisy of the highest order at work here since a majority of those making a noise in online platforms have watched porn at least once in their lifetimes(many of them regularly, for sure). Who said watching porn is a crime?! But watching it in the assembly, when the drought situation in some districts were being discussed, is certainly one. This episode also exposed the hypocrisy of the saffron brigade who are the self proclaimed wholesale dealers of 'Indian culture'. Ban on live music, Ban on liquor+live music, Ban on beef, attacks on pubs, 11 O clock deadline in Bangalore city- a sample of the measures devised by the BJP. Now, what do they have to say?