“Hi, this is Anirban Saha, a photoblogger based in Calcutta..”
“But you photograph right ? And you have an expensive camera.”
- Duh! Not every one with a camera needs to be a photographer per say. I am a photographer – Blogger. I blog and share my ideas, stories and experiences. To enhance the experience of my readers, I use my photographs.
“So you are not a photographer, can you please shoot my products for free?”
- I did what I do best, keep quiet. No sir, I am not sure if I am the right person you are talking to.”
“That’s great. The way the number of supposed photographers have cropped up in the city, it is doing more harm to the photography. If anyone wants to be a photographer, let him not promote. Ask him to devote time to the craft of it.” said Mr. Ronny Sen.
A very surprised Mrs. Sen ( Director, Maya Art Space) exclaimed, “You did not take part in any photography Salon?”
But all these interactions, got me thinking. Am I weird? No. I simply am in love with the concept of blogging and social media.
There were question which perplexed me all these last few months : When I was offered job by a reputed publishing house, why did I not leave TCS and join? Why do I feel uncomfortable each single time, people refer to me as a photographer or instructs me what to photograph? And and, when I started photoblogging, it wasn’t even a popular concept in the USA. How did I even start it ?
The answer is Social Media, Blogging being a part of it.
I had commercial application as the 6th subject in class 9,10. I had biology as an additional subject in class 11, 12. I took up computer science because I liked blogging and was interested in this. Blogging kept me going and brought me the main popularity in my college. If you happen to read this, you know I continue to keep blogging.
This entire social media amazes me. The core concept is – to be heard. It gives every one of us freedom to speak, however immaterial or irrelevant our logic might be. That’s freedom. Now, you can add technicalities to it, a bit of computer science programming, a bit of designing, a bit of SEO knowledge to it, make it attractive with photographs – and voila ! You are now reaching to more people.
The audience on the receiving end of your bullshit, needs credible and simple information which they enjoy reading and some sense of logic or emotions in what you say. It’s our responsibility as a blogger to deliver it. ( Read: Why should you blog? )
I am a hobbyist photographer, who has invested heavily on his equipments and studio set up. But I feel uncomfortable with the idea of shooting in exchange of money during events, specially marriages. I did shoots for product promotions and left it in 2013.
I am not really a photographer. This world has too many of them. I know the basics of photography, yes. I can click for you, yes. Only if you or the idea interests me.
“What is Photography to you now?”, a smiling Ms. Chatterjee asked me.
Memories and tools to relate my stories. Photographs are now more of memories for me. I have grown overtly emotional after I am blessed with a niece. I love few friends of mine, more than I love any other priorities. I fondly call them, my brothers.
I’ll leave you with an incident and few photographs that make me emotional each time I see them.
PS: They are not master pieces, but they feature my loved ones.
Suman is married to one of my closest friends – Supratik. Supratik’s maternal uncle had downloaded a photograph of them and had printed them on A4 sheet paper, framed it properly and had shipped it to them, the day they “officially” got married. I still remember the surprised and happy wide eyes of Suman. I had never felt that a very casual click, low resolution bad blotted print can make two people that happy. Supratik unpacked it and placed it in the middle of the uppermost row of his showcase.
Yes, they both were together in the photograph and that was the day of their marriage. Special day and a very special gift, a very special moment however bad the quality of the print may be. I was amazed.
We “Photographers” gift people memories and with that, in everyone’s subconscious, very silently, become an integral part of their happiness.
As a “Photographer”-Dada, I was happy when I could teach Surya, basics of photography and he was delighted after the first shot that came good. I was excited with the excitement of Sayan after he could shoot the Bokeh properly in one of our meetups. The contentment, when Saimantick understands a concept and subtly smiles.
I remember how excited I was when a boy from Ratnagiri had sent a “Thank you” note, saying that my suggestions helped him develop this technicalities.
As a “photographer”-Mama, I remember how I shot Kapu and how she posed, even though she might not exactly know what she did. And these are instruments I use to operate on my mind when my blood pressure exceeds permissible limits of sanity
I would like you to see few of my Photo-Blog posts, which might explain what I want to do. If you like what you see and what you read, please share.
In Revelry and in Dissent, my Calcutta (2012 – 2013)
Friends, it’s time I upload some photographs I shot in Hazaar duwari (Murshidabad, Lalbagh). I would not write much about them, because my knowledge of history is particularly limited and these are anyway, easily available information on Wikipedia.
When you read through the Wikipedia article, you will realise this was the palace built by the Mir Jafars’ family and not Shiraj ou’Dulla. Shiraj’s palace was on the other side of the river, now raised to the ground. In the Hazar Duwari complex you will find – Nizamat Imambara, Clock, Madina mosque.
Loosely speaking, Imambara’s are places of worship for the Shia muslims. Nizamat Imambara is the biggest Imambara in the country, the foundation stone laid by the last Nawab of Bengal. That’s Shiraj Ou’Dullah.
The Madina mosque has the soil of the Haz – Holy to the Muslims, brought by Siraj Ou’Dulla’s mother after he became the nawab of Bengal. Phew, enough of history for now.
The clouds brought life to the landscape and with the sun playing hide-n-seek, I had some lovely time. I did not photograph all of it, I was there seated on the ground relax watching the cloud move. Ohkay, I am no more going to romanticism and literature.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Nizamat Imambara for you, freshly served with the clouds. To the right you see the clock and to the left – the Madina mosque.
The HazaarDuwari building, finished in 1837 has 100 real doors and 900 false doors. The false doors had a purpose. The lowest floor of the palace was a court. Anyone failing to pay taxes was tortured there. If he could manage to escape, he found it tough finding the right door through which he could escape. Inhumanly intelligent, isn’t it?
I am sure, most of my audience hated the subject of history in their childhood. Revision time !
The British East India company was formed in 1600, came to India as traders and settled in three principal areas ( Presidencies) that were named – Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and the most important – Calcutta (Kolkata). Ports were bettered for a better trade. Calcutta – USA business flourished even before the British started officially ruling India. They were building a fort, Fort William. This was not appreciated by the then Nawab of Bengal, who made this one of the few reasons to attack Calcutta fort. 1756 – The Nawab with all his might, won the battle. But the British were smarter people then. They made Mir Jafar (Nawab’s trusted) betray the Nawab of Bengal. 1757, June 23rd – The second battle of Plassey, the British and the Nawab locked horns and by treachery – the British won. Thus begun the British Raj in India and Calcutta became the capital of British India and the seat of proper English.
Slightly more than 230 years, this very day – I was born. ( Else how do you think I remember?)
But did you know – The Grand Post Office (GPO) of Calcutta is one of the building which stands today on the place which was the old Fort Williams?
Let’s get back.There are other structures, the graveyard and different other mosques, Jagat Seth’s home and the museum which you can look forward to.
The Kathgola palace and the Jain temple : The Katha Gola opalace was actually called – Jaath Golap (A variety of Rose). However with the decaying rose plants, people tucked the “P” of it and it’s now Kaath Gola Palace. Magnificent structure with lions everywhere. Very very impressive I must say. The present owners of the entire place is in Bhawanipur, Kolkata.
The reasons why I went to Murshidabad are two – One, there were clouds and I wanted to photograph these structures with a dramatic sky. The second is to search for Bauls. The search for the Bauls shall continue and any time soon, I might be there to find more about the Sufi-Bauls.
This blog post is extremely light hearted. I believe not many will even read through the entire article if it feels like a history book!
Till then, let me know what you want me to write about. Give me an honest comment. Thank you.
Part 2: A day with Baban Das Baul.
“Who was the first man on earth?”, asked Baban Das Baul. After a moment of silence, I said, “Manu?”. Ramasish rubbished the idea and said, “It is Adam and Eve.”.
Baban Das Baul was left wondering who Adam is. He however, asked “Who before Manu?”. “Brahma?” . “No, he is the father, the creator and the God.”.
I knew no Baul when I reached Murshidabad. Hours ago before I boarded the train, I gave Mrs. Ratnaboli Bose a phone call seeking information. Her website Daricha, that once used my photographs of Tusu, was the only website to give me information about Jalangi, a village Shreya had informed me – is the hub of Bauls in the region.
It was only a matter of moments, after having left home, I saw a man dark skinned, thin, with not much wrinkles on his face. His hair was long enough to cover his nape, curly, oiled and properly combed. “That kind of hair is perfect for a Baul”, I said to myself. Without any further thought, I approached him and inquired about the place and where I can get Bauls. He looked surprised.
On further discussion, he introduced himself as Baban Das Baul, one of the most renowned Bauls in the state. During the very short interaction on the first day, he thought of putting the records straight – There is no God, there are humans. Being a Baul is being real and not living in anticipation or creating imagery. Humanity is the top priority for the Bauls.
On the second day, we met near the cemetery ground and sat near the river, it was serene. The children were playing by the ghat, a few of them trying to row a boat. The Temple right beside us, had frequent visitors. The lush green background and the rhythmic alliterating sound of the river was soothing music. A perfect set for our discussion.
“We sing of human feelings and not about God.”
“Tell me, how did the Bauls come to existence?”, he asked. I did what I do best. I kept quiet. “It was popularised by Sri Chaitanya Deb.” was all that I managed to say. “But someone introduced him to it. Do you know who it was?”. Later in the discussion he said, Chaitanya had four Gurus, of which one introduced him to Baul culture. The discussion continued to the 14 other gurus after Sri Chaitanya who preached the philosophy for more than 530 years.
“The knowledge is the Guru, the mind is the disciple. If the disciple decides to do, then it is good. Else of what good is all the knowledge?”.
I nodded my head in affirmative. Check this video out before we proceed any further. (Please ignore the glitches, it is for the first time I tried to shoot videos. I promise to learn this and present to you better videos next time.)
He sang for us few songs and took us around the town, to his home and finally to the burial ground where his Guru was buried. Beside the burial ground is a Kali temple. We sat there and talked more.
He emphasised on the role of a Guru and how his Guru changed his life and showed him direction. As a Baul, he has seen his world change. Now he performs in different occasions, events as prestigious as the CommonWealth games and in numerous countries like Russia for an example. It was the same him, who had to sing to beg on the streets to make ends meet. Life for him has come a full circle. He is now the president of his association and his music wins heart.
This time, the topic of discussion had shifted from Baul philosophy to region, events and regional politics. He is a survivor and a witness to the cruelty of the religious puritans in the late nineties. The Bauls and the Fakirs were targeted, humiliated and often beaten for not believing in either Hinduism or in Islam.
The talks inadvertently shifted to the left rule and the present state government. Baban Das Baul is very optimistic with this present government. He now has his identity card and his medical bills are taken care of by the government. The government is being proactive in showcasing the rural and the folk culture of Bengal. Young people are taking interest in Baul music, one being definitely me, and he hopes the career of the Baul is no more as threatened as was in the last regime.
“You can have the Islam fascism, Christian rulers or the Hindu dictatorship. But above all religions, is the religion of Humanity. The Baul philosophy will continue for centuries to come, in different forms, ideas, shapes and in different packaging.”
I’ll end this post with a song composed by Baban Das Baul.
Do let me know if you have liked this post. This is for the first time, I have embedded a video and a sound clip to my blog post. Your feedback is very necessary for me to do the part 3 of this series. Thank you, thank you so much for having read this.
Part 1: Bauls: Spirituality over religion.
I set myself out to Murshidabad, after the tiresome Friday in office, in search of the Bauls and the Fakirs. Before I write about my experience there, I want to brief my reader about my Bengal and the Baul culture.
Bengal never fails to amaze me. Its culture has been influenced by the Jains and the Buddhists in the early ages and the Hindus, the Muslims later in history. We have had the Europeans settling here, mainly the British and the French. This was the region that saw the birth of the British Raj in mid-1700. With slight age, religion never found much of a place in people’s heart and one of the main reasons for this attitude of Bengalis is the folk music and art. One of the most popular folk culture is the tradition of the Bauls.
The seeds of the Baul school of thought are traced back hundreds of years before Sri Chaitanya popularized it. Sri Chaitanya, primarily a Bhakti movement stalwart, spoke about Krishna and the Bauls. To the rest of Hinduism, Krishna is the God of Gods and one of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. To the Bauls, Krishna is not God; He is a consciousness and another sense.
Denouncing God in the first place and putting the focus on Human sensibilities, the Bauls believe Human is God. There is God (Krishna, as they put it) in every one of us. They write songs, tune them and sing their compositions on the streets of Bengal to spread their message. Their messages never restricted itself to the narrowness of a particular religion; they sing of humanity.
“Baul Bortoman, Baul onumaan noye”. Baban Das Baul wanted to put the records straight in the very first conversation. Being Baul is being in real existence and not in mere imagination, perception or anticipation. “God is imaginary, have you seen God?” I kept quiet. “But I can see you, talk to you, believe in you, and care for you. To serve God, serve everyone around.” I kept quiet again. Such philosophy resonated in Sri Sri RamKrishna ParamHansa Dev, where He told, “Shiv gnaane, Jib sheva”. That would loosely translate to “Serve the people, assuming you are serving the Almighty”. The social reformation movement led by Raja Ram Mohan Roy established Brahmo Samaj in Bengal, denouncing traditional Hindu religion and talked about unity of Religions. Rabindranath Tagore embraced this new religion and was a Brahmo by choice. I feel somewhere all of these are connected and is rooted to the age old Baul folk music.
The Fakirs or the Sufi-Bauls are the Muslims who believe in the concept of the Bauls that Humanity is of greater importance than religion. The confluence of cultures, resulted in an accepting society, united by the wandering minstrels, mystic, singing songs of love and of humanity. It is this strong sense of spirituality and humanity over religion that has united Bengalis by sentiment.
I went in search of these Bauls, whose folk songs have survived and witnessed the good and the numerous bad of the ages and still continue to spread words of love.
I’ll end this post with a audio clip. Do let me know your feedback about this blog post. I am trying something new with this, your feedback is the most important. Leave for me a comment. If you like this, please share this as well.