The rise and fall of MUG (Meetup Group)
But there was one Rimbik who had by then connected to me and expressed his wish to invite me to his school. It was a happy moment for me. It became one of the best moments when I realised that the school I had to go to was St. Paul’s Mission School, my Alma Mater where I had spent 14 years studying. I was too shy to call it a “workshop”. October 13, 2012 – Sayon and I went to conduct the “meetup”, as we decided to call it. Three students turned up, one being Rimbik. The other two were Surya and Avishek Rakshit. Surya took it forward from there, organising another “meetup” at his own home, inviting interested people. It was a double digit attendance and all very young. To them, I neither wanted to be a teacher nor a leader. Perhaps, an elder brother. We fondly started calling it “The Meetup Group” and this evolved to become more than my family to me.
Prashant wanted to create a platform similar to Times Photo Journal. I said a reluctant yes and thus started “Journal of Indian Photography”. There was a huge demand for people who were humble and helping. Soon I found that it did not feature anywhere in Prashant’s priority list. I used to spend hours replying to people’s emails, suggesting them betterment, sending them links to the best of my knowledge. Of the hundred or more young people I connected to during this phase, Saimantick Bhadra from Kolkata stood out. He was inquisitive, committed to learning photography, honest and humble. This initiative failed because the supply could not meet the demand and I was committed to the company I worked in. I gave my best to it but could not continue with it for long.
The Meetup Group continued growing with newer members like Susmita, Soupayan joining in. Rakshit became a close friend and I was a family to Surya by then. I got very involved in their personal lives as well, sharing my experiences, mistakes. It was like a dream second childhood that the Almighty offered me. In quick succession, Susmita invited me to Pratt Memorial School and Saimantick invited me to The Frank Anthony Public School. It is at that point in time, I blog posted about it and made the “meetups” a public idea. It got picked up by a girl in Loreto College who invited me to her college and soon after NIT Dgp invited. This was neither planned nor priority. I did all these because this was a family to me. I came across more people like Asmita Nandy, Niladri, Hansraj Dokania to name a few.
With more members, there was an urge to expand it further. Thus adding members who ended up diluting the group. Groups within the group was formed. I could not personally devote time to each member. By then Surya and Saimantick had started blogging. I had by then wanted to create a forum where young people could come forward and discuss blogging. Thus, Kolkata Bloggers. During the initial phase of Kolkata Bloggers, Surya referred to me another person whom he thought would be a great person working with me, Arjyak Bhattacharya.
I wanted MUG to meet more photographers and learn more about the social media. Conceptualised “Social Media in Photography”. The photography includes the likes of Hari Menon, Soumya Shankar Ghosal, Debarshi Duttagupta, Lopamudra Talukar, Apratim Saha. The social media panel included eminent bloggers, Aji, Saptarshi Roychoudhury and Suprit Patra. The team organising this comprised of school students primarily. The elders included Sayon, Aishwarya who were ending their college, Asmita, Arjyak who were beginners in their college. Koustav joined at the end because he was in Pune while everything was happening in Kolkata.
While organising this event, I learnt a few things:
- Numbers and achievements mean nothing if people do not trust you.
- People would not trust you if you do not communicate with all the transparency.
- Young people, if united could create wonders. Not necessarily do they become the next layer of leadership.
- Stalwarts and popular figures like Hari Menon, Debarshi Duttagupta, Saptarshi Roychoudhury value true intentions and are not as money minded as is the popular opinion.
- We need to add value to the ecosystem if we want to unite people.
Then I had too much on my plate. In my personal and professional life, things weren’t just fine.
I had planned a portal called Photoadda. What followed after the event was sharp criticism and personal attacks by a section of the young photographers who had no clue of who I am. I realised that the ecosystem here isn’t just ready for it.
Sayon left for Germany. Surya left for Vellore. Aishwarya left for Bangalore. Arghyadeep, Saimantick, Arya were planning to shift to Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. I realised that the resources I am left with weren’t just enough.