One rainy and damp day in August 2009, I was at Chepstow Castle, Wales, walking around and delighting in its various nooks and crannies, when I came across a newly married couple having their photographs taken. During my year-long stay in London and my forays to other places in England and Wales, it never happened that I visited some historical place or park and came away without seeing a newly wed couple having a photo shoot there. When I first saw such a shoot, I thought it was a professional shoot for some bridal paraphernalia ! It was only later that I figured out that it was a tradition for newly married couples to have a photo shoot at a nearby historical site or park.
This couple at Chepstow Castle was oblivious to the rain and the muddy trails on the bride’s gown, as they laughed and giggled and posed for the camera. I waited for them to finish, so that I could pass through the door to the other side. While waiting, I couldn’t help noticing the different textures of stone, wood, metal and fabric , not to mention the fresh green of the grass in an otherwise almost monochromatic frame. Even though I felt like I was trespassing on the couple’s privacy, I could not resist taking a photograph.
As they finished, and the photographer beckoned me to come through, I heard the bride asking the photographer,
“Rhys, you’re sure the mud on my gown won’t show in the photos?”
“100% sure, darling. What’s Photoshop for?” replied the photographer.
I got interested in photography about 3 years back and as it often happens with a new interest, related things also come into the focus of that interest—in this case it was photographers and their works. One photographer, whose name kept cropping up was that of Homai Vyarawalla, India’s first woman photojournalist. While I was curious about her work, I must admit that I didn’t really go out of my way to know more about her apart from reading the mandatory Wikipedia article and the stray media reports and photographs that would appear now and then.
It was even more serendipitous that I had meetings near the NGMA that day and could attend the inauguration without taking time off from work. 🙂 I arrived early at the NGMA and as I was debating whether to go in or try to grab a quick cup of coffee, a car drew up to the entrance. I knew it had to be someone important, as the NGMA does not allow cars to come in. Two women stepped out, one of whom was Sabeena Gadihoke (as I found out later), and the other was Homai Vyarawalla herself. I had very obviously only noticed the invite, and not read it, as I wasn’t aware that Homai would be present for her retrospective! Since I was standing at the entrance, I found myself face to face with her. As I gaped at her, she smiled at me and said a warm hello as she was helped up the stairs. And what was my response? I continued gaping at her and just about managed to nod my head in acknowledgement !
I had been in my first school for just about 10 days or so, when my teacher sent a note home for my mother to meet her. My mother was so worried about the note that she was at my school the next day at the crack of dawn much before the appointed time.
She needn’t have worried. My teacher had only called to rave about my excellent motor skills, my excellent hand-to-eye coordination, and the fact that I could do some simple addition as well as some mental maths. All this at the age of 5 years, 6 months, and some days ! I was apparently way ahead of the rest of my class. Was I some budding genius, she asked my mother hopefully? My mother, after the first reaction of relief, immediately squashed my teacher’s hopes. No, her daughter was no budding genius. She was just a little girl with an inordinate amount of interest in playing Pallankuzhi with her grandmother, which had led to the development of these skills. What is Pallankuzhi, my puzzled teacher asked?