When travelling photographers sang Saare Jahan Se Achha

In the previous post on World Photography day, I shared how our trip to the lesser known Lahaul-Spiti, inspired The Better Half Production (my husband Yeashu and I) and the Photo Commune to knit something special.

Here’s the video followed by what made it unique.

Watch 45 seconds of a choir of photographers on an infectious musical adventure:

Straight from an experienced travel photographer, Mr. Idris Ahmad, the idea was to offer a small tribute to our motherland which allows us to travel across a huge range of breathtaking landscapes, all without a single visa stamp.

While we were at it, simple things felt larger than life, specially the 5 below:

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World Photography Day for a Non-photographer

Just yesterday I returned from an 11 day paradisiacal trip with Photo Commune.

Photo Commune, iphone travel photography

When photographers are photographed!
Photo Commune posing early morning at Chandrataal, Lahaul.

Mr. Idris Ahmed is the founder and mentor of this group of happy photographers. An ace travel photographer and a dear family friend, Idris bhaiya mentioned about a photography camp that he was planning at 4500 m (above sea level) to Lahaul-Spiti. Haven’t heard of Lahaul and Spiti? That’s exactly what has kept it ethereal still. He said, it’s going to be a life changing experience and I decided to join in simply as a traveller from another field of arts. The icing on the cake was Yeashu, my husband, joining us for what became his first ever holiday during work days (which tend to be 355 days a year given the workaholic he is). Yeashu owes his photography bug to Idris bhaiya who has been one of his inspirations since childhood. As for myself, I have only been an onlooker, sometimes a subject, to the little windows of his clicking spree, without holding any active interest in clicking.

However, the time and space spent with Photo Commune made me, a non-photographer, feel the spirit of photography in a completely new way.

5 reasons Why and How:

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First Things First

Driveway, the childhood runway

Driveway, the childhood runway

“Do you remember what used to be the first thing on your mind when we’d get into the car?”, asked my father. I could tell, from his sprightly and amused yet nostalgic tone, that he was referring to my childhood days.

I grew up in Kanpur, in a huge house with a sprawling lawn and a bounty of trees- eucalyptus, palms, jackfruit, guava and more. Most spectacular was the long driveway starting at the garage and stretching till the main gate. It looked like a private runway to me, except that it was made of criss-cross bricks.

Whenever we were about to go for a drive, like any excited kid, I would hop and run to the garage and be the first one to get inside the car. In hindsight, I realise it was a thriller of a garage/car shed, the ultimate alternative space to be in. It had one tube light outside but was dingy inside. It was a store for things that didn’t stand a chance in the actual store and some spare parts too, also a haven for cobwebs and lizards. However, the most remarkable feature of the garage was right in the centre of the floor where five or six planks of wood loosely rested on top of deep dungeon-like pit. The kids had learnt to somewhat balance our weight on these planks. If not balanced, a foot could get caught between the wobbly planks. We’d have to bear with a throbbing heart, fearing a great fall into the unknown dungeon till some one adjusted the planks and got the foot out, which actually just took thirty seconds. I guess, I now understand why it felt so adventurous to be in the garage, but only for a for a few minutes.

So, what could have been the first thing on my mind when I’d get into the car more than two decades ago? Going by my the foodie that I am, it should have been food on my mind, but that wasn’t it. I gave up recalling because I couldn’t.

My father said, as if answering an amusing riddle, “From the time you were three or four, you would get inside quickly and bend from the rear seat towards the driver’s seat stretching your tiny head as much as you could and ask very concernedly, Papa papa, petrol kitna hai? Car kitni door ja sakti hai?”

“Impressive! But where has my childhood prudence been hiding in adulthood?”, I thought to myself. In the last couple of years I have often forgotten to check on fuel before hitting the city roads and have led myself into trouble with the fuel indicator saying hello in the middle of a traffic jam. Thanks to Papa for introducing me to myself; it’s been six months since and I’ve not failed to check each time- Petrol kitna hai?

Keep working on love, my paradoxical tattoo

Keep working on love -Richard Bach , Seagull, Tattoo

Keep working on love -Richard Bach from Jonathan LIvingston Seagull

While saying good bye to full sleeves I got to say hello to my tattoo on the right forearm. On noticing it for the first time last week, my student (8 year old, Arshi) became curious. Keep working on love! What does that mean??, already thinking I must have goofed it up.

Taking on this opportunity to encourage her, I said something like this- Since you love music, you should keep working on it and practice regularly in order to be happy with it.

She countered with a puzzled expression- Why do you need to ‘work’ on something you love? That’s odd!

I don’t think she was convinced at all. Thankfully, the class was almost over, for my mind darted back to two people, my ex-manager, Dhruv Gupta and my new found mentor, Deepak Rai.

Must be over five years ago, when, over a team lunch, we landed up talking about the difference between being in-a-relationship and being in a marriage. I can’t forget the crux of what Dhruv said. It was something like this- To keep a marriage growing, one must keep working at it. It’s a constant effort. It cannot run on auto mode.

Let me clarify :), he sure looked very happy about working on marriage.

I was not married back then, so I couldn’t exactly relate to it but registered it. Sooner, I started getting a sense of what he said, and now I know why he looked happy doing the ‘work’. In fact, that was the inspiration behind my tattoo (inked after four years of marriage 😉 ). The words, Keep working on love, are borrowed from Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Connecting the dots for me last month, my new mentor, Deepak Rai, wrote to me, in response to an assignment that I should have delivered quicker, “Learning is an act of conscious choosing – not a by product of chance”.

It hit me so hard. Excelling at anything requires the same mindset; be it Marriage, Fitness, Music, a Job, a Sport, a Skill-set. Basically, one has to work on not just sustaining the kick-start happiness but to nurture it as well. I guess, sometimes, it pays to generalise.

Clearly, to an 8 year old, this sounds crazy. She must be right on her part because she is happy. Simple!

2 Saturdays: One for a Daughter, One for a Son

womens day article by shivangini yeashu yuvraj

In the picture, who do you see rising with the Sun- a child, a daughter or a son? It’s a son according to a mother of a proud daughter. (picture source).

Last Saturday, I finally visited Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah. I was looking forward to my first visit. Every nook and corner of the compound was laden with fragrant floral decorations and it felt blissful to be there amidst the euphoric sounds of the qawwali by Nizami Bandhu. I was curious to know if this size of decorations and celebrations was a usual one or was there an occasion that day.

After much probing, I discovered that the decorations and celebrations of the evening were sponsored by a family who was blessed with a baby girl. They believed that their ‘mannat’ was granted as they had been praying at the Dargah for a baby girl for many years. What a rare thing to hear and lovely indeed!

However, this Saturday, while getting her pedicure done, this woman next to me, found enough topics to talk about and stay engaged. She gave a passing advice to the woman who runs the parlour and has 2 daughters, “Ab aur bachhe mat karna”.

Then, turning to me, she said, “Vaise ek ladka toh zaroori chahiye”, starting an interesting conversation this time.

I reacted, “Kyun?”

Woman: “Ab ek toh chahiye hi na!”, as if stating the obvious.

I: “Koi toh reason hoga? Jab tak ladka nahi hoga, bachhe karte jao?”

Woman: “Baap ka naam aur vansh aage badhaane ke liye toh ladka hi chahiye. Pehle toh test karaa ke pata kar lete the. Ab toh sakti ho gayi hai”. She said this in an absolutely candid breath as if the basis for the ban on prenatal sex determination was out of her comprehension.

I: “Ab toh bahaut ladkiyan shaadi ke baad name change nahin karti. Baap ka naam hi toh chala rahi hain!”

Woman: “Tum ladkiyan toh ye hi kahogi!”

Ironically, this woman is a proud mom of a doctor daughter who is pursuing advanced studies after getting married. She told me with shoulders high, “Meri beti Fortis mein lagi hai!”

Oddly, she could not see me in the eyes when I asked her about her son. Looking at the wall behind me, she said, “Beta mera..a..aa..pilot hai. Mujhe bhi VLCC wala pedicure chahiye”, she ordered the person on duty.

Could the Indian National Anthem played at the ICC CWC 2015, do justice to its original aesthetic richness?

Indian National Anthem, ICC CWC 2015, commentary by shivangini yeashu yuvraj

modified from: commons dot wikimedia dot org

This might not seem like the most important point during the most sacred event in progress, in Adelaide, India vs Pakistan. As I write, we’re at a 293 for 4 at 48.2 overs. The Indian team seems to be in full form and I know that is all that matters. Yet, what is boomeranging in my head is the Indian National Anthem that I heard before the players hit the pitch. I don’t know how significant is it to everyone, specially at this moment when we have lost 2 more wickets and struggling for a 300 runs score. We’re almost there. Oh…another wicket down. Clearly, I’m pretty distracted while writing this.

However, coming to the point- mine is a shared concern addressed to the curation team responsible for the airing of this version of Jan Gan Man

(Disclaimer: I wish the embedding here was helpful to most of us, but, Star Sports India has blocked it in India due to copyright issues. Hoping it plays for some of you in other parts of the globe).

Dear ‘Whoever chose the Indian National Anthem, ICC CWC 2015’,

What were you thinking? Did you even care? Forget about the many great versions we have and an even bigger potential to have more; have you never heard even the official staple version played by the Indian Defence Forces band at national events like the Republic Day?  Or did you discount its grandeur thinking it’d be of no consequence? Or did you assume that the terrible production quality and aesthetic lowness of  the version you pedestalled will not be noticed in the middle of all the frenzy and euphoria of the World Cup? That might have worked in your favour and rightly so; it’s an India vs Pak! All we care about is who wins, again, rightly so.

Some of us here are really disappointed at the arbitrariness of your selection. The least you could have done is played a recording of the staple version; or reached out to any of the top 5 production labels in India and churned out a respectable quality National Anthem resounding of its true opulence.

Sorry to say, but I could smell the usual sarkaari indifference and opacity in your selection. Please note, these are not the times for a chalta hai mindset.

– From Every Indian who noticed the National Anthem

Listening is passe. You’ve got to WATCH a song!- reminds a 36-months old.

While waiting in my neighbourhood salon yesterday, I heard the owner’s 3 year daughter, Prakshi self-absorbed in chanting-singing to herself:

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram  

*Pati Patavan* Sheeta  Ram

I got to know later, that ‘ma’am’ in school, had sung this song, the same morning, hence, Prakshi’s reminiscing.

After about four loops of the couplet, I decided to croon with her. I hadn’t even reached half the couplet when her immediate reaction stopped me.

I think I had broken into her zone. She stopped singing and gave a jerky look at me. I said, “Gaao”(please sing) and she replied “Nayi”(No!), authoritatively. I wanted to make up for my folly. I remembered recording for an a cappella version of Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram a year back. I searched for it on Youtube (have to type Shivangini or the better half production along with the song lyrics otherwise one can only listen to Hrithik Roshan’s Raghupati).  I thought I’ll play the song close to her and she might forgive me.

Her reaction: Startled by the different sounding Raghupati (due to layers of choral harmonies), she got hold of my phone and held it possessively for 1 minute 40 seconds, the length of the song. She followed the video keenly, a simple black and white slide show of all the singers. I didn’t imagine this to work so well in the situation. Don’t children like colourful and animated videos? That’s what they love to watch on every screen. Probably, this was a fresh change from the otherwise colourful videos of her world, who knows?!

Prakshi had me play the song again and again. I thought she liked our song as she also sang each time it played and by now she sang Pateet Paavan and not Pati Patavan. Next up, I decided to play Bhole Nath, our freshest song about to release this coming Tuesday. It’s an mp3 file on my phone. No video yet. We’ve had a great response from everyone who has heard the it in progress over the last month and I was sure to win over this child too.

However, madam Prakshi got fidgety in the first 10 seconds of the song and rejected it outright in the next 5. She took the phone from me for scrutiny and wondered why she couldn’t ‘watch’ the song. I even dragged the song to where my vocals start and also to the hooky chorus. All she said was, Yeh ganda hai(this is a bad song), Raghupati Raghav sunao please, bar bar chalao(play Raghupati Raghav again and again). I played her request(command).

In her world(with an overwhelming population), a song is a video. You can’t call an mp3 file playing from a phone, a song! Thankfully, a video is on its way for Bhole Nath too. I think I am sure she will like it yet I am prepared for the opposite. This one is going to be extra colourful…

I must confess- I was so in love with my own song that despite all my engagement experiences with children, rejection was not even the remotest of possibilities I had considered, that too for Bhole Nath.