Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Morning...

For the last couple of days, I was pre-occupied with some work and was desperately looking for something refreshing. And Saturday night while having a late dinner, one of my friends called me and asked if I could join him for a visit to the Hebbal Lake early morning on Sunday to take some pictures.

My immediate reply, 'Yes'.

We started a bit late, with respect to the time line that we had planned, but guess that’s OK. Especially during weekends, the planned and plotted life takes a different course. It was a bit cloudy, by the time we reached Hebbal Lake.

Light and Shade dance in nature

Hebbal Lake is located in the northern part of Bangalore, along Bellary Road covering nearly 150 acres in area. It is one of the three lakes founded in 1537 by Kempe Gowda and today it is maintained by Sate Forest Department. It has a wide variety of aquatic vegetation and a large number of birds live around it. And that's the reason, there were few other photographers, most of them were professional, ready to capture these creatures through their lenses, by the time we reached the spot.

The Hebbal Lake alone is home to over 70 species of water birds including many migratory birds. But as the city is expanding its concrete jungle orbit, the variety has of birds visiting this lake early morning has reduced but the numbers are fair enough to make a visit.

Follow me, follow me

Lifestyle Habitat, one of the most spectacular projects in Bangalore, modeled after the Malaysian Petronas Towers, graces the background of this scenic space. This is supposedly to be one of the costliest apartments in the city.

Concrete hiding amidst nature

Since, I had carried my 18-135mm lens only, I was not able to dabble much to take pictures of birds with impeccable clarity. The area encompassing the lake is like a modest jungle, though not a dense one, and it offers one the freedom to go around anywhere. I was able to capture some flowers that had grown in the wild, and not in well manicured gardens.


Pigments floating on a canvas


I have learnt it over the years that, the driving impulse to nature photography is to catch life in its most natural, virgin and raw format. Now if you want to capture those split second moments of birds and animals in the nature, there is one ingredient that is needed in handsome amounts. And that's nothing but patience, methinks.


Die hard photographers will stand for hours in cold or in the sun, enduring insect bites for the chance to photograph something that has already taken shape in their mind, but has to be framed on the camera film. Trust me, it's altogether some form of inexplicable joy that you get, once you take a shot in which the pelican is just about to collect its feed within the blink of an eye. Check a picture taken by my friend, Sam. (same person as above behind his lenses, who waits for 20 minutes or so, balancing the tripod for a single shot.)

Seeing my friend, I wanted to put my patience on test, and my final output is the snap below. It took me close to ten minutes to take this single exposure because I wanted the fly to rest and offer me a lifelike pose.

Balancing is an art

Soon time passed by and it was 8:30AM and the sun rays started painting the day through the fragile clouds. Traffic gnarls were audible and we realized that it was time to pack up.

Check out some interesting articles about Hebbal Lake:

1. Hebbal lake: whose space?

2. Lake policy misguided, says forest department.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

The Reluctant Fundamentalist...

"Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a mission, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services as a bridge."

This is how the story starts at a café table in Lahore where a bearded Pakistani man is talking to an American stranger. The dusk has set in and slowly as the camaraderie builds, the bearded man unravels the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting.

Time goes back to four and half years ago, when the now bearded Pakistani, Changez was offered an admit along with scholarship to the Princeton University for his education. In 2001, as he explains, he tells that he was hardly a radical. Being the smartest chap in his graduating class at Princeton, he is snapped by 'Underwood Samson', an elite firm that specializes in the valuation of companies. He thrives on the energy of fast and competitive life of New York living the American dream. He is accelerating in his career in the elite Manhattan society, rubbing shoulders with some of the best talent in his area of expertise.

But things take an unexpected turn after one of the bloodiest attack ever in human history, the 9/11 attack rocks the shores of the US. And from then on, we begin to see how Changez, begins to turn his back on America, even though this was the land that offered him all he wanted in life. He is non-supportive of the policies and the actions of the US government, which inflicted injustices on the world, despite his earning a lucrative American salary, and his infatuation for an American woman, Erica. A 'Yes-No' situation suffocates him.

"No country inflicts death so readily upon the inhabitants of other countries, frightens so many people so far away, as America," says Changez at one point while talking to the stranger.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Changez was in Manila on a business visit and on his return to the US he is treated by the immigration staff as a suspect just because of his identity. He is marked for a life of American success and affluence, he drinks, he sleeps with his American girl friend without any religious qualms but few things just choke him. His Muslim identity, in the wake of the 9/11, begins to bother him although from a different perspective.

His job life continues but his doubts multiply. Soon he realizes that in his Manhattan life, something less visible or unclear is attacking him internally. In the constant strive to realize a financial future, he is not spared for the critical personal and political issues that affect one's emotional presence. That's how business is, where one's final output on the plate counts and not the price of one's emotions. But human expressions, beliefs, opinions and views explode beyond a particular threshold and so was Changez's.

Did he sacrifice his identity in pursuit of status? Changez has already begun to ask himself these questions when he sees the twin towers fall, a mighty attack on the American pride. Many events in the surrounding world further alienate Changez's interest in work: the tensions escalating between India and Pakistan, and the United States caught up in displays of patriotism following the attack, etc. The turning point in Changez's life occurs in Valparaiso, Chile where he has gone to evaluate an old publishing company targeted for a takeover. Over lunch, the publisher tells him the story of Janissaries of the Ottoman empire, who were captured Christian boys trained to fight against their own people.

Changez feels..."I was a modern-day Janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with a kinship to mine..." and finally takes a conscientious decision and returns to Lahore.

Hamid, who himself attended Princeton and worked in corporate America, aptly captures the ups and downs, the triumphs and the traumas of Manhattan life through the lenses of Changez. I would consider this as a failed love story between a Pakistani and the American Dream, though many of the readers would have expected a tone of religion and faith from the title of the book. But there is barely any mention of it. To me it was a story about confusion, self-abnegation, regret and malice, all these assuming flagitious shades post 9/11 attacks period.

Though the author has made many generalizations about the US but what I felt was, as the plot develops, Chengez is trying to communicate his displeasure at being branded a fundamentalist, which he is not. His personal world and his views never had a tinge of fundamentalism, but he is looked upon as one just because of his place of origin, his blood and his roots. I also think that the ending was a bit hurried, because I had read somewhere that Hamid actually wrote a 1000 page manuscript which finally boiled down to a 184 page publication for this book. The plot could have taken a much better contour.

'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' was an easy read, thoroughly gripping. This is Hamid's second book and he spent close to seven years banging his head to give the final framework to his plot. The plot is a potpourri of fiction, history and polemics and is dotted with examples of great writing and once such piece is as below.

"Perhaps we currently lack wealth, power or even sporting glory—the occasional brilliance of our temperamental cricket team notwithstanding—commensurate with our status as the world’s sixth most populous country, we Pakistanis take an inordinate pride in our food. Here in Old Anarkali, that pride is visible in the purity of the fare on offer; not one of these worthy restaurants would consider placing a western dish on his menu."

I enjoyed reading this book and hope anyone who reads it likes it too. Just a question, I found the name Changez to sound a bit Frenchish, or is it my bad to think that way?

This book, 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' was short listed Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Cream of the Crap...

To me, cartoonist Matt Diffee has a splendiferous sense of humor and keeps a regular tab on things happening in the outside world. This chap has spent a greater part of his youth in Texas, before moving to the busy life at Manhattan.

Moving to New York after winning the famed famed New Yorker's cartoon contest eight years ago, today he is one of the most popular cartoonists for this magazine (New Yorker) as well as the e-zine.
Any creative end product requires oodles of enthusiasm, imagination and talent; there is no doubt about that. Cartooning falls in that bracket, but is the road that easy as it seems. I mean it's as challenging an occupation like any other, with greater probabilities for rejection and failure. You can trade the word, 'occupation' for 'passion', sounds lot better that way.

A bit of digression here. To make it clear the difference between 'occupation' and 'passion' in real life. Frankly speaking the former churns out a pay cheque at the end of the month. While the later keeps the flame of one's passion burning, this may or may not bring any monetary benefit. I bet lucky is one who gets a drink that has the perfect combination of 'occupation' and 'passion'.

Most people are unable to earn money from their passion. Most people are unable to devote time to their passion. Come to think of it, a majority of people don't even know what they are good at. They work because they have to, not because they want to.

An insightful post on this by Deepti, at Desicritics here.

Now back on track again. Keep you ears open for criticism too , of course of all flavors. Diffee feels that that nearly 90% of any cartoonist's work is rejected. But for this gifted individual, even disapprovals were a blessing in disguise. He happily collated all his ignored works to publish a book, The Rejection Collection: The Cream of the Crap.
"Now proudly out in its second volume, It was an idea I had after gathering a pile of my rejected cartoons that I sort of still liked. New Yorker cartoons are famous, but hardly anyone knows the cartoonists. So a big part of the book, for me, is to share these personalities and the way they think and the way they work."
Now this reminds me of a very important lesson that I learnt during a photography course by renowned photographer, Anand Saran. He told me, never ever delete or discard any of the photographs, even though it doesn’t touch or appeal to others when someone sees it the first time. Preserve those and may be one day, those snaps would win admirations and appreciations from a different section of viewers. That's again goes on to say, to each it's own.

Visit Diffee's collection of cartoons here . Also an interesting interview in which he speaks his heart candidly.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Don't get confused with the title of the post, it's the book by Diffee and he owns the rights for it.

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