Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sir Galahad and the Scooterette

Rescuing ladies is one thing. Rescuing ladies astride scooterettes, however, is a completely different affair, and whoever has underestimated the above task has had at least one opportunity to swallow his pride, stoop down to sweep the shattered fragments of his ego under the carpet, and head for the himalayas. You would thus look more kindly at me, then, if I told you that I hesitated the other night, when a reversing sedan threatened to unceremoniously add a rather pretty lady to the general landscape at the Khadki railway crossing. I was in a position to judge that peril was slowly moving her way, but just when I was about to swoop down and carry her off to safety, I saw something that made me abort the launch: she was on a scooterette.

Those of you men who have never been on a scooterette, this is a good time to look heavenward and thank your favourite deity for sparing you the ordeal. In fact, it would not be too much if you went to the nearest place of worship and distributed food among the needy. Those of you - again, I address the men here - who have, you have my sympathies. Never was a machine so perfectly designed for crushing the male ego. To this day, when I pay a visit to the old hometown, I have often taken ten-minute walks in the mid-day sun when the only other alternative was to take my sister's scooterette.

I first encountered this blasted piece of machinery when walking over to my parked motorcycle at FC Road, about four years ago. I was young, dumb, and brimming with the confidence that so separates the young and the dumb from the rest. Thus, when I spotted a girl struggling to start a teensy - in fact, I remember even thinking of the thing as 'cute' - scooterette, I decided to lend a hand. I had, after all, had practice kick-starting a 156cc engine without the option of a decompression valve. In fact, on one occasion, I had even started a 350cc engine with a decompression valve, though I gave as violent a start as the machine did when it started. Anyway, coming back to the present, or rather, the past, there was this girl trying hard to punch a hole through her starter button, and realizing that this might soon end in her starter motor being handed to her in a casserole, I decided to intervene for the sake of the poor machine.

All right, so the girl was cute, too. But my thoughts, believe it or not, were all for the poor starter motor. So off I went and politely enquired if I could be of assistance. The girl looked at me in an appraising sort of way that seemed to say, "Oh, so you think you can, can you? I'd like to see you try!" and handed me the machine.

Ten minutes and ninety kicks later, I was swearing under my breath - what remained of it, that is, wiping the perspiration off my glasses, and rubbing my sore ankle that had, at every fifth kick, been hit by some part of the undercarriage or the other. Telling myself that if I ever visit one of these scooterette-manufacturing places, I'd make a beeline for the chap who designs the kick-starters in these machines, and let him have it, I turned to the girl, who, incidentally, had been joined by her rather amused-looking, also-cute friend, and asked her one of those vital questions that is born out of the strong line of reasoning we learn at engineering college.

"Are you sure there's enough fuel in the tank?"

The girls seemed to giggle among themselves, and the amused-looking friend asked me to step aside. Continuing to smile sweetly at me, she did a few things to the machine that looked suspiciously to me like witchcraft, and voila - we had lift-off. That is to say, the engine purred. Like those cats that those witches keep around them. To say I was astounded would be putting it mildly - I was positively rocking about the heels.

"Thank you!" came the chorus. I know a sarcastic chorus when I hear one, and this was definitely one. Refusing to be fooled by the sweet smiles, I stiffly waved off the thanks, and I believe added something about carbon in the spark plug, and strode away with as much dignity as a shattered ego and a bruised ankle would allow.

It took me about a week to recover from that one. I kept away from FC road for about a month, and I think I grew a beard for a while, too. The memory is hazy. You know how the mind tends to block out these traumatic episodes.

So you would understand my hesitation when I saw this scooterette-riding girl in a bit of peril. However, my hesitation was only for a moment. I nimbly jumped off my bike, ran up to her, and put my best foot forward.

"Erm... needanyhelp?"

I took care, though, to stay on the leeward side of the machine, away from the kick-starter. You should, too. Unless you're a girl. In which case a muttered 'abracadabra' under the breath would do just fine.

Thursday, November 17, 2005



I admit I did not at first notice these boxes lying around in a corner, until Anurag pointed them out. I'm glad he did.

Camera: Canon EOS 66
Lens: Canon 100-300mm USM
Film: Kodak Max 400

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I have a bike, you can ride it if you like...

I remember watching a movie titled 'BMX Bandits' as a kid, and - I was a kid, mind you, so look at yourself at that age before you sneer at me - all I wanted to do was ride my bicycle down the stairs, up the walls, down banisters, and off cliffs in general, which is what all the characters in the movie seemed to be doing. I don't remember there being a plot, but then, I was too young and too dumb to even care. The bicycles we absolute dream machines - they all seemed to have tyres made of bubble gum - the colour was one thing that made us draw the connection, and the adhesion of the tyres to any surface the protagonsists cared to ride on was the other. And they came in different flavours like banana, cinnamon, and spearmint. Every little boy's dream come true.

This ye olde and unsteady chap I spotted at the flea market brought the memories flooding back. There even was a set of banana-flavoured wheels available as an optional extra. Yum.


Camera: Canon EOS 66
Lens: Canon 100-300mm USM
Film: Kodak Max 400

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Exploded view

Rust to Rust

...of what, I really cannot say. Any ideas? The mech engineer in me says it's a bevel gear, but there are bevels and bevels of gears...

Camera: Canon EOS 66
Lens: Canon 100-300mm USM
Film: Kodak Max 400

I should be more disciplined and note details like focal length, aperture, and shutter speed. But for now, this is all I have. Any purists out there, kindly adjust.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Street Photography #1

Rusty bike

Juna Bazaar is an old flea market in Pune which opens only on Sundays, and where you get anything from half-a-century-old video cameras to rusty motorcycle parts. I don't know if this bike was on sale, but it definitely looked like parts of it had been sold off.

And I have Anurag to thank for initiating me into street photography. The most fun way to blow away cobwebs, time, and money. Except, you know, we had to wake up early...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Owls, Larks, and Lenses

"Most good photographers stop taking pictures after seven in the morning."

My stomach sank.

Anurag is one of those old-school chaps who think that to live life to the fullest, one should start by the completely pointless activity of waking up early. My father would love him. In fact, one of the earliest arguments I had with my dad was when he insisted that I wake up in the morning, and - of all things - tend to the garden.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for the green revolution, planting more trees, and making the world a rainforest, especially since taking photographs in a rainforest would be fun, but I could never pick up the shovel and start digging so I could plant a plant, or tree a tree, or whatever it is that horticulturists do. Even now, in the comfort of - where am I - ah, the coffee shop, when I think of gardening, my mind goes numb, my body aches, and I have horrible flashbacks of the time when a quiet sunday afternoon reading session was rudely interrupted by parents who had finished with the day's gardening and required my assistance to "add finishing touches", which in my family stood for "carry piles of compost out the gate, all the way to the end of the road, and dump it in the dumpster".

Thus, life found my dad and myself in a rather awkward situation - I had a father who considered his garden to be his first-born and his son to be a freak of nature, and my dad had a son who, for some reason he could never understand, preferred to sleep away through the morning when the lark was on the wing and the snail on the thorn. As in all households where the head of the family is an avid early-rising horticulturist and the tail a sensible chap who knew exactly what mornings are for, there was a bit of a strain in the otherwise cheerful and warm atmosphere. often, this strain culminated in in my dad taking potshots at me with scathing remarks like, "this would never have happened to an early riser", as I lay in bed with an toothache. No, we managed to save the tooth. Root canal. Painful. I have never shown my tricuspids to a dentist ever since.

Getting back to the point at hand, Anurag made one of those statements that made my stomach feel like it had hit an iceberg at full steam.

"The best time to take photographs is in the morning, before seven. After that, the light becomes a little too harsh."

That did it. Time to kiss nature and street photography good-bye, I thought. From now on, it's going to be indoors in strictly controlled conditions. Not very exciting, but a man has his limitations.

However, there have been situations in my life where events take a turn so as to render me awake in the morning. Most such events involve working through the night, or watching movies through the night, or working while watching movies through the night. So it happened that when I was stationed in Haridwar for almost a month, I found myself in one such situation. So Kakkar and I decided to do some carpe diem-ing and take off for the ghats in the wee hours of the morning, so we could watch the sunrise at the banks of the ganges. And I remembered Anurag's advice in time, and took my camera along.



And grabbed some tea on the way back. In fact, it was quite an efficient trip, and we even managed to get back to the hotel soon after dawn, which is, undoubtedly, the time of the day when men of reason go to bed.

Unless you want to spoil a perfectly good day by waking up and tending to your garden.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

...and then there was light

Taken at Guchu Pani, Dehra Dun. This place is also known as Robber's Cave, and is home to a rather strange sight - a stream of water goes underground and resurfaces for air a few metres away. However, I had neither the agility nor the stupidity to clamber over slippery rocks to check it out for myself, risking a broken neck, a barked shin, or worse - a broken camera lens. So you would excuse me for not venturing that far. I never could understand these Robber-type personalities. Except for the Beagle Boys.