May 18, 2001

“what colour are you?”

the question had surprised me when this voice (over the phone) went on even to ask what colour of clothes i was wearing. no wonder they are called ‘professional’ photographers, i thought.

two days ago, when i wanted pictures for my passport, achchan insisted i get my pictures taken at hamilton studios, “even if they are a little expensive.”

he said the studio has been operational since 1929, and that they never give you negatives. another very interesting fact my father told me, was that anybody who’s had his or her picture taken at the studio, can ask for a copy even after 50 years. and no, absolutely NO digital effects, not even computers at the place.

not even computers? since it takes very little to tickle my curiosity, i was already looking for their phone number. it was easy to get an appointment, because my father was already on their client-list. she asked me a few details about myself, and i was to reach there in about 30 minutes.

the studio did look like it had been there for years…opposite JK Raymond showroom at ballard estate, the entrance was hidden behind a few green creepers and …my favourite! bells! the interiors were huge, smelling of the chemicals or colours used for the photography process. every picture is saved manually in files, and has a unique number to it. all you had to do, was to call when you wanted a copy of your picture, and give them your number. i asked the owners why they did not want to computerise the processes and save pictures in digital formats so they’d last even longer…

but it seemed like they were really averse to the idea. in fact they had not even heard of a digital ‘format’!

so this was it. totally untouched by technology, the ambience was so different, you have to be there to believe it.

i suddenly wanted to wear something very traditional, unlike the saturday-jeans i was in. and why not, after all, i was going to pay a huge fee for this picture right?

reading my thoughts, my father just shook his head, amused. i asked the lady (ajita) if she could lend me her clothes! thankfully, ajita was very helpful and not the least surprised. (well, at least i didnt see any surprise on her face 😉

all she had was an old kurta and a duppatta to match, and the real shock came to me when i saw that it had to be of the only colour that i disliked — pink!!

anyways, i tried them over my jeans, used my pen to make a neat bindi on my forehead and i was ready for the shot.

it took a whole 35 minutes for madhavji (ajita’s father), the owner of the studio, to adjust the lights, the softlights, the background etc, before he looked into his giant-size camera and clicked.

ajita called at my office to say my picture was ready. wonder why professionalism is not so common these days. she said i look different. and sure i did 😮

but hey, i’d still say the experience is worth it.

ps: and in case you want an impromptu traditional picture taken too, try not to use indelible-ink on your forehead. getting it off could be painful.

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