There is quite a difference in how a photographer is perceived and received on the streets in London and in India. In London, there is a simultaneous sense of respect and distrust – people move out of your frame, wait to pass until you’ve finished clicking, turn their faces, some surreptitiously try to find out what you’re clicking and why. Rarely will a Londoner come up to you and ask, and even more rarely will a stranger in London pose for you. If you’re around a policeman, you’re likely to be questioned, or worse
, under the new strange laws against street photography
that are aimed at preventing terrorism, but promote suspicion instead.In India, however, the story turns on its head. If you carry a camera in public, you yourself become the object of curiosity. You click on the street and a crowd will gather behind your back. If people think your viewfinder is trained at them, a few will move out of the frame and a majority will start hamming it up – putting on a happy display for your benefit. Most people in India love getting their pictures taken, even if they personally won’t ever have a chance of having those pictures! I personally suspect the degree of curiosity and hamming goes up if the photographer is female. Of course, not everyone will do this – but this is largely what I’ve experienced while clicking here.And so it was on a Sunday afternoon at MG Road. Exhausted by shopping, I was sipping at a disgusting concoction disguised as cold coffee at the Cafe Coffee Day on MG Road, watching life on the busy street whizz past, when I noticed these drum sellers. These young men move around in groups on MG Road trying to sell crudely made drums of all sizes to people. They were evidently not having too much luck this afternoon.
Since I was safely hidden under a large garden umbrella and some plants, I took several shots of these guys knowing that they are unaware of my presence and my viewfinder. Or so I thought. One of them noticed me, much to his apparent glee, and this is what ensued.
Ham it up, Mister
The one on the right knows his picture is being taken. This is an attempt to look ‘cool’.
I spent the rest of the evening fending off these two guys as they tried to sell me a drum. Every time I stepped out of a store, they would be there:
“Maddum, lowest price for you… you clicked my photo, Maddum”
“Only 250 Rupees for you, Maddum, special price”
“We entertained you Maddum, please buy” (I’d laughed out loud when these guys struck that pose for me).
“What Maddum, I make so much effort, you still don’t buy”
I have to admit I was tickled, even if a bit annoyed by their unceasing sales pitch. Although, I suspect that I provided them with more entertainment in their boring afternoon than the other way round. I did not buy a drum, although I wanted to. I just don’t have space in my luggage for one!