The pursuit of photography ain’t easy

For a change, I have a post with no photographs – because I couldn’t get any.

I usually go on a  photography trip over the weekend. While trips outside Hyderabad are with friends, if I go somewhere within Hyderbad I prefer going by myself – mainly because photography is a sort of “I need to be involved in it” activity, which doesn’t always go down well with other people in the group, plus it’s easier to think of photographs when I’m on my own.

Today I had planned on going to this place called “Badshahi Ashoorkhana”, a 16th century building located in Afzalganj. I booked a cab to be there at my place at 3:00 in the afternoon, so that I could be there by 4:00 pm – giving me enough time in the sun for my shots.

As luck would have it, the cab reached my place only at 3:45 pm – apparently the driver was held up due to some election rally (Hyderabad has GHMC elections tomorrow). Anyway, all was not lost yet, I thought even if I reached by 4:30pm, it should be ok. It’s just a single building anyway, how many shots could I get? But life isn’t that easy. The driver had not heard of Ashoorkhana. He called up 1 million other people and they hadn’t heard of Ashoorkhana either. It was 4:00 pm, sunlight would soon start fading, and I knew that Ashoorkhana was a lost cause. I then asked my driver to take me to “Lotus Pond”. It’s a garden sort of place I’d heard of. But of course, the driver didn’t know where that was either. Are you kidding me?? What the hell was he doing driving a cab if he doesn’t know half the places in Hyderabad!!! The second round of phone calls ensued, to find out the location of Lotus “Pind” as he called it. After what seemed like ages, he finally go it and we started driving towards “Lotus Pind” at 4:15 pm.

Have you ever experienced that feeling, when you’re in a car, and you need to catch a flight or a train, and every single moment is so precious, and the stupid car seems to be moving so damn slowly, that you just wish that you could get down and push the car yousrself to make it move faster? Or maybe push the driver out and drive there yourself (I didn’t think that, I don’t trust my driving skills so much yet), but you get the point. I needed to get to Lotus Pond, well in time while the sunlight lasted, and here was this guy driving at 30 kmph. Grinding my teeth was all I could do to refrain from really really really shouting at him.

We finally reached Lotus Pond (after a number of wrong turns in between) – only to find it was literally a pond (more like a marsh), not very big either, with a path running all around it. Yep, obviously I’m not supposed to be taking any photographs today. Anyway, I tried to make the best of what was available. A good photographer can make anything look like a photograph after all….or so I’d heard.

Barely 15 mins might have passed when a bunch of wannabe guys on a bike, stopped outside the garden wall and whistled. I’m no “brave woman of the modern world”, I ignored the guys and made my way towards the gate where the car stood. This incident was enough to make me call it a day, and go back home.

As we drove back, I wondered how hard it is for a girl to pursue hobbies that require travelling – many times alone. And it’s so unfair that just because it’s not safe, she can’t do what she likes. I’ve always known that our societal setup is not very “lone girl friendly”, but it has never really been a hindrance so far. Yeah we had hostel timings in college (and guys didn’t), and ya I can’t stay out alone till late, but today I really felt how much freedom can mean, and how, even though nothing happened, I’ll always think twice before doing something like this again.

I recently finished a book titled “The Idea of Justice” by Amartya Sen. I won’t get into the details of the book, but it’s unjust if some members of the society (men or women), may have the opportunity, but not the capability to do what they reasonably can. My taking photographs should be purely a function of what I can do with my camera, and not of whether I’m a girl, and whether I can go out safely alone. But apparently it is.

I have no adequate ending to this post. I’m now back at home, pissed off at the stupid driver who didn’t know his way around, and at the guys who had strange ideas about macho-ness. I did get some photographs of Lotus Pond which I’ll post eventually. But India, and I guess the world in general,  has a long way to go before we all can truly believe that we can pursue our dreams wholeheartedly. And that those dreams getting fulfilled is purely a function of our own abilities and hard work, and not of the system and society we live in.



  1. Cheshire Cat · November 24, 2009

    My sympathies and much admiration for your clinging to your hobbies. But you’re a bloody fool if you think you can roam about Hyderabad lone-wolf. It’s madness, even for the male half of the world. Did you happen to note the bike’s number?
    On the other side of your argument about freedom and justice, there is always a boundary where idealism meets reality. That thin red line, it’s elasticity rather, defines how civilized a society we live in. As far as Hyderabad, or anywhere else in India goes (except, perhaps, Bumbai), we are not civilized, or even literate or cultured for that matter.
    And civilization is not related to wealth, or economic status or even social status. It is the product of an education (not to be confused with literacy or pedagogy) which takes a lot of effort, patience and self-search. You really think anyone has the time for such silly pursuits anymore when there is easy wealth to be made and spent in the melting pots of glitz and stupidity our cities have become?

    • Sonali · November 24, 2009

      Ya I need to better choose my spots. Plus there are a bunch of Photography groups I could join.

      As far as your “people have no time for such mindless pursuits when money is so easy to come by” argument goes, I agree. But I’ll also go on to say that there’s always a tipping point. When that point will come is hard to say. But it will.

  2. Cheshire Cat · November 24, 2009

    What tipping point? Bloody revolution? Social reform (which, a hundred and fifty years after Ram Mohan Roy, still lead to Roop Kanwar)? Education (when 4 out of 6 billion people still lack basic facilities of drinking water and sanitation)? What is going to come?
    Or are you referring biblically to Armageddon and Apocalypse and all that sort of bunkum?

    • Sonali · November 24, 2009

      You don’t have to always think of achieving the “ideal” state. Small incremental changes that improve the way people lead lives can also count for a lot -and this does not necessarily need a revolution.

  3. Cheshire Cat · November 24, 2009

    You seem to have mistaken me for some kind of bloodthirsty Stalinist which I am certainly not.
    If you have ever tried to effect the kind of incremental change you are talking about, you’d well know that it is but temporary. Any institution, whether a lone idealist rattling away at a chalkboard or a slate in a mud-walled, thatched hutment; or a monument to human excellence founded on the most pristine Nehruvian, no, Gandhian principles, will wither with time. And your kind of change is a constant struggle, an equilibrium where there’ll always be an other side. Likewise for all the silly methods I mentioned above. So, you still think the tipping point will just turn up? Or are you sincerely gearing up for creating and sustaining, by the most precious resource you have- your time alive- an empire of saints?

  4. Vivek Krishna · December 6, 2009

    Hmm.. reading your blog after a while..Firstly i do commend your pursuit of the hobby,and knowing that you venture alone makes me admire even more.. I thought all along that you had some partner(s) in crime 🙂

    It is always a bit unsafe esp in some parts of the city but such is life 😦 I will not go into the ‘why can’t guys keep to themselves’ argument because i cannot speak for all devious perverts out there ..They come in all varieties.

    On a practical note, I have 2 tips for you..

    1. – very effective and handy.You can even order online 🙂

    2.Find a boyfriend who also likes photography..
    Check out
    Excuse the shameless self advert here..

    One more thing.. see if you can add your blog to networked blogs so that I can track your blog on FB.
    It is an app on Facebook and is really useful.

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