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Bye bye Chennai | Nov2022
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Bye bye Chennai | Nov2022
Bye bye Chennai!

I relocated to Chennai in Nov 2016 and thought we will be here for the next couple of years…
It’s been 6 years since then and I didn’t realize when and how this city became mine… perhaps its more appropriate to say that this city made me become a part of it.

In these 6 years, I made lots of friends. They never let me feel that I was not born here or am not a native Tamilian.

There are three close friends I want to call out especially.

The 1st one is Mohan. He was my cycling buddy. Without him, I would have never finished any of my cycling challenges. When we used to cycle day & night in the middle of nowhere, he took care of me… a real friend. When not cycling, he helped me explore Chennai with my camera. He was one of the main reasons I started loving Chennai. I found the soul of Chennai with him.

The other two friends are Maheswaran & Guru. I have been practicing photography for more than 30 years now. I can confidently say that the last 6 years were the most memorable in terms of photography and this was possible only for these two friends. Always smiling and always ready to accept my madness in photography in Chennai, weather I wanted to photograph early in the morning, on all weekends or roam around streets and fields in the scorching heat or go to little known places… they accompanied me everywhere without a protest or a question. Thank you for giving me these 6 precious years.

I will never forget this city as I spent one of the best time of my life here. Chennai is my 2nd home now.

I also leave a piece of my heart here forever in my two four-legged sons, Tobo & Gunda, who lie here in peace for eternity.

Chennai, I say farewell for now… I know I will be back home soon.
Chennai Teashop
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Chennai Teashop
I was a tea person until I had my first taste of strong Filter Coffee at this tea shop in Chennai. This little, but busy tea shop has been my “adda” for the past six years.

Anyone who knows me or has met me in Chennai, has definitely shared a glass of this elixir here with me. I have taken my son here regularly for his juice and my coffee, I have met photographers here, cyclists, runners, neighbours and friends, I have even had coffee here alone!

The tea masters you see in this picture have brewed me cups of coffee almost everyday I have spent in Chennai! Today, as I had my last glass of filter coffee here with Guru and the shop owner, I know I will miss the best cup of coffee in the world always.

Opposite Turiya Hotel
Stealing a pair of shoes
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Stealing a pair of shoes
Lost the same shoes in Kulasai Dasara Festival this year… so bought them again! This time 2 pairs, so I will still have one pair if someone steals one again next year in Kulasai.

Have you ever lost your shoes at a temple?
While your feet may not thank you, it is an interesting experience when you do.

My friend and fellow photographer, Maheswaran Karthikeyan had taught me a trick to save them from getting stolen at a temple. Leave one shoe in one place & the other one at a different place. A thief cannot find both the pairs, so this tip always works!

However, at Kulasai this year, I forgot his advice and they were gone!
That’s when Avra Ghosh, another photographer friend gave me a “noble” idea. His idea was that I should steal someone else’s shoes now. According to his logic, when I steal someone else’s shoes, that person will also steal another person’s shoes setting off a cycle in motion until at last there will come a time when my shoe’s thief will have his shoes stolen! That way, the universe will serve justice and no one will go back home without any shoes.

His idea had logic I felt. Also because I had to spend a full day photographing and doing that without shoes was not a very appealing idea, I accepted it.

Now it was action time… the “idea” of stealing someone shoes and the “reality” of doing it were two very different things!
I can still remember the feeling of dread and guilt in those minutes of my action. I could not let anyone see me “steal”, especially the person who’s shoes I would steal! So I had to plan well.

The biggest challenge was to select which shoe to steal. My criteria was very simple, it needs to be my size, a leather one and should be comfortable to walk. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury to try one & then decide because I had to do it fast on account of my fear. Aside from my fear and embarrassment, I was not wearing my glasses that helps me see things near me. So in effect, I was as blind as a bat in sunlight.

I saw one, decided it was the right shape and size, probably was neutral brown in color & had stripes that made me feel it was probably a leather one.
I steeled myself to steal, closed my eyes and the deed was done in a flash! I had stolen someone’s shoes! What excitement I felt for those 2 mins of adventure! I was pleased with myself…

2 minutes later, a nail poked my feet. I had managed to plan and steal with so much care, a pair of old, torn, cheap quality, plastic shoes!!
It felt like the Universe had served me justice too! I too was punished…

Do you have any story of losing your shoes as well?
Meeting my subjects
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Meeting my subjects
Good old memories of Chennai!
We AvTvISO Photographers had taken an initiative to give framed photographs to the people we have taken photos off in the past as part of our World Photography Day Celebration in 2021.
Usually we do not ask our subject’s names or address when we take photos. So, it was a challenging task for us to trace them later.
I remember, I went back to the places where I took their photographs, showed them to random people trying to identify the 35+ “subjects” I wanted to give the frames. I found them all!
That day I realized something very special… a connection with them that I never realized I could have before.
There are perhaps two reasons for this feeling of closeness and I am sure it is true for all photographers. First, because we hold our breath and “observe” each and every detail with full concentration when we look through our camera viewfinder. We probably never look so closely at anyone else when we don’t see through the camera. Second, we live with these photographs. We see them hundreds of times. Slowly, these faces become as familiar as our own palm. That’s why we create a connection with our photographic subject and we become happy when we meet them again.
4 stories from meeting my “subjects”
I had made an old lady my subject in one frame. When we reached her home, her family were very welcoming and they offered us coffee & biriyani thinking we would give her a big amount of money. Later we found out she lives in a makeshift tent because she has no space in her own two storied home and sells flowers for her own living. What a difficult life!
The next one is about another middle-aged lady. I clearly remember her bright face with a very sweet smile. I also remember that we had spent a long time in her shop talking to her while taking her photograph. Little did we know that I would come back to the same shop to give her a photo frame some time later to find her gone. She had left this world only three days before we visited due to COVID infection. I realized once again, the pain of losing someone very close.
The next one is about a family photograph. It took a long time to find the family’s address in the severe Chennai heat. We went from point A to point B to point C before we finally found them in point D! I was happy when we reached their home, but the man of the family refused to come out & meet us. We were told by their neighbors that he thought we will collect money from him. Finally, a neighbor helped us to convince the man to come out & meet us.
The last one is about an old man who I photographed sitting outside a beauty parlor. I had clicked a portrait of him with my 70-200 tele lens with a beautiful young lady’s photo from the parlor in the background. When we reached his home, we learnt that he had died a week after I had clicked his photograph. That was not the biggest shock. The family was telling us how he had died due to excessive drinking, liver failure, etc until the moment they saw the photograph. There was an eerie silence, followed by frantic hushed talking among them post which they vehemently denied knowing the old man. We were confused. Did we come to a wrong address? We then showed the photograph to a shop owner nearby who identified the old man and confirmed that we were at the correct address. Now we were even more confused!
A while later, the old man’s college going grandson came out and we learnt the reason behind their fear. They had thought that the old man had some extra marital affair with the lady in the background and we came there either from her family to look for a share in his property or we came on behalf of the Police (I am not sure why they thought of the police).
We had to do a lot of explaining before they finally accepted his photograph. By the way, he was a very nice man without any extra marital affair.
What a cathartic experience each meeting has been!
My “Subjects” will probably never know that they became an intrinsic part of my life! I really love them and I care for them. They have become my own.
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under copyright act.