June 30, 2008

Hard Lessons


The Jehangir Art Gallery has been a permanent fixture on my visits to Fort for quite some time now. I wonder if visiting over 70-80 art exhibitions at the Jehangir over the years has made me any wiser about the Indian Art Scene. I doubt if it has. However I do remember a few memorable ones. Occasionally I might drop in at Samovar, the in-house café, for a quick bite or two before walking down the steps and out into the Mumbai sunshine. Once in a while I might settle down on the steps and watch the world go by.

The art gallery, with its four exhibition halls, is helped by its location. No one who visits the heritage precinct of Kala Ghoda can miss seeing it. So, tourists visit the gallery in droves. Some get curious after seeing others walk in, and hence follow suit. Yet others hesitate, wondering if they’ll be allowed past the entrance before mustering courage and making their way up the steps.


After visiting an exhibition one late afternoon I stepped out of the gallery and was about to run down the steps and across the road in the direction of the David Sassoon library but stopped short on seeing a lady posing for the camera against the backdrop of the art gallery. Her little daughter stood on the road with a point-and-shoot while she posed patiently, waiting for the shutter release, to be indicated by a flash, though there wasn’t a need for one in the late afternoon light. Seconds passed, no flash, more seconds passed, still no flash. A touch edgy, she walked up to her daughter and after a few quick instructions she returned to her spot and struck a pose. Her husband stood to the side watching on.


The little girl brought the camera to her face. Behind her, cars motored past. More seconds passed, still no flash. I watched from the steps, willing the little girl to get it right, for I knew it must mean a lot to her to be able to point to the picture later and tell whoever would listen that she’d taken the picture of her mother in front of the art gallery. Yet more seconds passed, still no flash. By now the mother was getting visibly irritated, and after walking up to her daughter for the third time she returned to her spot and struck a pose. Nothing happened. The little girl tried, but the camera would not yield.

The lady strode up to her little daughter in a huff and snatched the camera from her reluctant hands before turning it over to her husband. The little girl dropped her gaze to the road as her mother led her to the side, by a parked car. Her father took her place. Her hands by her side, she watched her mother strike a pose for her dad.


Seconds later, the camera flashed.

I wonder if later that night the little girl wished she would grow up quicker.

26 comments:

Pradeep said...

I wish the mom could explain a bit better. I doubt what could have been the instruction a girl like her couldn't have understood, as today's cameras are user friendly.

kenju said...

That reminds me of my husband;'s experiences with the computer, and when he asks for my help, the computer responds immediately. I am sure he feels like that little girl did.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Aw.. the poor pet. How terrible she must have felt. Mother was impatient, too. Maybe she felt emabarrassed at having to pose for so long?

I felt a little smug reading this post, because the places you have mentioned (the Jehangir Art Gallery and the David Sassoon - no relation to vidal, I was assured - Library), and the Kala Ghoda area are familiar to me. My sister had taken me around these places, and a whole lot of other non-touristy places when I visited her a couple of years ago.

dharmabum said...

i love you for your travails, more for your eyes - they see the little things in life and derive meaning out of them...

i've always wanted to grow up quick too...

Lakshmi said...

lovely observation..the father could have helped the little girl ? I used to really like samovar and I still remember all the painters outside the gallery ..what a place !!

Quizman said...

Beautiful post.

arthi kk said...

most adults do not understand what goes on in a child's mind and more important heart. we expect the child to know and understand what we are thinking or what we want them to do.

remember we did not grow knowing everything. we had to learn too. someone, somewhere had the time and patience to understand us and teach us and still are doing this for us. why dont we spend some of our patience and understanding on our little ones?

what you sow, you reap. when you are old and need to lean on the next generation for physical or technological needs, you may be the one on the receiving end of their impatience, which you have taught them.

bobbie said...

This is a very sensitive post.I, too, wish the mother had been more patient. I have been in that mother's position, waiting what seemed like forever for my child to go ahead and take the picture. I hope I was more understanding.

Anil P said...


Pradeep: It might even have been difficulty in depressing the button.

Kenju: It can happen sometimes that a lack of affinity or enthusiasm for gadgets blocks the mind from learning how to operate them. Admittedly often there're better things to do than learn how to operate every new gadget that hits the town.

Raji Muthukrishnan: Those places retain the essence of probably what Bombay was meant to be!

Dharmabum: Maybe because there are more little things than the big ones, there're more potential for the pleasures of little things in life.

Lakshmi: Yes, I agree. It's quite a place.

Quizman: Thanks.

Arthi KK: I quite agree. In some parts it might even have to do with the notion of 'attention deficit' that media has popularised about generations growing up in what is effectively a 'media age'.

Bobbie: Thank you. To exercise patience so that another may learn is but empathy in another form.

dharmabum said...

oh well, yes, though fewer, we see them big and it blinds us, in our idiocy.
i like the thought.

N said...

now and then (sometime, too often) i go back to feeling and wishing that too.

Sarah Laurence said...

I can't help wondering why the father didn't assist his daughter rather than do it for her. Points to the parents for at least letting the child try several times. Perhaps they were aware that you were waiting too.

It's so important to encourage creativity in children. My parents were great about that with me, and I have tried my best with my children. My daughter has taken some of the photos of me on my blog. Now she has asked for a digital camera of her own for her 11th birthday. Still, even the best parents fail sometimes.

Lucy said...

I hope and think perhaps that the fact that you cared and troubled about it, and have made us do so, somehow matters...

Lovely post, the light is beautiful. I love your writing and the different places and atmospheres you show.

Anil P said...


Dharmabum: That may be so.

N: At times I feel the opposite, to go back to being small so I could head to a crickt field all day and play cricket :)

Sarah Laurence: I agree with your point of view, it is important to let children be creative and find their own way of doing things. The best thing of a camera is you get to see on print or digital file what you saw through the viewfinder, and that can be a great learning experience, to see 'how it came out'.

Lucy: Thank you. It's a pleasure to have you read the posts, more so to learn that you empathise with the different places and atmospheres appearing in the posts.

Kay said...

Stories that are a slice of life - I am picturing the mother having a conversation a little later with the daughter and saying sorry she was so impatient. Or maybe not - but life's lessons anyway for the wee girl. I love the way you captured all this do unobtrusively!

drips of paint said...

your eyes see more then the camera did ... and thanks for letting me see what you saw.

mountainear said...

What a lovely vignette. I can almost feel the warmth and see the low light of your late afternoon here on a wet UK evening.

I've been that impatient mother and know now, in retrospect, that I should have spared the time to let my children do what children do best - succeed by trying and failing and trying again.

Anil P said...


Kay: Thank you. Wisdom announces itself, almost always, on the rebound.

Drips of paint: Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Mountainear: Thanks. At times it's never too late, for most things that is.

anish said...

you are the true street photographer :) really liked this post

Red Soul said...

aww nice post :)

Anil P said...


Anish: Thanks :)

Red Soul: Thank you.

Lisa B. said...

Nice observation of a sad little slice of life.

Anil P said...


Lisa B.: Thank you.

MS CUTE PANTS said...

I love how you've captured and have related this to us via this post. Haven't we all been in that little girl's shoes, at one time or another?

Anil P said...

ms cute pants: Thanks. Yes, we've been in those shoes at one time or the other :)

Di said...

Beautifully captured. Though, while at the museum it's very easy to overlook such little incidents.