February 03, 2012

Gateway Photographers By The Taj Mahal Palace

Watching crowds whiling away their evening at the Gateway Of India across the road from the legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel facing the Arabian Sea, I’m convinced that not all Mumbai local trains disgorge passengers on their way to work and back, some will send them on their way to Colaba for an evening by the sea, to be charmed by the historic monument and inspired by the survival of the majestic Taj Hotel in face of a relentless terrorist attack launched by Pakistani Islamists on 26/11.

And like a river down the bridge, time too has flown past even if in circles, the radius getting bigger with every circle completed, dampening the ripple the further it curves away from the epicentre but never quite deadening it.

And like a bubble, time grows bigger, and bigger, offering you a transitory view in the momentary cocoon each bubble builds before it breaks, leaving you with a memory of the fleeting moment.

It’s this fleeting moment many visitors to the seafront in Colaba seek to capture with their cameras. Those who cannot afford a camera or haven’t brought one along and wish to frame their day by the Taj and the Gateway will pose for a Gateway Photographer to have their picture taken for a fee.

For a time after the Islamist terrorist attacks on Mumbai the Gateway Photographers were nowhere to be seen. The police had shooed them away, against their wishes. Now they are back, their DSLRs, mostly Nikon, hanging from the neck and waving albums of pictures showing tourists posing by the Taj and the Gateway, pictures of pretty girls smiling into the camera, and beyond.

Every once in while a Gateway Photographer conscious of his looks will seek to make himself more presentable than the stiff breeze blowing in from the sea will allow him, using the camera preview screen for a mirror as he adjusts his hair and wipes his face clean of dust before walking back among milling crowds scouting for visitors looking to have their pictures taken.

He is their medium, the bridge between their moment and its memory.


lgsquirrel said...

Thanks for another post that gives so much insight to a place and its people.

NRIGirl said...

If only you could have described a little more of the weather, the wind, the smell and the likes... It would have taken us to the then and there...

Riot Kitty said...

Just beautiful.

marja-leena said...

Lovely post - I like your descriptions of time like a river...

Shweta Sonny said...

interesting one..

Anil P said...

Lgsquirrel: Thank you.

NRIGirl: You're right. I just let the focus centre around the image of the photographer adjusting his hair before returning to selling his services as a photographer.

Maybe in another post I'll dwell upon the sights, the smells and the sounds around the Gateway Of India.

Riot Kitty: Thank you.

Marja-Leena: Thank you.

Shweta Sonny: Thank you.

Upasna said...

it strange that this is one place in Bombay I almost need to keep visiting. For peace. In that massive crowd.

Amber Star said...

Is the building in the picture the Taj Mahal? If so, it is from a different angel than I've ever seen. Or is it the hotel? My guess it is the hotel where the terrorists attacked. What a sad day for India.

Loved the picture and the story.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anil .. I'd love to visit India, Mumbai and other beautiful parts of your world - to see the history and get a feel of the country.

Looking forward to more photos and stories .. cheers Hilary

radha said...

I have seen these photographers on my visits to Mumbai ( then Bombay) - I guess they are a dying breed that will soon disappear with the popularity of mobile phone cameras.

Anil P said...

Upasna: Almost like the quiet in the middle of a storm, or the lull before it. There's peace at that singular moment.

Amber Star: This one is a hotel by the same name as the Taj Mahal a King once built as a memory to his queen in Agra.

The Taj Hotel in the picture was the one laid siege to by Pakistani terrorists, turning it into a killing field.

Hillary Melton-Butcher: Thank you. Do visit India, it's a wonderful contradiction of most things big and small.

Radha: Almost like a pilgrimage, the place. They've seen a downturn in their business for sure. But with instant photos on offer they still manage to get some business to survive by.

Until 2-3 years ago they would use Nikon FM10, Pentax K1000, Yashica etc. Now it's mostly Nikon DSLRs ranging from D40, D40X, D3000 etc.

Daisy said...

Very interesting story and pictures, Anil. You captured the moment very well. So much sadness and horror happened there. Such a contrast from the peaceful scene in your first photo.

Bronwyn said...

Again, gorgeous photos! I like your eye.

Lubna said...

I've returned back to home town Mumbai after a few years. Just the other day I plonked myself in a chair at the open air restaurant of Sea Palace Hotel.
Once I could see the sea and the ferries if my seat was strategically placed, now I could only see parked Tourist buses!
That said, the scene at the Gateway was as joyous as ever. Perhaps the horse drawn carriages had a more gaudy make over with flashing light bulbs instead of just balloons and garlands, which was the traditional decor just a few years ago.
Nice article.

Sam!! said...

Thanks for the knowledge..nice post! :)


TALON said...

Taj Mahal and Arabian Sea conjure up such romantic and beautiful imagery in my mind, Anil. As always, through words and images you transport me.

Anil P said...

Daisy: Thank you. True, it was a terrible time, compounded no doubt by the senselessness and ruthlessness of the terrorists.

It looks mighty peaceful now.

Bronwyn: Thank you. Nice to know you liked the pictures.

Lubna: Lot more people visit the Gateway of India and the seafront than before. They've changed the approach to the Gateway as well, widening the space to accommodate more visitors.

Sam: Thank you.

Talon: Sea and History always make for a great combination for imagery as well as imagination.

An Iengar Chick .... said...

The kiddo made a trip to the Taj and GOI in 2010, and boy was she impressed. Well whenever I see the GOI I always remember one of Kaka Hathrasi's hindi poem, the last few lines go..

Kahe Kaviraj
Kiwad chunwa do raja
dushman hamla kare band karlo darwaza...

Do not remember the lines exactly but this poem won me 1st place in a poem reciation contest when I was in 7th grade...oooh lotsa water under that bridge !

As usual brilliant pics

A grain of sand said...

"And like a bubble, time grows bigger, and bigger, offering you a transitory view in the momentary cocoon each bubble builds before it breaks, leaving you with a memory of the fleeting moment." beautiful lines..introspective and true too.

nice post!

Anil P said...

Red: That's the first time I've heard the poem. It reads well, and am sure will sound nicer. A certain clang to it, the door shutting et al.

A rustic feel to it.

Nice to know you were into reciting poetry, and the prize, well, that's a memorable feather in the cap. Into poetry now?

Grain Of Sand: Thank you.

Indian Bazaars said...

Sometime ago, I would travel every month to Bombay and did a day-trip to Alibag on work. So, had to take the catamaran from Gateway. In the mornings, the Gateway photographers and the chai wallahs paced the vast expanse of an empty plaza and then, by the time we returned in the evening, I would look for the photographers to see how good business was and they were always so busy. I always wondered who thought of this business idea the first time.

amasc said...

What a delightful post. The trading photographers with the Nikons are so much a part of the scene and I too wonder how they will survive with the growing ownership of digital cameras. People still like to have their photographs taken though so perhaps they have a few more years. I first came across the breed when I lived in Vietnam - Nikons there too - they had assistants who printed off the photographs from a printer strapped to the back of a motorbike. I noticed here that many print in situ with little cubed HP printers. Thanks for posting, it's reminded me to take pictures of picture takers.