Satire in Harishankar Parsai’s stories

Harishankar Parsai brilliantly satirises traditional Indian society in his short stories. From taking digs at the bureaucratic system to patriarchal norms and religion, Parsai brings out our so-called “Hindu culture” out to the forefront for everyone to see. His short story titled Inspector Matadeen on the Moon manages to display the criminal system in India by creating Inspector Matadeen, the ‘ideal’ policeman who ensures justice no matter what. Matadeen displays the “glorious traditions of the Indian Police” and his aspirations of a true “Ram Rajya”. His pursuits of the former land him on the Moon where he pays a visit to train their lackadaisical police force. Prior to leaving, he tells a junior officer in the police station that should the need arise, his friend should send his “bed and house” to his place. In certain strata of the society, this term was used to refer to the wife – reducing her ultimately to a docile, domesticated being whose role in life was to manage the ‘home’ and be on the ‘bed’ for pleasure whenever the man wanted.

Matadeen is the ideal policeman because he challans whenever he wants and also makes sure that drivers honk because that is the ‘rule’ and has his mantra that the police “should be able to punish a criminal as soon as they catch him” and not be bogged down by courts. Although Parsai makes fun of how police systems work in the country, he is also asserting that courts still hold the upper hand and have survived from being manipulated by the state. “But sad to say, we are yet to achieve that in our Ram Rajya” continues Matadeen. He finds the lack of a Hanuman temple in the police stations on the Moon deeply disturbing and instructs them to put up shrines without delay. He also reduces the salaries of all the policemen in order to bring them out of their lazy attitude and make them catch some criminals. Policemen in this country are underpaid which, in a way, forces them to look for alternate means of income. This mostly ends up in them engaging in bribery from truck drivers to real estate agents and diplomats. Parsai comments on one of the most relevant aspects of how our police system works when Matadeen says that “What is important is who can be proven guilty or, better still, who should be proven guilty?” In a country where the police detain people illegally and frame them for crimes every single day, these lines ring true. It has become commonplace for the police to resort to custodial torture in order to extract information and to detain people against the writs which have been enshrined in the Constitution. Matadeen states on what basis a person should be detained, “One, has the man been a nuisance to the police, and two, will his conviction please the men at the top?” The police system works hand in hand with bureaucratic “men at the top”, especially when it is an issue involving those men or when it garners enough attention. At that time, it becomes crucial for them to keep their fundamental moral duty at bay and listen to what the top dogs say. If needed, eyewitnesses in the form of “petty thieves, gamblers, goondas, bootleggers” also appear after they have been blackmailed and conditioned appropriately. “That one sentence – those at the top want it so – has always come to the rescue of our government in the last twenty-five years,” says Matadeen. If this isn’t relevant in today’s India, I don’t know what is.

Matadeen’s story was written in the 1960s but since then, nothing much has changed. The justice system is pretty much the same and custodial torture is glorified in Bollywood movies like Singham. Somehow, it seems really cool to see Ajay Devgn beating the living daylight out of someone. The crowd shouts and whistles at this form of instant justice.

In another story titled A Ten Day Fast, Parsai looks at social problems and superstitions. The premise is set behind a man who goes on a fast because he is unable to marry a married woman, who he apparently likes. Why does he fast? Because his “you can fast for anything these days” His friend encourages him to follow this path because “today all major demands are gained only through threats of fasts and self-immolation” Bannu decides to sit down for a fast-unto-death after consulting with Baba Sankidas, a veteran sadhu who has forced the government to pass laws just by fasting. When great sadhus and babas can fast, why should the common folk stay behind? Issues like death can be managed as long as one keeps an “eye on their medical chart, the other on the mediator” The mediator enters the scene after five days of fasting in order to create deals with people in authority. Parsai goes on to highlight several other issues as well. The most prominent one being the mindless discrimination that is directed towards women in Indian society. Radhika Prasad is the woman Bannu has his eyes on. When she comes to meet Bannu and shows her anger at his ridiculous move, Baba Sankidas tells her to go away and warns that “In a day or two, once the public opinion is fully formed, some people may not allow for your nasty comments” Naturally, people behave like sheep and thanks to the excellent brainwashing by Sankidev and his team, chants of “Radhika Prasad is a sinner” echo everywhere. Bannu is regarded as a hero after stories of his past life where he was a sadhu married to Radhika Prasad emerge from a certain Swami Rasanand. When Sankidev sees that the issue isn’t anywhere near to be solved, he incited communal sparks by playing the caste card. This is so mind-numbingly relevant in our times where Brahmanical forces are subjugating Dalit and Adivasi communities in a bid to achieve the dream of ‘Ram Rajya’. Radhika Prasad who is a Kayastha is targeted by four local goondas who throw stones into their homes and then do the same to Banni’s Brahmin community. The result? Section 144 gets imposed and everything comes to a standstill. After several days of deadlock and bus burnings, a resolution is finally formed and although Banni is unable to marry Radhika Prasad, he gets a ticket to contest in the upcoming elections. “In a democracy, public opinion has to be respected. This issue involved the sentiments of millions of people. It’s good that it was resolved peacefully, otherwise, violent revolution could have taken place” is the statement said by Sankidev in the end.

Any reader can point out the satirical attacks that Parsai makes in the garb of carefully crafted humour and a fun-filled storyline. Again, this story first appeared in 1966 and in 2018, we have blind followers of babas like Ram Rahim Singh. Parsai’s stories are written testaments that we, as a society and as a people haven’t moved forward. Sure we have Aadhar cards and multi-billion dollar scams now but deep in our hearts, we still sway like puppets in the threads of religion, superstition, patriarchal notions and conservatism. Parsai’s stories are excellently written and show Indian society in its true colours and it is inadvisable to dismiss his contribution, especially in present times.



RSS swayamsevaks reach Uri

This is a satirical piece based on personal opinions about certain things in life

After RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s loud claims that the RSS could assemble cadres to fight much faster than the Indian Army in a situation of war, the first squad of around 30 shivering and sleep deprived “soldiers” arrived in the freezing town of Uri at around 5.45 in the morning. For those of you who don’t know, Uri is in Jammu and Kashmir and as experts say, is the trending place right now for the RSS to show who the boss is.

The platoon arrived in one of the regular army trucks. A person who has seen one of them would know that they provide zero passenger comfort and have been ranked as one of the most unsuitable means of transport for any kind of journey. As many guessed, the shivering soldiers could not get any sleep due to the horrendous condition of the roads during the course of the journey. It has come to our notice that many of the swayamsevaks puked throughout the night due to constant snaking around of the truck. Many also complained of severe back pain and many sat morosely, realising that that they should have packed a few cans and tubes of Volini in their luggage.

The Indian Army has welcomed the platoon and arrangements to replace their half pants and chappals with full pants and military boots have been done right away. The weather was cloudy and hence many of the swayamsevaks were seen brooding because of their sudden inability to do suryanamaskar. Many also complained that there was no water available to take a bath soon after they arrived. “We decided to call them because there have been frequent insurgents trying to get lucky. We thought of having a change and Bhagwatji readily accepted our plea. I think this team did not go into much training though” said Lt. Col. Bharat Singh.

The swayamsevaks, if they don’t die off due to hypothermia, will soon begin their drills and the Indian Army is hoping that they will have an easy time dealing with the lot. “This is Hindu power. Whoever believes that ‘Bharat Mata’ is his mother is an Indian and a Hindu. Once we get some Vicks and are able to do suryanamaskar, these Pakis won’t have any place left to hide”, one of the swayamsevaks commented. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi was unavailable for comment regarding this story.

Love in our times

What does love mean in our times? This question can invite a horde of different responses and opinions. Is it traditional like what most of our parents had or has it become easy thanks to services like online dating applications? What happens to the idea of love once technology takes over? These are interesting questions with equally interesting answers and possibilities.

When I was a young kid in high school, it was a very big deal for me to approach a girl and say a simple hi or a gentle hello. Forget speaking, even making eye contact took a lot of effort. It wasn’t because I was extremely shy but because that was the social conditioning I had seen and understood. Even though we watched western movies which had kissing scenes and public displays of affection, all of that seemed unrealistic within a small town in India. That did not mean I wasn’t attracted to anyone. The first time I liked someone was in third grade. She was a classmate and like every other classroom, we got teased a lot. So much, so that we started noticing each other just because people teased us. This happened in third grade, what were we even thinking?!

It was all we had, noticing each other and her wishing me “Happy Valentine’s Day” one fine day and me not responding anything because I didn’t even know what the hell that meant. I remember being really sad during the summer vacations of that year because I couldn’t see her for fifty days straight. To make things even worse, she didn’t come to class for some extra twenty days after that. Sometimes we played ‘Ice-Water’ and that was it. As far as I can remember, she never shared her lunch with me. There was no Internet at that time. The only thing to do after school was to look forward to the next day in order to resume the occasional-eye-contact-smirking game.

The first time I had a phone in my hand was in tenth grade. My mother’s Nokia some number phone which had Bounce in it introduced me to the idea of SMS-ing. Vodafone was new to this country and offered 15000 messages for 34 bucks a month. That created a revolution and then emerged an army of night owls. A few of my friends with more liberal parents than my own were able to get hold of their parents’ phones after dinner hours and send text messages to each other which sometimes continued till the crack of dawn. What could they have possibly talked about? In tenth grade, there was nothing much to discuss and it wasn’t like the place I lived in was extremely happening either. I loved talking about Dragonball Z and Linkin Park a lot but I ran out of things to say within half an hour. Maybe they talked about the girls in class and beyond. Anyway, SMS married technology to love. All around me, peers and seniors were thumbing away, annoying the hell out of their elders and parents. There were no touch screen phones at that time. Internet was still a luxury for the privileged few. I was quite jealous of those guys who could use their parents’ phones without any hassle. My parents thought some spirit had taken hold of me because suddenly I was keeping their phone inside my pockets, checking every 2 minutes to see if a new SMS had arrived and then thumbing away on the keypad to write something as a response. Instead of looking out of the window at passing trucks while travelling, I was more interested in waiting for the phone to vibrate. I was attracted to this one girl in class and my classmates continued teasing us; this wasn’t the one from third grade. Slowly, a more advanced entity called GTalk came into view. Internet was becoming cheaper as BSNL had launched their BroadBand services with an immense 1GB of data usage per month. My father had got a connection for his work and this is where I discovered the World Wide Web. My privileged friends with liberal parents soon got their own Nokia Express Music phones and were exploiting the same to the core. They talked about Gtalk and using Facebook on their phones and playing cool games like Asphalt 2 while I was stuck with my mother’s Nokia something number phone. I did not complain though, because I was able to text just fine amidst my mom yelling at me, snatching the phone away or hiding it occasionally. But I managed, I texted that girl as much as I could talking about things. Even in that time, love meant frequent eye contact in class followed by a microsecond of smirking and nothing else. We never talked in class and made sure nobody except a chosen few knew about us, that we were ‘girlfriend-boyfriend’. Even the utterance of such words was beyond our brains. There was occasional small talk in class but never a full-fledged conversation. The teasing continued and it started getting annoying cause puberty and raging hormones resulting in aggression. And this was fuel for those who teased and I was, sadly, not one of those who punched people when annoyed. Apart from SMS and GTalk, there was one more platform called Oracle ThinkQuest which was made mandatory in all CBSE schools. It was a social networking website for kids and it encouraged them to make pages and projects about things they found interesting. What I found interesting was the messaging option and before I knew, I was texting some random 14-year old guy from the Netherlands. GTalk was also the place where I saw emoticons for the first time. The kiss and kiss with a heart emoticons were never touched cause shyness and conservative upbringings. It was a very weird phase because this girl and me, we kind of liked each other but had difficulty accepting it while the entire class thought that we definitely liked each other. Somehow, we thought we liked each other simply because the class was confident that we liked each other and we had to make sure that we didn’t disappoint them. It was absurd.

After that came WhatsApp and eleventh grade meant a personal mobile phone was necessary because guess who had to go for Physics, Chemistry and Maths tuitions now. Nokia Asha 311 was my first phone, nothing too swanky but it served the purpose. The texting continued and the trending thing at that moment was Internet Packs which meant more frequent data pack recharges. WhatsApp had more interesting emoticons with better graphics which made the texting experience highly enriching. Love, at that stage, had a little more verbal aspect to it than before. More calls, limited but more conversations in class and the rise of voice notes were the new things in my life. This was also the time when minutes recharge packs came into the picture. 3G was slowly starting to come in which meant faster Internet although I stayed away from it because it was expensive. 2G was slow but it was enough to fulfil my needs. The usage of the kiss emoticon finally saw the light of day and it felt like an actual kiss although the latter didn’t happen. Heart emoticons also flew here and there occasionally. Amidst theories of thermodynamics and calculus, this was what love looked like to me. Many of peers were going a stage further by going to the limited restaurants in town but all that was beyond me. Going on a ‘date’ somewhere on your own was non-existent. It required a certain kind of courage which I did not have at that time. This phase lasted till 2015.

Things were even more primitive during the time of my parents. A letter from someone you admired was a prized possession. Sometimes, those letters were accompanied by a photograph of the sender, taken very carefully in an appropriate setting. A lot went into planning such things. Also, one letter took a minimum of a fortnight’s to travel from one small town to another. These letters were written meticulously, each word was carefully chosen and many drafts went into the dustbin before the perfect one emerged. We still have a picture of my father posing with his then Bajaj Chetak which he sent to my mother months after they first met. My father is donning a blue shirt and his curly, long hair is neatly combed. Needless to say, he dressed up for that photograph. There is a message written in Assamese behind that picture and somehow it is more original than anything else. They didn’t have a lot of verbal conversations though as they were mutually shy, so letters served the purpose. This held true for most people belonging to that generation.

It is 2018 now and children have iPhones. Things have changed tremendously and today’s high school kids are far from being shy about their feelings. Online dating has spread like a wildfire and every second someone is matching with someone in a world of left and right swipes. The idea of love has changed and metamorphosed into something else entirely. Hookup culture has been embraced by the populace because it has become an effective tool to meet someone instead of being lonely. You choose a potential partner by reading a small bio and checking a few pictures of them that they post. While it was so difficult for me to even say a ‘hi’ to a girl in school, one can match with innumerable people on the Internet. It has become fast and easy like instant coffee, as Prof. Etienne would say. Technology has taken over and human feelings and emotions are shared virtually than verbally; we rely so heavily on emoticons, after all. A text can either make or break things. If you don’t receive a text from your beau for say, half an hour, all hell breaks loose and explanations are demanded. Innumerable selfies, Snapchat stories with tongues hanging out are taken every day and exchanged. A very Hang the DJ-esque atmosphere is slowly dawning upon us when technology completely takes over and ends up deciding who you should be sleeping with or who should be your “ultimate match” while boasting about a 99% success rate at the same time. Love has been commoditised and instead of aspects like mutual affection, support and trust, the physical aspect reigns supreme. Just like in an assembly line, humans come, get orgasms and move on. The conveyor belt keeps going forward with the same cycle. Loyalty is measured by looking at chat and call logs while not having enough couple photographs in your gallery attracts wide-eyed stares from friends and peers. A check-in into every restaurant, museum, art gallery, cinema you go to with your significant other ensures that your relationship meets the current community standards while being topics of conversations among your mates, which invokes jealousy among some of them who secretly loathe you.

I am not saying that I have kept myself away from social media or WhatsApp. What I am trying to understand is how far we have come and whether it is all worth it. When I look around, I see people who crib about how lonely their lives are without romance once the drink starts settling in and who go back, the very next day to online dating or to the school of thought which claims that amorous pursuits are a waste of time because he or she is going to leave you at some point anyway. In a post-modern world, love has reached a state of “post-love” as well and is now being widely accepted as a commodity and service into which two mutually consenting humans subscribe to and unsubscribe anytime they see fit and continue to do so in order to fulfil their carnal desires. Sounds very pessimistic, but these claims are drawn from my observations.

All this doesn’t mean that genuine affection doesn’t exist; it is very much there if one looks around instead of gazing at a screen.

One image, many meanings

war image 3

Images are ubiquitous and they can enhance a host of emotions within the viewer. The image above has been taken from the Vietnam War. It became famous as the ‘Saigon Execution’ photo and drew a lot of praise and flak from people across the world. Eddie Adams who took the photograph got a Pulitzer Prize for it. In the photograph, the man holding the gun is a South Vietnamese soldier while the person moments away from death is a suspected Viet Cong operative.

The photograph acts as a device for us to understand the inherent fear of death that we all have. For the person aiming the gun, his prisoner is just any other threat that needs to be eliminated. The soldier has a defiant, almost passive look as he takes aim – he is doing what he does every day and the presence of a camera in front of him makes no difference to him. The prisoner has an expression that many of us would mentally create when we look at this photograph. A look of immense fear and apathy, he is well aware that the light before his eyes would soon cease to exist. What is he thinking about? Is he struggling to find the perfect moment to think about before all his memories vanish forever? Is he thinking about his wife, daughter, family, or his schooldays as a kid? These were some of the questions that came to my mind when I looked at his face. How do you prioritise your never-ending memories when you are in such a moment; a moment that can end at any moment? What happens to all your beliefs and morals when you find yourself at the hands of death? What happens to the ideology you follow or the flag you venerate?

The photograph instantly demonises the South Vietnamese soldier. Even if one is unaware of the story behind the photograph, a certain feeling of hatred is bound to creep in against the gun-toting man. Some might even blame the photographer for taking such a photograph. Some might even think that instead of taking a photograph, the photographer could have prohibited such an event to take place. All these assumptions are genuine. For some, they do hold value while for others, they don’t. And this actually happened. Adams was criticised by many for taking this photograph up to a point when we wished that he hadn’t taken the photograph at all. The soldier received many threats later in his life and was even denied treatment at an Australian hospital when he was in critical need of it. Adams agreed that the general killed the prisoner but he killed the general by taking the photograph. The important question that one can ask is what you would have done if you were in his shoes.



I was once a part of the problem

For the last few days, people around the globe have been sharing stories of sexual harassment and different other forms of abuse on various platforms of social media. Many people I am acquainted with have come out with incidents of abuse and a few men have come forward to give confessions of the times when they had willingly or unwillingly tried to inflict abuse upon someone. This has got me thinking about many things including how men react when they hear an incident of abuse against women. Twitter has been abuzz with reactions to subsequent hashtags like #NotAllMen. Everything has been pretty much laid out in the open for all to see. A teacher I know posted something on Facebook yesterday which has prompted me to sit down and think. I want to type all these down for everyone to know.

I don’t exactly remember when it began; I guess it became visible after the onset of puberty. I also do not remember the first time when my peers made a vulgar remark against any of the girls in our class. I was in a CBSE government school for the entirety of my school life and the atmosphere after I turned a teenager was one which bred all sorts of negativity towards girls. With the knowledge of pornography and sexual organs came the realization of lust and objectification of women. It seemed like a fun thing to do, commenting about how a classmate’ breasts were suddenly growing large or how her buttocks were starting to become more prominent. It escalated to things like how it would feel to spend one night with the “hot” girl in the next class and how one would actually want to do “things” to her, discussions about female and male genitalia. Things like menstruation disgusted everyone. There were a lot of graphic details involved in all this; enacting everything was one of them as we had a few people who went over the top with things like this. Everything was taken in a very casual manner. Things were said and forgotten in a manner of seconds. None of us gave a second thought about where all this was actually heading to. None of us, for one second, gave a thought that things like this when said aloud can hurt someone, that these things are demeaning. And to be honest, this is how the average teenage life of boys is. After I passed out of school, I used to meet my juniors every now and then and it didn’t take me long to realise that even they were obsessed with the same things as we were.

We never knew the reason why but until 9th grade, we had little to no interaction with the girls in our class. In 9th grade, a class project brought us together as the entire class had to work as a team. I had seldom spoken to girls properly until then. This period of null interaction with the opposite gender created a sort of animosity towards them. We thought them to be egoistic, talkative and irritating in general and hence, best be avoided at all sorts. All of us were borderline misogynistic. In a few years, some of them got girlfriends but they continued to find titillation in the conversations we had.

In a matter of days, phone numbers were exchanged and some of my friends became friends with some of the girls. This didn’t mean that we stopped making lewd jokes among ourselves. Although I was expected to be a part of all this, considering I was in the “gang”, I refrained for most of the time. There were instances when I laughed at the jokes that were made, laughed when comments about body image were made, laughed about the many things involving sex and pornography and while slut shaming someone. If a girl didn’t reciprocate against a guy’s propositions, she was automatically a slut. During this time, a few stories started circulating about a certain girl in school who had engaged in sexual activities and had to get an abortion. To this day, I don’t know what the actual story was nor have I ever made an attempt to find out. In my opinion, it is a completely personal matter and I never wanted to do investigative journalism in this. What appals me now is the amount of slut shaming everyone did against this girl. Stories were narrated in class as to what happened, who was involved, how it happened. Now when I think of it, I see how dangerous we were as humans and I am glad that my mentality has changed. I don’t know about my classmates’ though. My classmates had fun talking about all this without an iota of shame. Even teachers were aware of the comments that were passed against the girl but nobody said a word. I remember her not seeing for the longest time in school and once she came back, people saw her as the example of committing the most disgusting of all crimes, which is to have sex with someone in high school. She was seen as an example of all things wrong with children who aren’t supervised by their guardians. We didn’t even talk about sex; nobody taught us the very definition of it! It was a school which skipped the chapter of Human Reproduction in its entirety. What more can one expect? There was another girl who was called a slut just because she had dated a few boys in our school. She was in a relationship with a control freak and the abuse inflicted upon her was visible. She was ignored by girls while boys slut-shamed her on a daily basis. I have seen my classmate call her a “randi”, right before my very eyes. Abuse was normalised. The bottom line is the guy never even realized that it was abuse. Boys felt that they were entitled to say things because they were boys.

I have been part of all this for many years without realising anything. I have been equally guilty of being silent and not drawing the line between what can be accepted and what cannot. How could I? Nobody ever told me what was right and what was wrong. Parents, teachers, siblings, friends, nobody told us the basics of human compassion. I blame every one of them. Things like mutual respect and gender equality were not part of the curriculum. What we were made to believe was that girls and boys were two separate entities and the more they don’t mingle the better. This was the image that was projected to me by people who were my elders. We never sat with girls, we never shared our lunch, we didn’t talk to them properly for years and we stopped playing with them after 3rd grade. We never understood them and all we learnt by growing up in a small town with limited knowledge about things was that women were objects of desire, like the way popular media and pornography portrayed in front of us.

I am apologetic for the things I have been a part of and for the so-called people I had as friends. I am ashamed for laughing at those demeaning, sexist jokes which we perceived as something normal. I am ashamed of being a part of a population which objectified women, a population which thought about fucking every girl that seemed pretty to them. I am ashamed of being quiet at times when I shouldn’t have. I have realised that I was once a part of the problem but I am glad that things have changed. I cannot speak for my peers but I am speaking for myself.


Through the lens of Cop Shiva

Cop Shiva believes that he is still a village boy even though it has been many years since he left Ramnagar, his birthplace and came to Bangalore in search of a livelihood. “Everybody needs jobs and I have not studied much. I have studied only till the 10th standard. I used to work in different kinds of jobs but I was very good in sports. Because of that reason, I applied for the police services and got it”. Before becoming Cop Shiva, the photographer he was Shivaraju BS, the policeman and even before that he worked as railway policeman. The need for a secure job was important for him as he was the sole breadwinner for his family. “My job as a cop gave me a lot of strength, it has resulted in me respecting people and has taught me how to deal with people”, he says with a smile. This helped him a lot in the long run when he started capturing the lives of ordinary people with extraordinary stories through the lens.

Although he was happy about his job, Shiva had an artistic side which hadn’t yet seen the light of day. He recalls his days as a young boy when he used to read novels and was fascinated by Kannada art films. Apart from him, nobody in his family had any affiliation with the arts. “During my free time, I used to work as a program coordinator at 1 Shanthiroad art gallery. I used to go there and attend the exhibitions and I helped director Suresh Jairam in running the place”. This was the moment for him to discover his passion. He met a lot of artists from different nations who came to the gallery as part of residency programmes. By this time he had taken charge of organising events there and helping out the artists in building their projects. He was also in charge of documentation and picked up a camera for the same. “I started out with a small camera and I was always surrounded by artists, filmmakers, photographers. Over time, I realised that I wanted to do something similar”, Shiva says. But why photography? The answer lies in his 14 years of service as a policeman. He was always out on the streets, surrounded by people, people and more people. This made him understand their lives and as he was a local guy, things were all the more convenient for him. “It is easier to work within your community or within your own people. I feel that as an artist, you always have to work with your community; you have to look around within your circle. No need to look somewhere else”, he says. This resulted in him creating two of his very finest projects Being Gandhi and I Love MGR. Both of these projects have been exhibited in countries like the US, UK, Switzerland and Bangladesh. The former project was recently displayed at The Frank Museum of Art in Otterbein University, Ohio. He remarks that the Gandhi project which started in the year 2009 is still ongoing. “There was a time when people thought that Bagadehalli Basavaraj (the man impersonating Gandhi) was mentally ill. But now they respect him more than ever”, his voice has a tone of achievement.

Shiva has had a knack for looking at what he calls the “hidden” and this has been sort of a driving force for him to keep looking for new subjects. There are untold and ignored stories of people hiding in plain sight. He believes that one has to be curious and observant of the things happening in his/her surroundings. It is not entirely necessary that one has to go to faraway places to document something when there is so much that is waiting to be discovered in your own neighbourhood. And this is clearly reflected from his most recent project titled Ecstasy which chronicles the many obscure festivals and rituals happening in Bangalore. In a time when media has decided not to bring these facets of life to the mainstream, Shiva believes that these stories can be unearthed only if one is constantly observant. For him, this might be capturing some tree or wall while people around you wonder what on earth is there to take a picture of. The eye of a photographer finds beauty in the most mundane. “It is difficult to describe how I have developed that instinct, it is a connection in your mind itself”, he says. He has been a witness to the change this city has gone through but his eye as a photographer still revels in the way he was brought up. “I have been living in this city for a long time now but I still consider myself as a village boy. Maybe the way you look at things is what matters. For me, I think the city is changing only for a certain kind of people”, Shiva quotes.

Pictures from I Love MGR (L) and Being Gandhi (R) Source:

For a photographer, consistency of work is paramount. True, there are times when one may not be able to find the perfect subject but that doesn’t mean one should get disheartened. The reason why Shiva chooses not to take names of people whose works he has admired is due to the fact that many of them have given up photography altogether. “The thing is, now it is easy to buy a camera and consider oneself as a photographer. But you constantly have to keep continuing your work. Only then you will get a good grip, you will get good subjects and it will be possible to create a good body of work”. Of course, there have been times for him when the project reaches a point where it moves slowly due to various factors. It takes time to build up a connection with a person as a subject and that requires a lot of planning. It is a two-way process in which the subject has to be comfortable with the artist as well for a fruitful outcome. For Shiva, a project can go on for as long as ten years but it can never actually reach a point of conclusion because there will always be a new perspective which will mushroom up. He gives the example of his Gandhi project and goes on to say that now he is finding new ways to project it differently. There are a lot of ideas and some of them might not work out but that doesn’t count as a failure.

Looking back at his life as a young boy from a small village, Shiva regrets the fact that he wasn’t born 20 years earlier. With gleaming eyes, he goes on to describe how as an artist it is necessary to look back in the past because it shapes who you are; all your experiences and ideas are noteworthy. “You can compare them and maybe work on an idea which came to you five years ago”, he reveals. His love for films has been a constant for around 20 years and every now and then he has an urge to work in that direction. As of now, this ambition is kept for another day because there are always financial aspects to consider first. No matter how ambitious his aspirations have been, his family has been a constant support for him. “My mother and sister don’t know much about art but they are happy with what I am doing and they are confident about me because I started working when I was 15 years old. I took care of my sister, my nephews. They are all settled now” he says with a smile.

At the onset of his career, Shiva was working rigorously without taking any breaks but now, he has reached a point where he can slow down a bit and reflect on what he has done. But still, he feels that there is a lot that needs to be done. One of the things that he wants to make a reality from his long list of to-dos is to travel across the country. He has been to many places abroad; he recently attended a three-month residency programme in Sweden and there is an upcoming one in Switzerland. “Because of my life and job as a policeman, I couldn’t travel much. There are a lot of things I have missed” he says. Apart from that, there are three projects in the pipeline which will be seeing the light of day soon.

Church Street 2017: In pictures



Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Church Street is located almost in the middle of the map of Bangalore and is regarded by many as the numero uno destination for the youth of the city. The 750 metres stretch houses some of the most iconic places in Bangalore like Blossom Book House, Church Street Social, Amoeba Sports Bar, Indian Coffee House, Hotel Empire and numerous pubs for the thirsty weekenders. BBMP took an ambitious step in February 2017 to create an underground electricity and water pipeline system and as a result, the entire stretch of road had to be dug up. The estimated time allotted for the entire project was six months. It has been more than six months now and the work is far from complete. Business has been affected and the public hasn’t been happy with the turn of events. The pictures below show the Church Street of 2017.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset


If one gets down in front of Hotel Empire, this is what he/she would be greeted with. Currently, this part of the street is the most affected as there is construction happening on both sides of the road as a result of which entry to Church Street has been stopped temporarily. Parking outside Hotel Empire has been prohibited, much to the dismay of the staff. “Business has been hit really hard. People have turned away because there is no place to park their huge vehicles”, says Sayed, an employee of Hotel Empire. Access to the hotel has been closed from one side which has been causing inconvenience to customers. The street becomes increasingly muddy due to all of the digging which is a nightmare for pedestrians.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset


These are the pipes which have been laid down alongside the road. All of them are electrical lines while a central concrete pipe runs beneath, carrying water from the storm drains. There will be underground junction boxes beside the electrical lines. Also, there will be manholes like the one visible in the picture above. Abbas, a worker in the BBMP says, “It has been problematic for us to work because of the traffic. It is a good thing vehicular entry is barred now. Most of the delay is only due to traffic and the rains. Work will be over mostly within the next three months”.  The electrical wires inside the pipes haven’t been laid yet and Abbas is clueless as to when that will be done. One can see that the trees alongside the road have been preserved although there are a few which had to be cut down.


Processed with VSCO with b5 preset


Entry of four wheelers has been prohibited in the area and parking on the side of the road would result in towing. The towing truck makes multiple rounds in the area and it is mostly the two wheelers who become the prey. As I was standing alongside the road, one guy came in an Audi and asked a man standing beside me for a place where one could pay some cash and park his/her vehicle. The man said he had never heard of such a place and warned him about the towing truck. “There’s no way they can tow the car away. Look at the road. I would love to see them try”, the man chuckled and walked off. Traders have been demanding the complete ban of vehicles which is the chief reason behind the delay in the completion of the project. Vehicles make walking all the more difficult as there is always one car that is stuck in the middle of the road somewhere.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset


It was a Saturday afternoon. One doesn’t need to be informed that Saturdays are the time of the week when Church Street comes to life. In spite of all the inconvenience, there was a line of youngsters waiting outside Russh, one of the most happening pubs in the area, known for its attractive happy hour offers. Such is the spirit of Bangaloreans! “I don’t come here frequently. I thought I will come here and park my scooter but then I had to go all the way around to MG Road and park it and then I had to walk till here. That’s a real inconvenience”, says Afnas, a student.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset


The work is more or less complete once you cross Blossoms Book House. The footpaths are yet to be constructed properly and there are uncovered manholes everywhere. All the establishments alongside the road were given a notice prior to the start of the project and most of them had been supportive of the idea. But, as time has passed, business has been hit and there has been a foul cry due to that. “It’s not that bad anymore. Earlier, the water from the streets used to come when the digging was taking place. All the shops had to pay for the new electrical connections but I don’t think anyone has complained with regard to all that. We believe that it is for the greater good so it’s fine”, says Rooh, an employee at Amoeba Sports Bar. One of the BBMP workers told me that the entire complex which houses shops like Hysteria and the electronics shops (picture above) will be demolished and a new building has been instructed to set up.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Uncovered manholes like this pose a grave threat to pedestrians, especially when it is raining.


Processed with VSCO with b5 preset


This is the road right next to the Times Network office and is the zone where most of the work is taking place. The first impression one would get from looking at this site is an area struck by a bomb blast. Electrical and water pipes crisscross each other and it is difficult to make out which is going where. Workers have been working tirelessly to complete the work in this zone. Vehicular traffic is completely prohibited as there is no place for cars to go. One can only imagine the plight of people living in the houses on the far side of the street due to this disruption.

The redevelopment project for the roads has been undertaken by TenderSURE with a budget of Rs. 9 crores. The entire project was divided into two phases. This part of the area belongs to Phase I while Phase II is from Rest House Crescent Road junction to St. Mark’s Road junction. So the next you go to Church Street, don’t be surprised if a JCB like the one above is blocking your path, although it is highly advisable to not tread this road when it’s raining.


Processed with VSCO with b5 preset


All photographs have been taken with a Moto G3 and have been post-processed using VSCO