Two camera stores in Singapore you must visit; even if you’re not into cameras

When I was visiting the Shiva Temple at Tadong in Sikkim, I made the horrible mistake of peeing with the camera strap round my neck. When I was done, my hand somehow hit the camera lens and the lens cap flew out, hit the wall, rolled on the floor for a bit and fell right in the the toilet. If one of the Indian style toilets in Tadong is not functioning anymore then you know why. But that’s not the point. I ended up lens-cap-less for about 5 days because I was in transit from Gangtok to Siliguri; Siliguri to Guwahati; Guwahati to Bangalore until I landed in Singapore.

So, on the second last day of my weeklong vacation in Singapore, I decided to check out the camera stores in Peninsula Shopping Centre at Coleman Street. Sometimes you just want to go window-shop at the camera stores; but you have this daunting feeling that if you do not purchase anything, the sales guy might kick you out. While I did check out quite a few shops at Peninsula centre, I specifically want to mention two shops that you have to visit, not just for buying equipment, but also because these shops have something that many camera shops lack – ‘character’.

1. The Camera Workshop

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Mr. Nelson is a popular man in Singapore’s camera market.

When I walked into this shop and started staring at the film cameras that were on display, Mr. Nelson, a white bearded, quite stereotypically Chinese looking man asked me what I was looking for. I showed him my camera and told him I was looking for a lens cap. He took the camera, unlocked the lens from the body and immediately gave me a stern look and told me I was not taking good care of my camera. I could only reply with an apologetic look on my face. This is the moment when I realised that this guy is actually passionate about cameras and not just a businessman. I was sold, I would have bought anything he sold me after that point. But I sort of controlled myself and told him, I only wanted a lens cap. . . ok I ended up buying a filter too. He also cleaned my 50mm and 24mm lenses for free and quite strictly instructed me to take good care of my equipment.

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A wall full of vintage cameras.

2. Riceball

No! It’s not a restaurant. Ling, the guy who owns the shop describes it as a one of a kind photography book shop. No wonder there were so many books lying around, but other than the books what stood out in this shop were all the Leicas and premium leather accessories, and the premium leather accessories for cameras. I was quite confused between two books because they seemed to be more or less serving the same purpose. To my surprise, Ling very patiently took me through the pros and cons of each book without trying to sell me the more expensive one. I ended up buying one of the books and an ND filter, Ling was kind enough to teach me when to use it.

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Ling makes his clients feel special.

I spent some time looking at the leather accessories, the vintage cameras and lenses; it was almost like a sex shop for cameras and camera lovers. While I was there, a boy who looked like a photography student popped in and he had a longish friendly conversation with Ling. From the looks of it, it seemed like the store was popular among youngsters.

These are the kind of experiences that make moments memorable, which go beyond discounts, or even the products available in the shop. The feeling that you are buying a piece of equipment from a person who actually cares about cameras and the art and craft of photography adds to the shop’s credibility.

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Like I said, it’s not a restaurant.
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Straps, straps and more straps.

This was the day I decided not to vlog and just walk around the city. I cannot express how good it felt; almost like discovering a new Singapore. Sometimes we are so caught up in the hysteria of ticking off all the important touristy spots in our holiday destination that we miss out on the actual life of the city, the life that exists in the corners of the streets and the shops hidden in the basements of aged shopping complexes – the leftovers of the old town charms that have been overshadowed by urbanisation. So, take a day off, relax and ditch the tourist bus for a while.

If you liked this blog then, you might like my Singapore vlog on my YouTube channel which I shot entirely on my iPhone 7.

10 Symptoms you are an H&M-holic

Here’s a blanket statement, “I love H&M”. I love it not just because it’s quite a new thing in India, but because they have clothes that I can wear. These clothes also beautifully fit my budget but only at the beginning of the month of course. The pleasure of walking around the store aimlessly hoping to stumble upon my next favourite outfit is an experience I cherish. It’s not merely the necessity to cover yourself up with clothes, it’s the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you wear a piece of brand that seems to understand your needs. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way so, here are my thoughts on what are the symptoms that you are a crazy obsessive H&M fan a.k.a. an H&M-holic.

1. You ‘hang out’ at H&M.

An H&M store is not just a place to buy clothes, it’s a place where you go to spend free time and hope that your window shopping doesn’t transcend into an impulsive shopping fiesta. Sometimes, instead of buying garments in bulk you buy one garment every week, just so that you can visit the store again and again.

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It’s only when I am in the changing room that I have the guts to wear a red jacket.

2. You don’t just know the full form of H&M, you know the history of H&M.

Hennes and Mauritz, is a Swedish clothing brand which ranks second in the world when it comes to fast fashion just after the company which runs Zara (Thanks wikipedia!!!). Hennes was founded by Erling Persson in 1947 and later in 1968 he also acquired a clothing retailer named Mauritz Wiforrs which led to the addition of male clothing into the collection, thus the modern day H&M was born. But this blog post is not about this trivia, it is about how I made time to look for this information.

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3. You have tried everything (well mostly) even if you did not buy anything.

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Last Christmas when we had that secret santa thing at work, my secret santa came to know of my H&M obsession and decided to get me an H&M sweatshirt. When she quite un-secretly handed me the H&M bag (like all late secret Santa’s do lol), she told me to check if it fits. I had a look at the sweatshirt and told her, “I have already tried it last week. It fits”.

4. #HM is a common hashtag in your instagram posts.

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I have been obsessively using the hashtags #HM and #HMIndia in all my Instagram posts where I am wearing H&M garments because I hope and pray to be featured on their official social media accounts. Sadly it hasn’t happened yet also because I am not really big on Instagram (yet); and I don’t think H&M India really features User Generated Content on their social media (yet), at least not in India.

 

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5. Somedays you wear all H&M and you don’t even realise it.

There have been days when I am randomly looking at the clothes I am wearing at that moments and go, “Whoa!!! All H&M” (except shoes and underwear). Then I tell my flattered self, “Honey, all your clothes are H&M, this is not some karma, it’s just a result of your impulsive buying”.

6. The H&M store is an easy maze for you.

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I visited the H&M store at Ion Mall in Singapore during Chinese New Year. I was a little confused about the sizes but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the clothes fitted me; even better than the Indian stock. Maybe it’s my Mongoloid roots.

H&M stores are not the most easily navigable, yet as a designated H&M-hoe you know where is what; yet you choose to look through everything that you don’t need on the way. Sometimes even at the risk of missing out on what you had actually planned on getting. Well don’t blame me, sometimes I feel everything in H&M has been created for me.

Few weeks ago H&M filed a law suit stating that they should not require to take permission from artists to use street art. Even though I love H&M products, this is one move by the company which I do not support.

 

Jaah Juwagoi Aji – Dibyajyoti Rabha | Vishal Langthasa

For all those who could not open SoundCloud on their mobile devices. Here are alternate links to the song. Download the song from the links below:

Jaah Juwagoi Aji – 128kbps – 4.40MB

Jaah Juwagoi Aji – 256kbps – 8.83MB

Jaah Juwagoi Aji – 320kbps – 11.0MB

Music Video comes on 12th March

Watch the teaser here:

Watch the Making of the song here:

Read the description and translation on SoundCloud.

LISTEN – LIKE – SHARE – ENJOY

Mumbai’s beloved Letter Writers.

A group of men sitting in their open air office just opposite the GPO could be a strange sight for somebody like me who is fairly new to the city. But on further research (by which I mean doing a simple google search) one becomes informed about the rich past they have lived as chroniclers of personal narratives of their clients.

What used to be a lucrative profession of writing letters for illiterate clients usually migrants has come down to becoming an odd job of packing parcels in muslin cloth among other tasks. The profession may have lost its glory, but these men are not complaining. They have accepted that there are better ways to communicate in the present times.

But the sheer fascination about the history of the city and the love for nostalgia brings people from around the world to this very spot where the Letter Writers sit with pride. A pride that is the outcome of having seen the city transform.

The open air office of the Letter Writers.
The open air office of the Letter Writers.
Heating the adhesive
Heating the adhesive
Shakeel Ahmed a well known letter writer
The signature stamp
The signature stamp
A transforming city around a transforming profession.
A transforming city around a transforming profession.
Packed up.
Packed up.

Little Faces of Future : Haflong’s St. Agnes Convent

Little Faces of Future
Little Faces of Future

I was trying to stay away from posting any images on the page for sometime, but I liked how this picture that I posted on Instagram brought in some LIKES from some of the ex-students of this school. I accidentally also posted the picture on my twitter. So, well here is the picture in a better resolution.

 

This image was made when I visited the school on an event with Avantika’s NGO; St. Ages Convent School is truly a piece of history. But what interests me most other than the little cute faces of the little girls and boys is of course the vintage- colonial feeling the architecture of the school still retains. Here, is an image of little girls looking outside through the window. Clearly, I have disrupted their attention towards the ongoing lessons but luckily the teacher didn’t dash out of the class to whip me with her cane.

Studio Raw Sound is now available on Soundcloud.com

I think we have found a new hobby. Arjun and I have been curating songs from various regions of India for a Community Radio Course at TISS, Mumbai. We really enjoyed recording these songs and playing them for everyone at Rolling Radio every Monday. Now, you can keep listening to the songs whenever you want. We are making it available for all of you.

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Atithi Devo Bhava?

Here’s my piece about foreigners and their sturggles finding and keeping home in Mumbai city. I wrote this for Footnotes 2015. Have a look.

Footnotes

The ‘Incredible India’ tourism campaign stresses on our guests being equivalent to God. But is that really how we treat foreigners who make Mumbai their home? Here, a Chinese visitor talks of humiliation, an American woman reports molestation and a Nigerian man speaks of repeated experiences of being thrown out of a house.

Text and photos by Vishal Langthasa

Cheng Wei has lived in Mumbai for more than two years. Enough time to give him a perspective on real estate brokers and landlords in the city. “I have now drawn the conclusion that to most Indian people, ‘foreigner’ equals ‘millionaire’,” says the 31-year-old single man from Beijing who works as a media correspondent in Mumbai.

Wei recently moved into a 2BHK rental apartment at Mahalakshmi. It wasn’t difficult for him to strike a deal for the South Mumbai apartment as he commanded a good budget. But the problem was in…

View original post 1,181 more words

Protected Freedom

TROLLEY N-0326I still remember going to this trip with one of my wedding photography clients who was friends with an Army officer. He took both of us on a trolley car ride around Haflong town on the hundred years old Meter gauge railway.

Even though the pace of the trolley car and the beauty of the place made me feel elated, I still remember how the presence of the guards reminded me that there could be danger.

This Hundred years old Railway system that used to run between Lumding and Karimganj had been the lifeline for so many natives of the hilly area. Despite its rich past, the railway line has not been given the status of a heritage by authorities instead the tracks are being removed gradually.

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Working with ROOHI

Roohi's wedding dress

 

11241443_674440632689773_4469581123466773615_oI had the most lovely experience shooting for this series. Cannot thank ROOHI aka Avantika enough for letting me shoot this series for her. It all started when I saw her page on Facebook around April this year and the fact that it was a social enterprise really intrigued me. I texted Paromita (my metaphorical step mother) and asked her if she knew this lady. She did. She introduced me to Avantika in May, before I traveled to Haflong and wallah . . . we had a few meetings, plannings and recces and we shot the whole series in June in Haflong. The Haflong rain constantly played hide and seek with us, but at the end of the day the weather was not all that bad to us. The result is in front of you. Thank you to Petrina for managing the whole series for me. She was the real driving energy of the whole project. Thank you to all the models who featured in it – Radhika, Nisha, Venissa. Also thank you to Fiona and Sania for doing the make up. Thanks to the people of Boldhura, Lodi and Digrik for letting us shoot in their localities. Special Thank you to Archana Langthasa for letting us shoot Petrina’s images at her home. And thank you all so much for the response. The response has been phenomenal. Believe me while uploading these pictures sitting in my room at Mumbai, I can feel the smell of Haflong’s fresh air, moist soil and its beauty with all its imperfections.

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Avantika posed for me wearing her traditional Dimasa wedding attire at Digrik, Haflong. The most interesting fact about her wedding costume was that, the colors are so unique and never seen before on a Dimasa Bride’s clothes that it invited a lot of questioning and almost disapproving comments from some guests at her traditional wedding. This, I suppose is an example of how even the bride’s wish to wear a certain color on her own wedding maybe hijacked by norms of the society without any validation. This is my ultimate favorite not just because I think she looks gorgeous in the most unconventional fashion, but also because it questions the norms of the society. How can an attribute such as the color of wedding outfits become such an inevitable requisite of an institution such as marriage where actually understanding is the biggest necessity rather than the budget of the wedding or even the colors the bride and groom are to be wearing. I hope you like it too.