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.

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.