ears back I needed few photographs for an application form.
It was the month of January, and in chilly cold I went to the photographic studio situated nearly half a kilometer away from my home. The said studio was considered to be the best in the town.
“Enter the studio”, said the photographer.
While waiting for him in the studio I had a bird’s eye view of this studio. Though small, the studio looked very interesting.
On one wall of the studio was a large picture of the Red Fort New Delhi and on the other was the Taj Mahal of Agra. It was clear that he could take a picture with the background of these monuments, and so save the customer the expense of travel.
After all, as the saying goes, money saved is money earned.
There was a comb and a beautiful mirror in one of the corners, together with a black coat and a few neck ties. There were many fancy dresses, and a few caps and hats and someinstruments. The most notable costume, however, was a sleeveless shirt with a small front portion and a white collar with a beautifully knotted red tie. Possibly its unique design was a great comfort to the customer; put on the so-called shirt, or better call it “thecollar “ without removing your own shirt and have your hassle-free photograph taken while appearing to wear this branded white shirt and tie.
“Would you like to put on coat and tie?” inquired the photographer.
“No, I want a picture in my own dress.” I replied.
“OK, sit on this armless chair, and look straight at me without bending your neck. Please don’t blink.”
With these commands, the photographermoved back to take my picture from a distance of around 4 feet in front of me.
He started focusing on my face through his camera, I guess it was a Yashiqa, the famous brand in those days.
After around 2-3 minutes of fiddling around with the focus, he stopped, saying, “Your hair seems unkempt and your photograph may not come out well. Put on some hair oil and comb it properly. I will be back in a jiffy,” and with these words he switched on the main light of the studio and left.
I found a bottle of “Dabar Amla” hair oil on the wooden dressing table. Reluctantly I applied some oil from this bottle to my hair and started combing it in order to have a better hair style, feeling as if Dilip Kumar was getting ready for his film shot.
After 5- 6 minutes the photographer re-entered the studio to take my photograph. “Did you comb your hair?”, and I replied, yes, I had.
“Perfect! Let me take your picture now” he exclaimed.
“Look straight at me without tilting your neck “- and again he went to focus the camera.
He was focusing on me very carefully with his camera which was quite stable on its tripod, unlike my neck. “Tilt your neck … yes, slightly to the left, yes, yes.
“Oh no! You are turning your neck too much”, and he stopped and approached me.
“Please keep your neck like this”, and with a little pressure he aligned my neck with his hands and went back to repeat the process.
In the Photoshop of my teenage mind, the photographer now walked to his focusing spot as a policeman dressed in a new uniform, albeit without a stick, of course.
Now I kept my neck stiff and remained vigilant even about physiological blinking.
“Ready! Smile, one, two and three” and there was the click of the camera, which sounded great to my ears, the flashing of
lights on my face at last ending the whole saga of my black and white photograph.
What a relief! Now I could move my neck in any direction and even blink any number of times!
“Come on Monday as the studio will be closed on Sunday and if there is any problem with electricity it may not be ready.
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Sorry for that but such things are beyond my control”, the photographer said. I paid half of the bill and walked out of his show room now as a different man with a new experience.
Luckily, apart from its routine 6 hours of power cut there was no major electricity shut down in the valley over that weekend. My hopes of having my photograph ready for collection on Monday blossomed.
On Monday morning I collected the photograph and looked at it carefully. The collar of my shirt was little tilted, but who cared as the eyes were wide open and hairstylewas perfect.
Thanks to Dabar Amla, that wonderful prickly comb, and of course to the advice of Mr. Perfect.
I pasted the photos in the spaces given on the application form. Unfortunately, one of the squares in the application form had been over looked, so I needed one more photograph. Well, the negative of this black and white photo was with me, hence there were no worries. I went next morning to the photographic studio and requested the photographer to develop few extra copies.
“It is winter and the drying of the photo film takes lot of time. Come tomorrow at 4 pm to collect your pictures. “ Said the photographer.
Next day at 4 pm I collected the partially driedphotos and pasted them on the application form. I was all set to post my application form the next day.
I got up early in the morning and was delighted to see the white blanket of snow which had covered all ups and down in a beautifully even manner. This overnight snowfall in the valley had made weather less chilly. It had already stopped snowing and I left my home at 9.30 am to go to the General Post Office[GPO].
The atmosphere seemed serene and calm. It was quite enjoyable to walk on the snow covered bridge which was so calm. While walking on the snow, the only sound I could hear was the sound of my own steps., it sounded like that of plural rub, to which in patients with pleurisy we medicos often listen with the help of a stethoscope.
I crossed the bridge and after I had progressed only a few yards, a snow ball hit my left ear like a jet. I noticed some boys were throwing snow balls at one other, and were playing with snow balls (sheen Jung). In another corner some were busy building snowmen.
I started feeling rather nervous. “What if they chase me with these snow balls from any direction?” I thought to myself fearfully. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that nothing could go wrong. However, I graspedthe application form firmly in my hand, and speeded up my pace towards the post office.
I reached the GPO and saw that a few other people were waiting in front of the gate. At 10:30 am the door of the building was opened and we all climbed up the steep wooden stairsand entered the GPO which was situated on the first floor of the building.
The peon of the post office was busy in bringing red hot coal in iron ovens in order to keep the staff warm.
The postmaster was sitting in the center. He had a big table in front of him, a lot of files were on his desk together with a telephone, undoubtedly with an unreliable connectivity. In another corner the telegraph machine was sounding, tic-tic TAC, TAC! There were also a lot of huge bags all around “Please come one by one.” commanded the front desk post office clerk after he had warmed his hands on the nearby stove.
He opened the small black trunk and picked out some postal stamps.
“Do you want to send your letter by registered post?” he inquired.
“ Yes, by registered post”, I replied.
He looked at the address on the envelope through his thick glasses nodded his head, avoiding eye contact. I paid the charges and he handed over the receipt for my precious application form. The receipt had a circular stamp in black ink and with some extra concentration one could read the date of dispatch.
This marked the start of the journey of my application form.
In the evening I anxiously listened to the famous news at 7.30 pm aired from RadioKashmir Srinagar. However, my
focus that evening was not on the political stories, but on the weather forecast and the status of the Srinagar– Jammu highway. I was concerned about my application form, and worried about it getting stuck in transit as a result of the inclement weather.
Days passed, and finally, a few weeks later, the acknowledgment card confirming the safe delivery of my application form was delivered by the postman. A great satisfaction indeed!
In the era of the selfie, it was a difficultexperience though.
“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”
– Dennis P. Kimbro
Author is a MD. DM (Gastroenterology) FACP, FACG Consultant Gastroenterologist &Associate Professor at Yenepoya University Medical college Hospital
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