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Frozen moments

Frozen moments
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By: K S S Pillai

As my room was going to be renovated, everything had to be shifted elsewhere. One of the suitcases contained several albums with photographs pasted in them. There were also many loose photographs and film rolls kept inside envelopes.

Another suitcase contained old electronic items like a radio, tape recorder, cassette player, cassettes, and similar items. One was an Agfa Click III camera, bought with the money I received from magazines and newspapers for my articles in the early seventies. It used a film roll that could take ten black-and-white photographs.

The camera would be taken to a studio, where the film roll would be removed by the technician. Later, it would be ‘washed’ with chemicals, ‘developed’, and the photographs of a particular size would be printed on a special type of paper. The process took days to complete.

One group photo was taken at the time of my leaving the college after the final examination. I remember the afternoon we were photographed. All the students in my class and our teachers had come in their best dresses, fully prepared for the occasion. The photographer had arrived with a large camera mounted on stands and covered with a black cloth.

The teachers sat in chairs, with the principal in the middle, flanked by senior teachers. Peons stood on both ends of that row. The second row showed female students standing. Behind them, the male students stood in several rows. The photographer had made us change our position according to our height. He had adjusted the camera, stood close to it, asked everyone to smile, said “ready,” and removed the camera’s front cover with a flash of his hand, taking our photograph. The names of all the participants were printed at the bottom.

Photography, as now, was an integral part of weddings. Several photographs of the function, including those of the guests eating the feast, were taken. Those who were gulping down the food would go slow at the approach of the cameraman, wear an expression of non-interest in the food, and resume eating in a hurry immediately afterwards. After many days, the album would be ready with photographs pasted on thick sheets of paper. The name and address of the studio was prominently printed on it.

In most of the photographs, I was seen as a young man in trousers with a black moustache and a hairstyle different from that of today. One of the colour photographs, taken by my friend Srinivasan, showed my elder son, aged six, who had just returned from school. He wore the school uniform with a necktie that had the emblem of the school, “St. Francis of Assisi Convent High School,” on it. He was holding an aluminium box that carried his books and the lunch box.

There was another photo, taken during the annual day celebration of the agriculture college that I had joined in 1968. It showed the members of the entertainment committee, showing me with five other colleagues. Four had sat in chairs, and I, with another new teacher, had stood behind them. My grandson, who asked me why I was standing, said I did the right thing when I told him all the sitting four had left this world after their retirement.

Many photographs showed our family members, including children, from their early years to the present.

Everything has changed with the advent of mobile phones, forcing many studios to shut. They are now used to take photographs, including selfies and videos, with facilities for editing them. There are CCTV cameras at important private and public places, and drones equipped with cameras for weddings of the rich and even for spying. Those who celebrate occasions like birthdays and wedding anniversaries at expensive restaurants lose no time in recording and uploading them on different social media platforms for the benefit of their friends.

Cameras have also made divorces easier. Investigators are being engaged to photograph unfaithful wives or husbands in compromising positions before going to court asking for a divorce. Some cameras photograph the underwater world, magazines show wild animals in their habitats, and there are exclusive television channels that show the raw nature.

(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to ‘The Kashmir Vision’. His articles and short stories have appeared in many national and international publications)


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