We are living in the age of hustle-bustle where everyone is busy in the nitty-gritty of life and its complications. The only rule is that life never stops, and while you play along, you need to create memories. These memories are for you to remember and cherish. But today memories are not just for yourself, everyone needs to see them and like them online or they never happened, sometimes memories are not good enough because others don’t like them, these memories are labeled as photographs on the Facebook wall.
Belagavi town as we know it is the citadel of the urban middle class, here happiness rides every cloud. Yet today we are filling virtual clouds with thousands of photographic memories. It’s not that photography is new to Belagavi, we have a legacy of S Mahadeo & Sons, Welling’s, Shambhu Appaji, Shangreela Photo Studio, Katti’s and the Oulkar’s however today photography has all new aspects and attributes. Today in our lives there is a life cycle with different types of photography at different stages of life.
It starts with baby shoots when you are born and covers every event in your little short lifetime. It starts with a selfie, goes to couplets, and then on till the family is complete.
The first shot at photography is a selfie. The most “pure” joy-giving, unadulterated point of view of one’s own self indulged body by one’s own camera is called a selfie. It’s just a manifestation of your presence. If you like someplace, you like some incident and you feel you ought to be in the frame, you just click yourself.
There are many SELFIE BAHADDURS, I have seen who would go to lengths or even risk their lives for a good selfie. The selfie can be with anything, you can have a selfie in a function where you try to inspire your hosts with your understanding of geometrical angle with your photography skills, ” if you tilt the camera by thirty degrees you can get everyone in frame “. Some simply like selfies with animals, some with vegetables (exotic or common ), some with foods and some with humans too.
Selfies can be for any occasion, my friend’s wedding “me with the newly married”, my neighbor funeral me “lending a shoulder”, a selfie with my child “UKG graduation” and so on the list is never-ending, you just have to be there. Some are really interesting shots over a valley, on a flooding river, besides a waterfall and high on top a tree. Selfie bahaddurs can give their lives but they make their presence felt. The thrill for them is so much that they would still have a selfie even if they end up becoming a photo on the wall.
From here on your free-flying life goes from a selfie to a couplet mode, you plan to get married. So the next important event where photos are like the most important thing is the drastic heroic event in your life, your own marriage. It’s not that simple actually and nowadays, marriages are directed not by pundits but by the doyens of the photography world. They have single-handedly ended the monopoly of the pundits on the proceedings of the marriage. It all starts with a pre-wedding shoot. Here you have to take risks that will prepare you for your perilous married life. You go on a boat, you find a river, you stand on top of the mountain, of course as a couple and pose in a way that you put the titanic pose to shame.
The SHADI BAHADDURS also take risks and several marriages did not happen because a few lost their lives in a pre-wedding shoot. The point however is simple if you can’t take risks at pre-wedding then how will you RISK all your life with the same man or woman. There is a recreation of scenes where the Shadi bahaddurs first meet, there are drone shots, there are beech shots, there are aerial footages depending on how much you want to tax your parents for fixing it up for you. You do almost everything that you do after marriage but on film and then you invite guests reminding them that all this will start on a particular date.
In Belagavi where we are not allowed to meet before we are martyred in marriage, this is a fresh breeze of life. My grandmom always said you are not allowed to meet your bride till the marriage is over and we are life confined as it’s a bad omen, this was totally unfair.
If you think the image-taking exercise is over before the wedding you are in for a surprise, it is just the beginning. It is after all a life-charging, story-changing event. You then have the Haldi ceremony.
In Belagavi, Haldi was something like this ” the groom was applied the turmeric paste first, then, a part of that was taken to the bride called usti( used ) halad and applied there “, the picture is not the same these days. Now there is equality and everyone sits close by. There is tons of turmeric paste, the photographers have given pre-determined poses with betel nut leaves with friends with parents etc. You have to just put on the paste and pose as you have been instructed. You do have to look happy and show as if ” lajja watate”, don’t worry about all this the photographer will train you. Everyone is embedded with the Haldi yellow shade and it is more like holi before marriage.
Then there is the entry into the marriage venue which by the way can be a destination wedding, to the uneducated a destination wedding is one where rich people like to call fewer people and spend more on some people. It is like a rich man’s social distancing ritual. Coming back the entry is choreographed by the photographer, the bride can come in a doli, on a bullet, or in a car but her eyes need to have broad framed black sunglasses on, it gives a good touch to the photographs. The groom is actually covered with flowers ready to be sacrificed and he can either come on horseback or walk for all that anyone cares.
The photographer will insist that you stop every now and then and put on a broad-based smile, to let others know that it is a life-changing event. Then come the actually actual rituals of the marriage and here there is an open tussle between the photographer and the pundit. The pundit wants everything to be at the speed of a Rajdhani while the photographer is a Miraj passenger he wants to stop every now and there and yes repeat telecasts if the photo is not good enough. The Pundit has other muhurat to keep at other halls and the photographer has no other commitment for the day. The Saptapadi become Ombattu – Hattupadi and the Saat Phere become one or two more for the perfect photo. The garlands are exchanged and the newlywed see the face of the photographer before seeing each other after the Antarpat is lifted.
The curiosity of seeing each other in the marriage attire is already over in the pre-wedding shoot so it does not make a difference anyway. We then have a laundry list of guests for whom wholesale artificial smiles are ordered by the photographer. There are a lot of friends who will try to prove how close they are to the couple and have a session of their own, then there are the relatives who are interested more in the credits and audited statements than the marriage itself, who pose with equal enthusiasm. Overall the marriage is one big long adventure that meant more for the photographer to make money than to enjoy yourself. Gone are the days when there were albums decorated and hardbound preserved to show generations, the albums are all online on Facebook and Insta and marriages seldom last beyond the time of a single generation.
Well there is more to come, the obsession to make every single friend a part of your private memories does not stop here, now start the honeymoon posts. Honeymoon is relatively new to Belagavi, it is a middle-class wala city. Here couples had categorized honeymoon, the very poor saw the moon from their own windows, the lower middle class went to Kolhapur, Amboli, and Tillari, the upper-middle class to Mahabaleshwar, Goa or Ooty and only the elite went to Shimla Manali. Today this has changed and almost everyone goes to Munnar, Maldives, Mauritius, even Turkey. This is followed by photos on the beach, in the seas and on the rocks. The little reasonable put the photos a little later and label them late posts, but the bahaddurs post them immediately saying “just now happening in this place”. You know there are always friends waiting for the honeymoon posts like cheerleaders commenting wow, beautiful, enjoy. The honeymoon was all about getting to know each other I guess, away from everyone, but now it is all about clicking photos and letting others know your whereabouts, that’s how things change.
The honeymoon is like a break from the photographer and he comes back with a bang for the next round of photos that’s called the pregnancy or the bump photos done around the 30th week of pregnancy. Again to the ignorant, the bump is the “baby in the womb”. There are actually pregnancy photo experts and articles written on pregnancy photo ideas. There are costumes, there are studios and yes there are professional printers too.
In Belagavi the Ajjis used to keep their pregnant close inside homes, there was ” buri nazar removing ceremony every week “, now pregnancy is for everyone’s Nazar. Pregnancy gives, a beautiful glow to the mother, it is nature’s way of making every woman appear beautiful to the newborn, it is what fills the family with bliss and expectation and the photographers ensure that this is shared with the world.
And then as the pregnancy photos are processed the beautiful bundle of joy is upon the family and the photographers are back in business now we call it newborn photos. Packages range from fifteen to fifty thousand. There are costumes, studios, tubs, powders, oils everything like a professional Bollywood shoot ready for the newborn. The parents are taught to pose, the mother learns how to look at her baby and the father at the mother and all this by professional photographers. Gone are the days when babies were kept under covers with black dots on the corner of their chins to ward off evil, no more superstition, the baby is born for professional photography. Thus the training for being photographed begins right after birth. It is actually a conspiracy by the photographers to get introduced to potential clients at an early age I guess.
In the end, our life cycle has been reduced to what is seen through the lens and on the media posts. We are photographing right from birth to every milestone in our life yet we are enjoying very little of them. We are more engrossed in recording events rather than enjoying them. Ultimately we will be reduced to a photo on the wall, yet all the lives we are running to put photos on our Facebook walls, so say cheese and let’s photo.