Thursday, September 08, 2005

one such incident

We have a tendency to judge a person based on his attire and mannerisms. We also follow a standard set of rules to react with persons who solicit us at the public places. If we were to come across an ordinarily dressed beseeching person in public place, our reaction is often predictable. We are often indifferent to him .If he is still persistent in his endeavors - we shoo him way with haughtiest of our demeanor. One such incident happened two decades ago in Mumbai (then Bombay) that changed my outlook towards besetting salespeople.

I was learning the art of photography at Indo American Institute at Flora Fountain. After theoretical rhetoric, we were taken to Gateway of India to practice outdoor photography. It was late afternoon of Sunday. Crowds were just pouring in. Visitors from rural India were conspicuous with their curious looks. Bewildered by chaotic city life, wife and kids, holding their palm above their eyebrows as an eyeshade, stuck to their father as they gazed at far away anchored ships. The hawkers cajoled the kids with peanuts, balloons. Torn between her husband’s oceanography instructions and her nagging children who pestered her to have a look at the goodies of these hawkers, poor sari clad mom was confused. I was also part of this milieu, curiously observing these families and professional photographers who with camera in one hand and album of their photographed objects in another solicited their prospective customers. I was amused at their art of selling and wondered if I may be able to match their skills with my bulky Yashica camera.

Meanwhile, my other mates, dispersed in different directions in search of innovative objects. Some managed to get frame of Tall Turbaned Sikh at hotel TajMahal entrance, some fluttering pigeons on the parapet and some angling hobbyists along the Arabian ocean. I was happy and content watching the spectacle occasionally bringing camera’s viewfinder to avoid glaring glance of my teacher. I found observing the people and their behavior more appealing than taking their images.

As I was strolling, a person in ordinary trousers and shirt confronted me. He had white paper and pencil in his hand and slinging cloth bag around his shoulders. He asked my permission to draw my portrait with his nails for just 10 rupees. I reacted with a polite refusal. He was persistent; he tried to explain to me that he could even do it for five Rs. He even offered to have a look at his work before I could say yes. Seeing no positive feedback, he even offered to do it free. Now my annoyance was overtaken by suspicion. I checked if my wallet was in place. In unspoken words, I conveyed him that he should stop harassing me. From the corner of my eyes, I could see his going back to his place only to solicit another person. This incident would have forgotten had I not watched national TV next week.

Those days, India had only television channel and people had no choice but to watch stapled Doordarshan entertainment of interview and news. However, this interview took me to the edge of the sofa. The man on the idiot box looked familiar but I was not sure. As interview progressed it became clear that it was him !!. The very man at Gateway of India of India was now being interviewed as a celebrity. This man was no ordinary person but renowned artist whose fingernail sketches and portraits had adorned rich and famous. He was in India at the special invitation and was about to meet then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi. This artist went on explaining his art form and narrated his experience in India- particularly standing at Gateway of India in Bombay and India Gate in Delhi and drawing sketches of ordinary Indians – at price just to cover cost of his paper.

Needless to say, this one incident made me treat the soliciting salespersons with dignity and respect.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home