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'THE WEEK's Independence Day issue is an overview of India’s 75-year-long journey'

DEMOCRATISATION OF PHOTOGRAPHY. That is what phone cameras have done. Just as democracy put power in the hands of the people, digitisation has empowered Everyman with the gift of imaging. But it has also made us callous with the click-and-delete attitude. There is very little homework—checking the frame, the light, the subjects—and no anticipation about the image that comes out of the process. I belong to an older school, one that used to count the frames on a roll of film. Two variants were there, I think—24 and 36 frames.


I feel the same way about democracy, too. First-time voters in the recent decades would not have much idea of how we got here as a nation. And, if they do not care about how we got here, will they appreciate what we have today? I remember the time when former chief election commissioner Navin Chawla, a friend since college days, went to meet Shyam Saran Negi, India’s first voter, at his home in Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh. Last month, Negi turned 105, and he has not missed one vote till date. Do we appreciate the power of the vote as much as Negi does, and do we look at our nation’s journey in the same way as he does?


The Independence Day issue of your favourite newsweekly is an overview of India’s 75-year-long journey, a sort of highlights in photographs put together by Senior Special Correspondent Rekha Dixit. In a country such as India, there cannot be a unanimous take on what those 75 moments are. So, this is the take of THE WEEK, and I am certain that you will agree with the majority of the choices.


I did think about the photojournalists who were behind the camera in the 1940s and until the end of the film era. Many of them are not known and some of them used code names. For example, the inimitable Homai Vyarawalla reportedly used to file her photos under the name Dalda 13. (That’s another story!) And, in a way, this issue is also our tribute to those women and men, known and unknown. Something else, too, is weighing on my mind—the Kolkata Press Club’s decision in July that photojournalists are not eligible for general membership of the club.


My first camera was bought from Japan in the early 1970s. With the family camera firmly in my father’s custody, I wanted one for myself. On my cousin K.O. Kurian’s recommendation, I went to Tokyo’s Ginza district on a camera hunt and settled on a Yashica. More than the camera’s quality, what sealed the deal was the timer, I remember! The practice until then was to take two photos of a family gathering, to ensure that the photographer was not left out. The timer changed this. For the first time, everyone was in the same frame, no one was left out.


Nation or club, we must leave nobody behind as we journey forward. It is easier to walk alone, but we will not get far alone. The selfie does what the timer did, bringing everyone into one frame. May Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav bring all of us together, and keep us that way.


Happy 75th Independence Day!