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When I said I was #WorkingIt in Bangalore, this is what I was there to photograph. Including the crazy last-minute “I’m going to be photographing from atop a ladder” discussion on Twitter! It turned out fine – I did not fall off the ladder – thanks Ravish – and although group photos are not my “thing”, it turned out way better than I’d expected – with almost everyone’s eyes open. Almost.

The “BeU” in the “Bengaluru” ( on the stage below ), was a nice piece of branding work. The event itself was high-energy, the room was packed to the gills and there were a lot of questions. There were about 80 ladies in the room – from what I could surmise, they were from all kinds of backgrounds – business women, rappers, Dalit activists, radio jockeys, musicians, LGBTQ activists, etc.

My main goal was a bunch of portraits for my #EyesForPeople series ( coming soon from this project! ) and then it was to get indoors and try and capture the story of the event as it unfolded. A few behind the scenes photos from the evening when the stage was being set are at the beginning below.

( For the more politically curious, the questions from the ladies ranged from foreign policy, to education in India, to LGBTQ rights, Dalit rights, to how Rahul Gandhi deals with hate ( which was one of the conversations that probably received the maximum amount of appreciation and applause ) and how he stays fit.

Wherever I go, whoever I work with, young or old, I am always asking them how they deal with stress. I wish someone had asked that question because I sure as hell want to know how he manages. It must be pretty insane. Even if he wasn’t the President of the Indian National Congress, just that he comes from this family itself would probably be super stressful.

A lot of my friends have asked me privately how Rahul Gandhi is in-person. Is he how the media usually portrays him? Honestly, I haven’t spent any time with him one-on-one. From whatever else I’ve seen and heard, he sounds like an articulate, modern, smart global-Indian. He sounds well-read, open to conversation, astute and stressed. He was on the campaign trail when in Karnataka, so it was an especially busy time with back-to-back rallies and events. But he seemed nothing like how he’s usually painted as in the media. He seemed like a chilled-out dude. I’d much rather have a conversation with someone who is willing to say, “I don’t know”, instead of the alternative.

( I am trying SO HARD not to make this blog post about politics but like the boy says, it isn’t about whether I want to make a political statement or not – it is about whether a political statement can be extracted, conveniently, by those doing the viewing / watching. )

 

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Above, behind the scenes from the setup and then it was bed time.

Below, it begins. Bangalore weather was, as expected, quite lovely and I got some beautiful light for the portraits before heading in for the event.

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Special thanks to Divya, Hasiba, Subuhi, Om, Ravish, Santosh, Anto and all the security personnel.

One of those assignments where I did not realize where the time went. Lots of nervous energy. Also one of those assignments where I didn’t particularly like individual images that I produced but I do like the story it captures. The event that was otherwise closed for the media, so what you’re seeing here is only available here ( and of course internally with the INC ).

( Usual disclaimers apply : images are subject to copyright and may not be used for any purpose without written permission. Please email n@naina.co for any queries. )

For those asking what Rahul said about how he deals with hate, from what I remember, he mentioned something on the lines of hate being about the person doing the hating, not about the person getting hated on. To realize, personally that the hate I’m getting is not about me about the person doing the hating – that’s one of the ways I deal with it too – online and offline. So this resonated with pretty much the entire room.

Another interesting thing I heard him talk about was how we, in India, in general, do not value skills. We’d much rather be identified as, for example, a “fashion designer” but not consider a “tailor” to be particularly important. We wouldn’t want to be called a “tailor”, as if that somehow lessens our value to society and reduces our status. And he talked about this in relation to India’s education system.

There was, obviously, a lot more but I was trying to stay focused on the photo-making and might not recall most of it correctly. It was great to be there.

 

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