Man with the ‘Box Camera’

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By Gaurav Shukla, Gaingongmei Gangmei
Tikam Chand is no ordinary photgrapher, his camera makes him distinct from others.
Riding on his rusty bicycle, he navigates past a group of pedestrians in chaos of old Jaipur and finally reaches his open air studio near City Palace. Immediately after arriving, he unties his prized possession a 20-kg ‘Box Camera’ that took its first photograph sometime around 1865. Ever since then, the camera has obediently followed the orders of its subsequent owners, first Tikam Chand’s grandfather, then his father and now himself.

As he talks to us, his first customer has arrived. 45-year-old Jatin Kumar, a daily wage laborer needs a passport size photograph for some court work. He will pay only Rs 50 to get his four B&W photographs clicked and printed in just 5 minutes.

“Technology has made us lazy, taking photographs used to be an art. Now the thinking has disappeared and all they do is click,” 42-year-old photographer explains. “Digital cameras can never give you such joy,” he adds.Clicking a photograph with this ancient camera looks so interesting you can just stand there and watch him as he starts his work. How he adjusts the camera’s focus by sliding the ancient Carl Zeiss lens back and forth along a track before ducking beneath a large piece of cloth at the back to slide the photo paper behind a glass plate.

The shutter release button has been an integral part of camera for long is nowhere to be seen here. Tikam Chand just removes the lens cap for one or two seconds to expose the photo paper to make an image. Then he comes back under the coverings, sticking his hand in tubes made of a blue jeans leg to shift the paper from developing chemicals into the fixer, then into a plastic bucket to rinse off the chemicals.

The image made after all this will dampen you spirits, its just a negative image and he will have to shoot this negative to make it positive by going over the same process once again.
His clientele includes locals as well as tourists from Russia and Thailand. He’s out here every day, shouting, calling tourists to get their photos clicked. On a bad day he’ll earn nothing, on a good day it’s up to Rs 500.

The story of this box camera and how his family got it has almost become a part of the forgotten past now. All he knows is that, his grandfather somehow received the camera as a gift from the royal family. For the last three decades, this camera has been the sole bread earner for him, his wife and two sons.Will either of his sons, aged 6 and 11, go into this business? “They only like the new stuff, cell phones and computer games etc.” he says. “I guess it will probably end with me.”

A city losing its identity

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bu Gaurav Shukla

It was not so long ago that the most revered member of Rajasthan’s aristocracy late Rajmata Gayatri Devi left her mansion to sit on a stretch of pavement to protest against the real estate developers who are aiming to change the skyline of this historic pink city Jaipur.

Her actions were only symbolic, but they clearly echoed the increasing anger amongst the conservationists at the damage being caused by rapid construction in one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country.

With the economic boom, the new explosion in building construction has altered the city’s character. Pink city is losing its distinction from other cities, as new Jaipur looks like any other city in India with similar architecture, with malls and multistory buildings covering its skyline.

Founded in 1727, Jaipur is known for its richness of palaces, forts, walled city area and the medieval maze of bazaars. Although major monuments have been benefited from restoration work, conservation experts are concerned that the rest of the historic city is drowning beneath new, often illegal, construction work.
The famous walled city of Jaipur has also not been left behind with this entire construction spree. Radical alterations are being made to the ancient buildings of old Jaipur without realizing the loss of its original architecture.

With each passing year, Jaipur is in less of gain and more of loss from urban modernization. The question of the peak hour is whether constructions done in a wide scale will leave Jaipur with its own identity which makes it memorable and popular as the Royal Pink City.

by Niha Masih

Sanganer is a small, dusty settlement just off the airport road on the outskirts of Jaipur. However the many lanes and by lanes of this neighbourhood throb with life and machinery continuously. One narrow road leads to the renowned blue pottery workshop and another houses textile mills. All open spaces are lined with cardboard drying in the sultry sun. Vigorous screen printing on bedsheets is going on in dingy workspaces.

Originally it was an artisan village populated by the ‘kagazis’ or papermakers. They were the first settlers of Sanganer which interestingly is older than Jaipur. The handmade paper industry had its genesis due to an initiative by Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh II taken as long back as 1728. Over the years it has evolved into an industrial hub with many kinds of factories coming up, from textile to speaker parts. In this mechanized age most of the production in Sanganer’s handmade industry is manual, except for the electric motors used for pulping, calendaring and other peripheral activities.

Till a few years back the whole process of papermaking was manual. At house number 30, Masjid ke pass, Kagazi Colony, it still is.

It is Friday afternoon and Hussain Kagazi Saheb is readying for a bath before the Friday namaz. He does not want to be photographed as he is not wearing his usual pristine white Kurta. His eyes shine with pride and a vigour as he speaks of how he is the only one to have kept alive the art of papermaking in the entire Sanganer. Most of the others have either set up huge factories making close to 1000 sheets daily or have begun other more lucrative businesses. ‘Aisa mazboot kagaz ab kahan milega aapko’, says the 58 year old Kagazi Saheb while scrunching a sheet of paper in his hand. Not a wrinkle or tear.

The entire family works in tandem during the whole process. Kagazi Saheb creates the paper from pulp while his sons (standing extreme left and second from left) oversee the making of pulp and its cleanliness. The women of the house cook the starch and apply it over paper before finally putting it up for drying. His grandson (standing on extreme right) is still in school and is learning the ropes as yet.

Zakir Hussain, Kagazi Saheb’s elder son manages the post production aspects like selling and exporting the paper. He is happy being a small producer even though it does not pay as much because it is more satisfying.

The paper production at home was limited and the family got money from the Khadi Gramudyog a few years back to set up a small factory. Unlike most of the other paper making factories their paper is made using all the traditional material,l making it not only strong but also more lasting.

The Kagazis of Sanganer no longer only make paper. The considerable amount of work involving low returns has forced most to shut shop. Many continue to be in the paper business but are into the more lucrative cardboard or cartons business.

In a span of two hours Kagazi Saheb is able to make more than 200 sheets of paper. He says that the entire process is simple but the skill lies in making of the sheet from pulp. That is the secret of a well made paper from an ordinary one. He acquired it from his grandfather and the family now has a 400 year old legacy.

A government agency too approached him offering money to teach this art but he turned it down as he could not bear to ‘sell’ his art. His eyes screw up in hard concentration as he hauls up another sheet from the pulpy water. The flurry of activity around him does not affect his work as he stares deeply into the water. It is not just paper but a part of him in the making.
The handmade paper making process is an elaborate process involving many steps:

Handmade paper can be made from jute, textile or paper. The jute is first cleaned by picking out the fibre by hand.

The jute is then cut into small, neat bales using a sharp saw.

The bales are soaked in water and made into a pulp which is thoroughly cleaned twice over.

The pulp is put in a small enclosure and with the help of a mesh net made into a sheet of paste.

Then the sheet is carefully lifted with the help of a bamboo roll and put on a cloth piece of the same size.

After the sheets lose their moisture they are dried and plastered with starch to harden them, then hung to dry.

After the sheets dry they are cleaned with camel hoof to take out the grainy fibre and then polished with a stone to give it a shine.

Health Care for Jai-poor

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by Kriti Gupta

Dipu is a 1-year-old boy who lives in Katputli Nagar, Jaipur. He is underweight and has not yet received his vaccination shots. His father works full day at the factory and earns rupees 50 a day. His mother takes care of him and his 4 siblings. Sasuri, his grandmother is suffering from a disease that does not allow her to leave her bed. They do not have enough money to take her to a doctor and get a diagnosis on her ailment. His aunt (father’s sister) is a 28-year-old woman who has not yet hit puberty and still lives with them.

These are the problems faced by one single family in this Kachhi basti. This is an example of the lack of health care that is available for the poor. On the one hand, India races on with a 9% GDP growth. On the other hand, a study conducted by Oxford University shows that almost 70 percent of the population cannot afford specialized health care.

According to WHO statistics, half of the children in the country are underweight, while we have the second largest rate of maternal mortality in the world. India has one of the largest populations of people affected with TB, Polio, Cholera and HIV/AIDS. The reason behind this is the vicious circle of poverty-illiteracy-overpopulation.

It is important to empower the poor by providing them with proper medical care. In Jaipur, there are various initiatives taken by the government and hospitals that attempt to do the same.


The word Anganwadi translates into “courtyard shelter”. This is a government scheme that attempts to provide mother-child care.

The idea stems from the notion that the poor cannot travel to a hospital to seek treatment. So the health care is provided in the courtyard. The government takes houses on rent in the village or urban slum. In these locations, an Anganwadi worker informs people about healthy ways of living. The Anganwadi worker is responsible for organizing day care and providing informal, pre-school education.

Dr. Alok Upadhyaya is a pediatrician who visits the camp at Jhalana Doongri, a kachhi basti, in Jaipur once a week to provide basic health care for children. He describes the situation at the basti, “The basic problem here is that people are ignorant. Mothers do not understand the importance of proper nutrition. But once we tell them, things tend to improve.”

Sitting in a single room with the sun as the only source of light, Dr Upadhyaya treats close to 40 patients a day. A nurse carries medicines and vaccinations. These are administered to children free of cost. Dr Upadhyaya continues, “It is a sad state of affairs. But initiatives like the Anganwadi offer a space where mothers can learn about health and children are given space to learn and grow.”

In Jaipur, the SMS Hospital is in charge of 25 camps while the SDM Hospital has adopted 15 sites as part of its outreach program. These are institutes with world-class facilities that are attempting to provide equitable health care to the poor.

This is a care home that gives health care to terminally ill patients free of cost. It is generally inhabited by people who have cancer, leukemia or other incurable diseases. Since it is free of cost, most of the patients living in the hospice come from poor families.

Situated next to the Birla Temple in the heart of Jaipur, this Hospice focuses on palliation. Palliative care is the care given to reduce severity of diseases rather than attempt to halt or cure them. Since the patients are terminally ill, this is the best that can be done to ease their pain. The hospice has 100 beds. Additionally, regular health check ups are organized at Avedna Ashram for senior citizens. These are also conducted free of cost. The care home has wards for patients along with rooms for entertainment – to watch television, play chess, listen to the radio and so on.

The main nurse at the hospice is Sister Mary. She is affectionately called Mary Aunty by the staff. Mary Aunty takes care of the patients – giving them medicines, ensuring that diet is followed and so on. She talks about her work, “The patients may be severely unwell, but their spirit is strong. And despite the inevitable, I find strength and comfort here.”

It is a quiet and serene place; but also filled with sadness because the patients at Avedna Ashram do not live beyond a few months. It is a great initiative because it provides a space to live one’s last moments in peace. And that right belongs to everyone!

Dharamshala at SDM Hospital
Another problem that the poor face arises when the recovery period is long. If the patient needs to be in the hospital, then that is an expense. Additionally, the person accompanying the patient will also have to stay somewhere and that is an extra expense. This gets too much for a lot of people and so they refuse to get health care.

The SDM Hospital identified this problem and has built a Dharamshala within its grounds to provide for a solution. The rooms at the Dharamshala can be rented at the nominal rate of Rs 50 per night. Proximity to the hospital helps. The relatives can stay there for the night and get back to tending to the patient first thing in the morning.

Col. Badal Varma, Head of Administration, describes its purpose, “We follow our philosophy of “giving”. So it is important for us to help the poor. We want to provide everyone with equal opportunities to avail of proper health and medicinal facilities.”

The Dharamshala is a project undertaken by SDM Hospital to achieve just that. Rana Singh, a driver by profession, a resident of the Dharamshala wonders if his chacha could have gone to a hospital if it cost more, “Chachaji lost both his legs in a train accident. This trip has cost my family a lot. If I had to pay standard rates for a separate place, we may not have been able to afford it.”

The Dharamshala, therefore, is a step towards empowering the poor. It allows the poor to get good quality health care by making it more affordable.
Such initiatives are remarkable as they provide equitable health care to the poor. In a country where 700 million people cannot afford specialized health care, it is heartening to see the government and hospitals involved with these causes.

The hope is that in the future, Dipu and his family will be able to get involved with such schemes and live healthy, happy lives.