If only assignments were honeymoons!

by Sunil 23. April 2009 15:41



As a writing/ photography couple, people often think of our work related trips as mini-honeymoons!! Only recently a neighbour commented “both of you are very lucky…you can get cozy in the most romantic of places...and that too at someone else’s expense”


Wishful thinking! The “romantic” moment is often subdued under the weight of professional disagreements.


While travelling and working together is great fun, there is hardly any time for romance.  Sometimes it can be a little upsetting; imagine trekking up an alpine meadow to catch a breathtaking sunset and instead of enjoying the moment, we have to concentrate on getting back good images and putting together an interesting story. However, the fact that we are always together, looking at the same scene, yet interpreting it differently through our lens and pen is just fantastic!  But it does get a little confusing at times: spouse, business partner, individuals with distinct identities, two people who love kids and dogs (both of which cannot be a priority till our river book is released) And when you take into account the kind of places we visit, our child will have to be herculean and I am not sure if Cerberus puppies are sold in pet shops.


While Shayoni carries a 20 kilo back pack and a camera bag that weighs at least five kilos, I am weighed down by a 30 kilo back pack in addition to my camera bag. This does not include the extra water and emergency rations we carry on an expedition level assignment.  


Our alarms rouse us at five am or earlier.  After a quick wash, it is generally dry food or fruits for breakfast after which the madness begins…  Cameras and lenses are checked and rechecked, pockets of our camera jackets are stuffed with things we may need through the day. The backpacks are closed and strapped and whatever has eluded our earlier inspection is consigned to the side pockets. We never forget to carry bars of chocolate, nothing like chocolate or bananas to boost your energy levels (another aphrodisiac going to shameful waste!). And yes our hats, in this part of the world you really learn to appreciate a wide-brimmed hat. Sunscreen is usually unnecessary; our skin colour protects us naturally.



On our recent Brahmaputra assignment, we were either driving along mountain roads visiting little-known villages along the river, or crossing the river on country boats. A small rectangular block of wood placed in front of the tires prevented our car from slipping into the water from a boat filled far beyond its actual capacity.  We thought we were doomed. We then saw a loaded tourist bus crossing the river on a makeshift barge, constructed by tying parallel planks across two country boats!  This surprisingly had a calming effect. We crossed the river at least twenty times after this, but it never got less scary. And most of you will not believe this, Shayoni can’t swim! Reaching the bank is only half the battle won; walking across the narrow gangplank to reach the sandbank with crowds of crazy, suicidal people trying to push each other off a boat that is tied loosely to a floating bollard is certainly not pleasant!  


Other than the terrain, insurgency in Assam was another major problem. Luckily, the Army helped us on many occasions. Without them, it would have been difficult to complete the assignment. We did a few bus trips in Assam and whenever the bus reached our destination, much to the surprise of our fellow passengers, soldiers with automatic weapons would escort us out. Although we felt like VIPS at that moment, it also made us very visible, which we did not like.


Since we started working on our river book we have covered five major Indian rivers. We hope to cover the southern rivers after the monsoon. It has been an incredibly enriching journey for both of us. And yes, we shall flow together like a river and its tributary, each following their individual course, but meeting somewhere along, still frivolous and youthful, in a gleeful ox-bow embrace before racing towards the ocean.





5/4/2009 10:04:23 PM #

Very insightful narration as to what it takes to be a photojournalist! Never before did I think of this work as real 'work'!

Anand Sharma India

9/10/2010 1:04:53 PM #

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Silver Bars United States

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