Travel photographer Roby Das was in town to display a collection of photographs that present a view of India through his eyes.
The two women right at the entrance are hard to miss; with heads covered in ragged red, their expressions search yours in turn. Whether it's the girl's youthful face or the wizened woman with a half-smoked beedi between her lips, it takes a moment to move on.
These two muses of travel photographer Roby Das were among the 70 on display at the Lalit Kala Akademi. His exhibition “Colour(ed) Views” intended to showcase the “myriad shades of nature, life and human emotions”. A native of Kerala, the now-Delhi-based artist's frames of India and Indian life have been shown at art galleries across the country before pit-stopping here.
With no formal training in photography, the 28-year-old taught himself the art by observing the work of seniors in the field and several hits-and-misses of his own. The “Colour(ed) Views” collection has grown over the years, with most recent additions being from his ‘Road Eagle' expedition.
Last March, Roby revved up his Thunderbird for a 28-day solo ride from Srinagar to Kanyakumari, not only to click the quirks of India en route but also spread awareness about road safety.
Supported by a couple of major corporations, he distributed over one lakh pamphlets at traffic signals, round-abouts, taxi stands and to truck drivers, pedestrians and school and college students. The uniqueness of his adventure got the Limca Book of Records interested, with Roby finding special mention under the Human Interest category in its March 2011 edition.
But why road safety? I wonder if he's a rash-to-rule obeying road convert. Apparently not. He's never been careless behind the wheel (or handlebar, in his case).
He's just appalled by pan-Indian disregard for the difference between red and green and thinks we could all get home alive if only we stopped being colour-blind.
With this, he steers back to the main purpose of the journey; travel photography. The majority of the photos on display capture nature in its different lights: a lone bird on a naked branch, camels against the sunset in Jaisalmer, pigeons atop the Jama Masjid at twilight, and waves lazily rolling onto a beach in the fading afternoon light.
But a photo-log of a journey across India cannot do without the mandatory pictures of poverty and deprivation. So the homeless man curling up with a dog to keep cold at bay finds space here, along with a swami with a yellowing beard and rudraksha around his neck and a street performer in Delhi who sings to make her meagre living.
There's an evident affection for a world gone by in his style. As Roby speaks about our culture losing to urbanisation, he refers to villages disappearing and ancient traditions along with them.
He imagines that our “kids' kids will have to turn to my photographs” to learn about the India that was. That's why his Nikon won't stop clicking, as he preserves forever the colours that define India.
Tanya is a III Year B.Com. student at the Stella Maris College.