How Imphal captured my Imagination!

The Guffawing Lady, Imphal Bazaar

I had the occasion to visit the beautiful north-eastern town of Imphal in the summer of 2013. Those of you, who are interested in the World War II, would probably have heard of the Battle of Kohima & Imphal, which in 2013 was voted one of the greatest battles in history. The Battle is often referred to as the “Stalingrad of the East“.

As I keep saying, the north-eastern states of India are probably the most beautiful regions of the country; more so, because they are still relatively untouched by the onslaught of tourism. However, the lack of tourism is majorly due to the separatist movement which has ravaged these parts of the country.

Well, that is a long story and definitely beyond the scope of this post. I will stick to what I enjoy the most- sharing my experience through my photography.

The first thing which strikes you is the beautiful landscape surrounding the airport. The Imphal airport is surrounded by mountains. It is around 6 KM from the city and one usually takes an Auto-rickshaw (Tuk-Tuk) to cover the distance. On the way to the city, as is my habit, I started chatting with the young boy who was driving. The one thing I remember him saying is- Imphal is not a nice place, Sir. People here are not good!

I was dumbstruck. Nowhere had I heard people criticizing their own city! I remember replying- It is not possible for all the people in a place to be bad. Every place will have their share of good and bad people. Tell me, are all your friends bad?

I don’t know if he got my point but I still wonder what made him say that.

Another thing which I remember is the unnerving presence of military personnel in the city. Everywhere, you will find patrolling Army men thanks to the separatist movements in the state.

The city shuts down very early. So, by 7 pm most shops are shuttered and people are on their way back home. For someone who has grown up in a cosmopolitan city like Calcutta, this was very unusual. But, I had a nice time around the streets in the evening, after finishing my work. I visited the Imphal War Cemetery, which has 1600 Commonwealth burials, of the WW-II. After that, I walked around the city for some time. Old ladies were selling vegetables and fish and other items in the local bazaar. After walking around the city for couple of hours (which people had advised me against) I returned to my hotel.

Evening Skyline- Imphal

Evening Skyline- Imphal

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Imphal War Cemetry

Evening Market- Imphal

Evening Market- Imphal

Ladies selling Fish- Imphal

Ladies selling Fish- Imphal

I woke up around 5 a.m. and decided to get ready and go out for some street photography. That’s when I got my first surprise. There was no water in the tap! Not a situation you want to face early in the morning! 😉

I went downstairs to the lobby and found the night staff in deep sleep. Reluctant as I was, I had to wake up one of the guys, so that he would switch on the water pump! In a way, I felt at home! 🙂

After having gotten ready I got my second surprise. The main exit was locked. Because of the security situation, I learnt, the hotel keeps its main door securely locked. So, I did what was the only option left- I waited. I waited for 30 minutes till they opened the gate.

The city wakes up pretty early, and at 6:30 there was the hustle bustle of office hour traffic, as is to be expected in a small city. I walked to the main bazaar and photographed people going about their daily routine. With my camera backpack and camera, I was sticking out like a sore thumb.

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

Early Morning- Imphal

These gentlemen stopped me on the street and spoke to me for some time!

These gentlemen stopped me on the street and spoke to me for some time!

I was walking around aimlessly, taking photographs, when suddenly I was accosted by an elderly gentleman. He asked me where I was from. On replying, he went on-

:You are a stranger to this place. Imphal is not the safest of towns. Why are you roaming about all alone?

: But, in the daytime, should I be scared, in the middle of the city?

:No, it is okay here and around the main city area. Don’t go alone outside the city.

I was really touched at the genuine concern shown for an absolute stranger. He even stopped another friend of his, who was passing by, and introduced me to him. We chatted for a while before parting.

Next I walked inside the bazaar where I found a group of middle aged ladies who were selling flowers and vegetables. Usually my camera is a great conversation starter, but in this case there was a slight hindrance. They knew not one syllable of the three languages I speak and I, not one syllable of the local language. But how could I let the small problem of language stop me from interacting with some absolutely charming ladies!

I don’t remember how I did it but I made them laugh and by laugh I mean actually L-A-U-G-H! Check out the photos and decide for yourself whether I was successful! 😀

The Guffawing Lady, Imphal Bazaar

The Guffawing Lady, Imphal Bazaar

Imphal Bazaar

Imphal Bazaar

Imphal Bazaar

Imphal Bazaar

Not everyone was smiling! :)

Not everyone was smiling! 🙂

Suddenly it started raining heavily and I had to take shelter under the flyover which is in front of the bazaar. Here, I had to wait for an hour while I chatted with a young boy in college about what his aspirations were. I wish I remembered what all we chatted about, but this was nearly two years back, and I did not take notes at that time (I really should have).

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

DSC_1777

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

Rain in Imphal

By the time we finished chatting it had stopped raining. It was time to walk back to the hotel and onwards to the airport for my flight, back to dreary life.

Do, let me know if you like the photographs. 🙂

 

PS: Imphal is not a tourist destination because of the political situation. But, my experience was very very nice and though I am not someone who likes to generalize, the people I interacted with were genuinely warm and friendly, something which we don’t always encounter in big cities, and of course contrary to what my young auto-rickshaw driver had to say about the people in Imphal!! I hope I can go back there someday.

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42 thoughts on “How Imphal captured my Imagination!

  1. Wonderful photos, Sayantan! I especially love the one with the laughing lady and the one with the curious kid peeking out of the car. 😊

  2. Oh I love the north east. Have been to Assam and Meghalaya several times, but the rest is still on my list. Your pictures are lovely. Really liked the candidness of the shots. and the last few where you made the women laugh, brought a smile to my face as well.

  3. Fantastic captures of the people of Imphal. You are a brave soul to roam about alone knowing of the dangers. I love the contrast between the first shots and the last. The people in the first didn’t appear to know they were being photographed and looked not too happy. The next set where they knew they were being photographed and were happy. It’s amazing how you managed to light up their faces and the shot of the lady laughing with abandon was magnificent. 🙂

    • Thank you Elizabeth! In the first set…people were going about their daily routine. . I guess routine is not so exciting. ..but a stranger clicking photos. ..and acting like a clown…now that’s exciting! No wonder the ladies were looking happy! 🙂

  4. Interesting experience. I love to travel myself. Have found myself in similar situations, no water, sometimes no proper place to sleep, and no proper food even. But still the trips are totally worth it.
    About the young guy, who doesn’t like it there, I suppose he feels trapped in a sleepy town. Remember, sometimes a great holiday destination, is not necessarily a place one would like to live in. I know of quite a few places, I’ve felt – Great for a holiday, but not to live in.
    Try out “Empathicalsim”, put yourself in his shoes, and try to understand what he might be going through. Existentialist in France swore by it, in the last century, and today Europe is the safest, and most understanding, place on Earth. Not that Europe doesn’t have crime, but it’s comparatively the safest continent (especially Western Europe), in the world today. And USA has the most, for a first world country.
    By the way, I agree with your comment, that north-eastern states of India are probably the most beautiful regions in the world. I’d actually say Northern & North-eastern, India.
    Kashmir is actually, to a certain extent, more beautiful than Switzerland, but the Swiss streets just happen to be so much more cleaner.
    India is great place to travel to. So much to see and do.

    • P.S. Excellent photographs by the way.
      I got so caught up in your interesting write-up, that I forgot to mention them.
      Sikkim, must be the only place in N-E India, that I’ve traveled to.

      • Thanks a lot Nuwan!!! As usual…i am irregular…and late in responding….I agree…it makes life simpler if we have some empathy…easier said than done, i guess! 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful thoughts! 🙂

    • Hahahahaha…hello Lady Ed! 😀 Well…the only thing i can do is ensure that the excuses are new everytime!!! 😛 Well…I was really working hard on a project for last 2 months…which i am glad to say…i have completed just couple of days back…and I think it is destiny that you are meant to check it and provide feedback! 😀
      http://www.sayantanphotography.com/
      Good to hear from you! 🙂 🙂

            • Is it only with me…or is it one of your inborn traits…to be able to ask questions…people are stumped for an answer!! 😛 😀
              As you guessed rightly…I am “all dressed up, and nowhere to go!” Any advice? 🙂

                • Haha…I now know why you are the Editor! You managed to put my HUGE dilemma in just 3 lines!!! 🙂 Well…here are my (much longer) answers:
                  1) I love photography, and nothing could be better if I could get paid for doing it( But, the problem is…age isn’t on my side…and I have to grow up very fast 😛 )
                  2) My mom is ok with whatever I do…as long as I am happy and I earn enough money to sustain the family( again..she probably wonders, if and when will I finally grow up 😀 )
                  3) Why do I take pictures? So many reasons…but, to put it in short…it makes me happy and at peace! And it feels good to do something you are good at…and be appreciated for it( I am sorry…I am not a saint…i love appreciation)
                  There you go…now show me the path Master Yoda! 😀

                  • Okay Know All, are you seated?

                    2 things before I start.

                    1. Mom sounds great.

                    2. Never let me hear you mention your age limit again – I know where you live and I will find you and hurt you.

                    Right let’s get started. If you want to try and do something with your photography a quick bit of research in and around West Bengal has pulled up these:

                    http://www.indianphotoagency.com/

                    http://indiaphotostock.photoshelter.com/

                    Photo agencies my dear.

                    The first one I have looked at I’m not overly excited about because with a quick bit of research again I can see that they are not drawing many eyes to their own work to be frank, never mind the potential of drawing some to yours. I could be wrong and they could be amazing but…

                    The second one is more interesting. It is an Indian photo agency with great numbers of visitors – however, it is set up by one man…for himself!

                    So here’s what you COULD do. Ask him if he would be interested in taking on another photographer, or offer to help him out in some way, even if for free (I don’t know where he is in relation to where you are though, that’s your job to find out). You could learn a lot from him about setting up your own photo agency for yourself at some point.

                    If these don’t work out, look around for more agencies in your part of the world.

                    Okay, moving on.

                    Why stop at your part of the world? There are international agencies taking on photographers images all the time:

                    If this list comes out crap in the comments see the link below it, plus it has more…

                    123 Royalty Free

                    Find that perfect photo with our vast content of 2.5 million images here. Our friendly group of professional account managers worldwide are always ready to serve you anytime, round-the-clock.
                    911 Pictures

                    911 Pictures is a unique stock photography agency dealing primarily with photos from the Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Services, ranging from stock shots of equipment and procedures to exciting and beautiful on-the-scene action photos. We are the finest of this kind in the United States, offering the widest selection of public safety-oriented photos.
                    Acclaim Images

                    Acclaim Images has been in business since June of 2002 and offers only high quality, limited distribution digital images and art prints. Photos and illustrations are contributed by hundreds of professional photographers, hand-picked for their creativity and professionalism. Both Royalty-Free (RF) and Rights-Managed (RM) images are available.
                    AbleStock
                    
The AbleStock.com collection of more than 120,000 super-high-resolution images, stock photos and photo objects saves creative professionals thousands of dollars on stock images every month by allowing downloads of up to 100 high res stock photos per day. With an AbleStock.com royalty-free stock photo subscription you pay one fee and download all the high resolution images you need.
                    Absolut Vision

                    AbsolutVision is a Swiss society, regrouping a team composed of photographers, graphic designers and professional lithographers. Together, we are active in the graphic industry since many years. AbsolutVision was created to give to our creative customers a tool for downloading inexpensive professional quality, royalty-free photos for your brochures, ads, newsletters, on-screen presentations, web sites, etc.
                    Age Fotostock
age
                    fotostock is a photographic agency that manages image reproduction rights for professional use in the corporate, editorial, advertising and design worlds. The company has offices in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and New York.
                    Alamy

                    We hold the largest and most comprehensive online collection of commercial photography in the world. Established in 1999, we pioneered the concept of an unedited collection and today we offer millions of images from thousands of photographers and photo agencies worldwide.
                    Alaska Stock

                    Alaska Stock Images is a full service photo stock agency specializing in Alaska photos and Alaska-themed photos.
                    Animals Animals

                    ANIMALS ANIMALS/ EARTH Scenes is a stock photography agency representing rights protected natural history images, such as wildlife, landscapes, geology, plants, and outdoor sports.
                    Affordable Stock Photography

                    There’s not a better deal online for royalty-free eye-catching images. We’re affordable because we don’t spend a fortune on expensive print marketing. We keep our costs down and pass the tremendous savings to you. We make it easy to select attention-grabbing stock photography created by some of the best photographers around.
                    Alldrit Studios

                    Specializing in high resolution, garden related, commercial stock photographs, we offer professionally taken Royalty Free and Rights Managed garden photos in a library to make life that little bit easier for the busy professional stock photo buyer. Flower and Garden landscape pictures with the just right motif can be used to support your magazine or newsletter articles, brochures and pamphlets. Used as samples, metaphors or accents they can dress up your publication or web site E-zne.
                    Artzooks
Artzooks.com
                    represents over a million royalty free stock photos and illustrations at one convenient location!
                    BigStock
                    Photo
Download photos right now – or submit your own: Download or upload high quality royalty-free stock photos – instant stock photo download! Search and download high quality low cost stock photos and images. Use these royalty free stock photo images for templates, web sites, print, ads, products and more.
                    Blend Images

                    Blend Images is the world’s leading multiethnic commercial stock agency. Founded by a consortium of the most talented and respected photographers within stock photography, and managed by key industry veterans, Blend Images has established itself as the premiere destination for ethnically diverse business and lifestyle imagery.
                    Blue Moon Stock

                    BlueMoon Stock was started by photographers, so images are our passion. We’ve partnered with some of the world’s finest shooters and we’ve hand-picked images that deliver the range, quality and variety you need to make an impact in a competitive marketplace.
                    Botanica
Botanica
                    is a rights-managed collection that focuses on a vast array of refreshing botanical images mixed with current lifestyle concepts and trends. The growing collection of images explores people in natural settings, concepts of relaxation, celebrations and, of course, nature and foliage. The picturesque images are created by well-respected photographers from all over the world.
                    Brand X Pictures
What sets Brand X Pictures apart from the rest? High-end images that go beyond traditional notions of royalty-free: timely, useful subject matter and images that are conceptually challenging and memorable. Created by talented international photographers, these images connect with the viewer and make a mark.
                    Bridgeman Art Library

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                    Brownstock
                    
We’re a new young independent stock photography project, representing the work of an aggregate of photographers with passion and creative integrity — photographers who have that unique perspective to look at the world a little differently. We’re dedicated to working with a growing team of photographers worldwide to offer high quality and evocative images for the advertising and design industry.
                    Comstock
                    
For over 25 years COMSTOCK IMAGES, now a division of Jupiterimages Corporation, has been one of the world’s most renowned photo agencies with a reputation for professionalism and integrity amongst the clients it serves and the photographers it represents. We specialize in imagery of all subject matters (especially business, medical, and people images), produced by some of the finest photographers in the world.
                    Corbis

                    Corbis is a creative resource for advertising, marketing and media professionals worldwide, helping to bring creative work to life with the highest quality photography, footage and rights services. Corbis offers a preeminent collection of more than 100 million creative, entertainment and historic images, a comprehensive footage library, the world’s deepest rights and clearances expertise and an award-winning media management solution, as well as empowering SnapVillage,
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                    DesignPics

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                    Dreamstime

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                    Courtesy of http://www.photo-marketing-tips.com/?page_id=32

                    What about local news stations? They always need images to go with breaking news. Go introduce yourself to someone. Take a tablet with you to show your portfolio online (or however you guys do it out there!)

                    What about international news stations? The BBC for example will take your images for stories relating to your part of the world if they know about you. (Again, that’s your job to research).

                    The more high profile jobs you can clinch (paid or unpaid) the more valued your portfolio will be seen.

                    Or what about setting up your own little studio locally? You have enough pictures to impress people with. Offer to do the slightly more mundane photography like weddings and birthdays but put a fantastically creative Know-All spin on it.

                    I once knew a photographer who loved a certain international artist so much that he literally turned up on his doorstep and offered to take his pictures for free. He very soon became more or less the official photographer of this artist and ended up travelling with them. Of course with people taking selfies these days it might be slightly different, but celebs might be different in India and it is an example of thinking out of the box and making your love become what feeds you.

                    And then there’s this example.
                    http://www.humansofnewyork.com/about
                    You may or may not have heard of it, but it is another great example of making your love become your (paid) life and keeping Mom happy.

                    Signing off, that’s plenty.

  5. Pingback: Ethereal Aizawl | Know-All's Box

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