Saturday, July 12, 2008

Supports Illustrated

Memories Can Help Bridge The Gap


Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


When I was a little kid growing up in Calcutta, my parents used to take me to The Strand and I remember seeing piles of crushed rock beside the broad roadway. On three sides, the broad expanse of greenery stretched as far as the eye could see; the border on the fourth side was the mighty Hooghly River.

This public-access parkland was called the Maidan, or grassland – and it was as long and as broad as the central business district of most modern cities. Here, there was a racecourse, a polo ground, a parade ground, more cricket pitches than the city’s enthusiasts could ever need – and still plenty of room to spare. If you ran around the perimeter once, you’d never have to exercise again, probably for the rest of your life.

While I played "I’m the king of the castle" beside a rockpile not far from Prinsep Ghat, named after James Prinsep) I asked my Dad why there were several piles along the side of the road. He replied that the authorities were planning to build a second bridge across the river, to ease the traffic congestion across the Howrah bridge.

When we drove home through Hastings (named after Warren Hastings, a former clerk of the East India Company who became the first Governor-General of India) my father informed me that the bridge would probably be sited here.

Work on the toll bridge, christened Vidyasagar Setu, began after I graduated from university, but my father died almost a decade before it finally opened in 1992. The city-side approach to the sweeping bridge, almost half a kilometre long, was exactly where he had pointed out the spot as we drove.

Two years ago, I found myself in Calcutta on a brief, completely unexpected stay. A friend of mine picked me up early one morning to drive me around so I could photograph all the special places in the city that held so many cherished memories for me.

At Hastings, I asked him to pull over so I could take these shots. There is a lot of significance in the way I framed the first two photograph of the bridge cables – because the graceful building in the foreground is Prinsep Ghat.

In the last photograph (below) the unusual silhouette in the foreground is a banyan tree. The banyan, an incredible shady tree, is designated as the national tree of India and it is easily recognisable because of the vertically descending prop roots, which are clearly visible in my shot.

When I got back to the car, my childhood friend grinned and said: ``You know there are unimpeded views of the bridge further up.’’

Yes, I knew. But I simply had to photograph the bridge from the spot that meant so much to me.

20 comments:

The Diva's Thoughts said...

Absolutely breathtaking shots.

Sniz said...

How very, very cool. Some of your best shots to date. (It seems like I'm always saying that.) When I saw the first one, I thought it was a shiny skyscraper that you were looking up at from the ground. It took me a minute to realize it was a bridge. Brilliant.

Be well, Sniz

willow said...

Very interesting post, David. I thoroughly enjoyed this. That last shot is especially nice.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Wonderful pictures, David! As always, an interesting post. I'm sorry I haven't been by this week. I'm finally starting to feel better now, so trying to catch up a little. Have a great weekend!

Nessa said...

I love the way you change perspective.

Tammy said...

Thanks for sharing. My father's childhood home no longer exists due to a bridge. The bridge from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to it's namesake in Michigan has footings in his old neighbourhood.

marcia said...

bridges are such transitions it is no wonder they inspire so much poetry and deep thinking

CrazyCath said...

That is so touching. Such a tribute to your father and your respect for him.

Excellent shots. They would not have been the same at all had they been unimpeded. So glad you took the time...

Colin Campbell said...

Beautiful David. I love the structure of the cables. I love to see engineering structures with an artistic bent. My favourite is the Forth Rail Bridge from my childhood and the Golden Gate Bridge from when I lived in California.

Indrani said...

Nice to see Kolkata through your lens, gives a great feeling reading your fond memories.

Cowgirl said...

Those are gorgeously framed shots, David, and thank you for sharing some more memories with us all.

Maggie May said...

I love that post! Love the photo of the big pottery thing. (Last one)

Shrinky said...

Ahhh, I do so love your photography - you never seem to run dry on inspiration. I particularly like the last one, and the story behind it is fascinating.

Queen of My Domain said...

What beautiful shots of the bridge. My favorite is the last one. Have a great week.

Pato & Pearl said...

Simply beautiful!!!!!!

pearl - happy weekend

Carver said...

You got some wonderful shots and a great post filled with memories. Happy weekend.

Mima said...

A lovely set of shots, and an even lovelier set of memories!

jmb said...

Wonderful photos David and they gave you a chance to tell us something about your growing up. I'm sure you are happy in Australia but the place where you grow up is very special and seeing photos of Sydney always make me nostalgic.

Jennifer H said...

Beautiful photos. That building is breathtaking. And all of it the more beautiful for your memories of the place and of your father.

Katney said...

tha tis a lovely memory--and who needs an unimpeeded view.