Sorry, Sir, Could I Use Mastercard Instead?
In late 2006 we found ourselves in India unexpectedly, on a completely unplanned trip. I was only in Calcutta for little over a week, but managed to devote some carefully chosen hours to photographing the city where I was born.
It was the third week of October and while the humidity was still high, the early-morning mists were just rolling in, heralding the onset of cooler weather.
I was shooting a series of dawn shots along the Strand, by the banks of the Hooghly River, when I decided to make my way to the racecourse nearby.
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club was one of my father’s favourite weekend haunts and to honour his memory, I was compelled to walk across the road to shoot some scenes from a venue he knew so well. I shot the grandstand, the straight, the wooden rails, the final bend – and then I noticed that a couple of racehorses had completed trackwork and were being walked by their handlers towards the Hastings stables.
In the distance was the Victoria Memorial, one of the greatest symbols of this 300-year-old city. (You can view some of my other photographs of the wonderful building here.)
Would I be able to shoot the VM (as the splendid marble edifice is popularly known) over the saddle of one of the racehorses? One short sprint later, I was able to convince the horse’s handler that I was not daft (Mrs Authorblog might not agree) and that all I wanted was an unusual photograph.
All of sixty seconds later, I was done. But the handler was in no hurry. I thanked him a second time and put the lens cap back on my camera. Then I realised he wanted a tip. I rapidly computed the value of the rupees in my wallet and realised he would get an infinitely good deal because I had no small-denomination notes.
Money changed hands. Honour was restored. Handler and racehorse departed towards the stables.
Dad, if you were alive, you would smile at this closing line – but let’s just say I was the second generation of our clan to lose money on the thoroughbreds here at the Calcutta racecourse.
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