Today, thanks to our modern cell phones, almost each of us carry a camera. We are so used to having a camera with us, that we are now starting to put it to many novel uses. We had a discussion today in which we used a white board for jotting down our thoughts, and at the end of the discussion, just took photos with our cell phone. . But not so long ago, camera was out of reach for most of us.
First time I used a camera in my life was in December 1978. We were on a trip to Madhya Pradesh. The camera I used was Agfa Click III. This was a 120 mm, fixed focus box camera. It used a roll film and one roll could take all of 12 photographs.
The camera belonged to one of my relatives and he allowed me a free had with it. In a 10 day trip, I took 3 rolls (36) photographs. I got those photos developed and printed, and fell in love with photography. Since that point, I wanted to own a camera! I was not sure when would that day be, but it was nearer than I thought.
That year, Ajit Ranade, one of my close friends, was IIT Bombay photography secretory. During the Mood Indigo, which was in January 1979, Ajit talked Agfa into a sponsorship for the event. As a part of that, they would put up a stall to sell their cameras during the five day event. Agfa was going to sell the cameras at a discount, but we had to man the stall and do the actual sell. I gladly volunteered to man the stall as I would get to handle the cameras.
One of the camera we were selling was Agfa Isoly II, their latest model. This was a lot more advanced model than the Click III I had used earlier. It had a scene selector, a distance selector and also a focal length selector. All the adjustments were manual, and there was a lot of learning involved. But if you were willing to do the efforts, you would be able to take great photographs. The market price of the Isoly II was Rs. 225/- but on our stall, we were going to sell it at a discount. It would be available for Rs. 175/-. (To put this in perspective, one month’s mess bill for four meals a day at that time used to be about Rs. 175/-) I wanted to take that opportunity and buy a camera for me.
The stall was proving to be quite successful. Cameras were selling at a fast pace. As the stocks were dwindling, I kept feeling that all the stocks will be sold out and there will be no camera left for me. At the same time, I didn’t have money. Only way to get money was from home, and I was not sure if I could get any money from home.
I think at the end of day 3, I decided to go home to ask my parents for money. I didn’t think there was much of chance to get the money, but I have always been an optimist. I decided to give it a try. I reached home around 8 PM. My parents were happily surprised at seeing me. I was not expected in the middle of the week. We had dinner and then I asked my father if I could have Rs. 175/- to buy a camera. My father told me that it was just not possible to spare that much money, and definitely not to buy a camera. I pleaded, but the answer was still the same.
Even though I had expected it, I was very disappointed & almost in tears. I was really hoping to get money to buy camera, and particularly when so many others were buying it at a price that was a steal. I was so disheartened that I decided to return to the hostel immediately. My mom tried stopping me, but I wouldn’t listen to anyone. I left home around 9.30 in the night and returned to the hostel in Powai.
Next day morning, someone was knocking at my room. I opened the door and found my father standing at the door. I was very surprised. What was he doing here so early in the morning? He came in and gave me money, the Rs. 175/- that I needed to buy my camera!! Half laughing, half crying, I asked him where the money had came from. He told me that after I left, neither he nor my mom and sisters could sleep. My mom looked up all the emergency money she had hidden away at different places and whatever money that was received in gifts from relatives and sent all that money so I could by the camera. He started from home very early morning so he would reach hostel before I woke up. I was completely overwhelmed. I am really very fortunate to have such great family.
I bought the camera with that money. That was my first camera. I learnt a lot more than photography. I have had many more cameras since then, but this has been my most valuable camera.