Last winter, I attended Christoph Trappe’s Authentic Storytelling Workshop at Indiblogger’s BNLF. That workshop left a lasting impression about authentic stories. About how to search for them, how they find us, and everything else in between. I came across one such story during my power trip to Jaipur. This story is of the last 1860s Karl Zeiss pinhole camera and Mr. Tikam Chand standing strong in Jaipur.
This duo stands strong in this era of mobile apps and snappy smartphone cameras. Tikam and his camera, fixed on the worn out tripod stand. Gifted to Tikam’s grandfather, Pahari Lal somewhere around 1860 by the then Maharaja of Jaipur, the camera is national heritage itself.
We did not know about this camera before we planned our itinerary and we were casually moving toward Hawa Mahal when Prateek (co-traveller, friend, confidant) happened to look at it and stopped. Just then we heard a distinct voice call out to us. “Old camera, get photos from old camera”, a man dressed in a neat white shirt with black trousers stood a few steps behind the camera, smiling.
We walked up to him and asked about it. He started showing it to us, enthusiastic as a child. There was a hint of excitement that leaked through the way he carried himself when we started asking more about it. I like to think he must have adored the technological marvel when he was a child. It was beautiful.
It was a particularly sunny afternoon, even though it didn’t feel as hot and so the metal bench in the camera’s viewfinder had heated up but before we sat on it for getting our souvenir, Tikam made arrangements for covering it without asking. The humility was wonderful.
We had a conversation about the history of this complete ordeal as Tikam started developing our photo. “My grandfather owned this camera in somewhere around 1860, it has passed down in my family since then. I have stood in this same spot since 1977”, Tikam told us as he developed the photograph.
It was refreshing to see how the pinhole camera actually works after years of rote learning about it from our Physics textbooks. It was disheartening to see how very few people actually stopped even as he called on people repeatedly.
We’ve come a long way. My smartphone clicks a photo and sends it to a printer way faster than Tikam’s camera even gets ready to click a photo. However, that is the beauty of it all. No one clicks your photos using the original and only 1860s Karl Zeiss Pinhole Camera anymore. Probably never will. No one besides this one man standing near Hawa Mahal.