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Puller’s Almighty, Photographer’s Delight

Puller’s Almighty, Photographer’s Delight

Rikshaw Puller

A planned activity of street photography ended in finding a story, a story of a Rickshaw puller. Topashish Bhattacharya shares this real life experience in this true story.

Photgraphs by Anannya Sen and Topashish Bhattacharya

If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph!

Street photography is a genre of photography that records every day’s life in a public place. The street photographers do not have anything specific in their minds, but they prefer to isolate and capture moments which might otherwise go unnoticed. There are numerous photographers who take photos of the streets, however they don’t consider themselves as street photographers, and I am one of them.

It’s almost been more than a decade I am into photography. Though I am more into commercial or wildlife photography but I always wanted to try different genres of photography. Street photography was one of them and it was always in my bucket list. Amongst other things trying street photography in Kolkata someday was one in the list as the city is the third most populated metropolitan city in India.

It is well known for its art, literature and heritage. On the lines of photography, no one will ever be tired of this city as it keeps showing us surprises from all the corners. As I went out for a walk on the streets of Kolkata with my camera, I just could not stop clicking. I emphasized on light and shadow, in different tones, where I caught the frames in exaggerated way with a moment of mystery.

I decided to go to an area called Shyam Bazaar and try some street photography there, as Shyam Bazaar is one of the oldest areas in Kolkata. This place is the bastion of Kolkata’s elite and it is known for the extravagant mansions and townhouses built in the characteristic Bengali-European style.

Besides these gigantic mansions, one can see a fleet of hand-pulled rickshaws which assemble at the five point crossing. A Rickshaw puller is a familiar figure in our country and they are commonly known as “Rickshawala”. But it is only here in Kolkata that one can see a hand-pulled rickshaw.

Kundal Lal reforming a puja of his rikshaw
Photograph by Topashish

It was here that I met Kundanlal who is a hand-pulled Rickshaw puller. Kundanlal was about to start his day and he was performing a puja. What intrigued me most was his ways of performing the rituals. He was actually worshiping his own rickshaw as if that was a deity. I knew that would be a wonderful click.

I approached him and asked, “Can I take a picture of yours?”

“Why would you like to take my picture Babu?” he asked.

His addressing me as Babu reminded me of the old days of Kolkata. In fact this city was the place where the famous Babu Culture started. I gathered my thoughts and replied, “I am a photographer and would like to take the picture of your Rickshaw.” He agreed immediately to the free publicity.

After the clicks I wanted to know why he was performing the puja of his rickshaw, so I continued the conversation and as I asked him on his strange ritual. He replied, “Babu this rickshaw is my bread and butter, so it is my duty to pray to her everyday. After all it is because of her that I survive today.”

I was stunned to see how the concept of The Almighty varies from one person to the other. Kundanlal went on to inform me about his life. He told me that, “It’s very hard to be a Rickshaw puller, I carry my passengers in my Rickshaw from one place to another on payment of fare and earning is barely enough, but at least I can be my own man.”

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I was touched listening to the narrative of that humble man. I realized that life of a Rickshaw puller is not easy working for more than twelve hours in a day.

Kundanlal, like many more like him, migrated to the city of joy from the state of Bihar.  Perhaps the only joy they find from the hard work was by providing a healthy life for their families back home in Bihar. Kundanlal took pride in telling me that he was taking care of his family and his children were attending schools.

An hour had passed by then. Kundanlal gave me a candid smile and said, “Babu thank you for talking to me and taking pictures. I must go now. God bless you!”

I stood there for a while and realized my initial

Rikshaw and the Puller
Photograph by Anannya Sen

thought of street photography had found its destination at least for the day in form of the humble rickshaw puller named Kundanlal. Indeed for street photographers they don’t have any specifics in their minds, yet they are able to capture beautiful and candid pictures with a beautiful story behind it.

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