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Auto Driver

We sometimes tend to slot people into good or bad. Often, an entire class of people is painted in black or white. We forget those subtle shades of grey in between. Case in point being the humble Auto drivers in Bangalore (or for that matter anywhere) - they are hardly ever spoken of in kind terms. We forget that driving an auto in Bangalore is not an easy job. The traffic snarl-ups that are so regular is so many parts of Bangalore might be an irritant for those of us who have a job that pays us each month, but for an auto driver to be struck in one simply means tangible loss of earnings. Then there is the case of roads where autos are now prohibited altogether! Like one-way lanes, they are only going to increase. Each such road is one lesser opportunity of finding commuters. (Yes, yes I hear you - they wouldn’t ever go where you want them to, but let’s be kind to them for the duration of this paragraph). Add to this mix those long queues for fuel (CNG) and stressed out, edgy traffic cops – voila! we have the perfect recipe for frazzled nerves.

This gentleman hails from Mysore. He is driving an Auto in Bangalore because he couldn’t obtain regular employment back home. This will sound like a touristy remark but the vermilion that he wore on his forehead, which stood in such vivid contrast to his dark complexion, was what prompted me to click him. It was just days before Dusara. I asked him if he was going home to celebrate – after all Dusara is big in Mysore. He was not. The look in his eyes seemed to tell me that it was out of compulsion to earn. If you’ve ever spent an important festival away from your family, you probably know what the feeling is. He looked so vulnerable.

I thanked him for agreeing to be my subject, passed him a sympathetic smile, paid the fare, gave him directions to MG Road and got down.

There is something about this brief encounter that has made me a little kinder, a bit more considerate. Each time an auto refuses to go somewhere or insists on overcharging, I just smile and move on. A smile after all costs nothing.

Update: What you see is a better version of the picture that was posted originally. It (the original) can still be seen here.
posted: 18.10.05


Ditto the sentiments. Go, Auto Shankar!

By Blogger Kaushal, at 18.10.05  

Well said. Nice picture too :) Why no fill-in flash was used? Tried greyscale?

(Btw, I find it very hard to smile when someone overcharges or refuses to go somwhere. But then I'm not known for my diplomacy... :/)

By Blogger sajith, at 18.10.05  

:-) Thanks Kaushal.

Thanks Sajith.

Sigh. No fill flash because the built-in flash - thanks to it not being "tall" enough, makes my 17-45mm cast a shadow in the lower half (vignetting?) of the picture :-(. Never realized that Speedlite flashes are so darn expensive!! But then I am finding out, nothing related to photography comes cheap ;-).

Did try a digital "flash-fill" effect in PSP, but that made the picture look a bit too overdone. (lomographic ;-))

Didn't initially try grayscale because the vermillion dot on his forehead was why I was clicking him, but gave it a shot after your suggestion. For some reasons the greyscale version does look a bit more "acceptable".

A question for you - given the fact that the details on our man's face, right down to the specks of his beard and the tip of his pinna are clearly visible ("resolvable"?) - well at least on my LCD monitor (not sure how it looks on a CRT), will this photograph be still technically classified as "underexposed"? Yes, no denying that the very stark contrast between our foreground subject and the background doesn't look very flattering (trust me our man here was one of the swarthier persons I've come across - so the pic isn't lying too much about his complexion), and that a fill flash would probably have helped the matter (I suspect that it might have burnt out the reflective blue ceiling of the auto - but I am merely conjecturing or you could call it a case of sour grapes); still - will this picture go down in the annals of photography (you lofty buffoon Deepak!) as underexposed?

By Blogger Deepak, at 18.10.05  

Unrelated, How do I get a url to your rss feed from the main page?


By Blogger Pooja, at 18.10.05  

Hey Pooja, I've forgotton to include it in the new template :p! Shall put it in. Till then, use: http://deepakg.blogspot.com/atom.xml

(or have your reader auto discover it)

By Blogger Deepak, at 18.10.05  

I used autos to travel to work daily for more than a year. Once you do that on a daily basis, the B-n-W perception breaks down. They are also just people trying to make a living.

By Blogger ash, at 18.10.05  

:-) Trust you to come up with all this...
Me once had an auto-rickshaw driver who spoke impeccable english. When I asked how much he had studied, I was stunned to recieve "BA English Honours" as a reply - jobless, he'd left his native UP and come to BBay in search of employment...remember feeling quite shaken that day.

Them rickshaws are a big menace darting around like roaches on our streets, yet we can't survive without them, can we?

By Blogger Geetanjali, at 19.10.05  

My all-time favourite auto-wallah is the guy who overcharged me because "things have become expensive since girls and women have started wearing jeans". How do you respond to that, except with a tenner? :)

Let's see your benign sunshine attitude live itself out in Delhi! :p

By Blogger Mansi, at 19.10.05  


No, I wouldn't rate this as underexposed - I would say this is a difficult metering situation :) Honestly, I don't know what the right way here, and I too am looking for what would be rated as acceptable.

Ok, I bumped up my CRT's brightness levels - the picture looks quite fine now! But my concern was the high difference in brightness levels inside the frame. Maybe I need to take more lessons on matrix and spot metering :) (The 350D does matrix metering on aperture priority mode, right?)

By Blogger sajith, at 19.10.05  

Couldn't agree more Ash. I've been dependent on Autos for 3 years now!

:-), Well, well "manace darting around streets?" these are strong words aren't they... I've often heard car-owners at office say this.

:-) DOH! I just hope that his ignoble behaviour hasn't been extrapolated as a reason for hatred for all auto-wallahs!

I feign selective illiteracy for the last line of your comment :-)

Hey Sajith - the metering mode can be selected independently of the "advanced modes". So I could be on Aperture Priority and use spot metering and so on. This one, if I am not mistaken used what my camera manual calls "evaluative metering" which is technically matrix metering. I'll try out "partial metering" (spot metering) whenever a situation like this presents itself.

I did some fooling around in PSP (mostly digital "flash-fill" and contrast tweaks) and came up with this. Had to convert it to greyscale because the colors were looking atrocious. It still looks a bit too processed (if you look closely that is) but at first glance it is perhaps more acceptable than what I've posted here. What do you think?

And pardon me for making this world suffer far from perfect shots. Portraits are so rare in my repertoire that I get a little carried away while posting:-)

By Blogger Deepak, at 19.10.05  

With the EOS 300X, spot metering is available only in manual mode, IIRC. But I really don't know the difference - you don't experiment all that much when you are shooting on film, you know ;)

I think the greyscale version is an excellent exhibition material.

If you are being apologetic for posting far from perfect shots, I should be hiding in a cave or something... :D

By Blogger sajith, at 19.10.05  

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