February 15, 2015

Our speeches at the launch of HydandSeek

Sadhana Ramchander's address at the book launch

Good afternoon, and welcome to the launch of HydandSeek, a book about Hyderabad through Lakshmi Prabhala’s photographs. I do like them very much!

Sometimes an idea just grabs you and doesn’t let go. The idea to do this book was one such. I mulled over it for a few years. Lakshmi and I spoke about it for some more years, over many cups of chai and in auto rickshaws on the way to Charminar. “It would be nice to do a book”, we said, somewhat like a child would say, “It would be nice to slide down the rainbow”. We left it there, and the idea floated somewhere in the aroma of our chai.

Then one day in April last year, sitting in 13 Dhabha and eating a rather sinful gobi paratha, “It would be nice to do this book” changed to “Let’s do this book!”. After that, there was no looking back! We began working on it in all earnest, and Ragini, who is a student of visual communication offered to help with the design. Before we knew what was happening, emails and Whatsapp messages zipped back and forth, the pages began to come alive on our computer screens, and now here it is. I am so glad we could make it happen!

When you see HydandSeek a few minutes from now, it might seem an easy enough book to put together. But believe me, it was anything but easy to choose about 60 photos from the thousands that Lakshmi had, it was difficult to decide what aspect of this huge, growing city we wanted to talk about, and the hardest part, I think, was giving the book a direction, and making it speak.

So HydandSeek just happened. Just as my friendship with Lakshmi also just happened. I met her online in 2006, when she wrote to me asking about the Bathukamma festival in Warangal, after reading a blog post I had written. I subsequently began following her photographic journey, and discovered a whole new aesthetics right in my city. I accompanied Lakshmi on a few photoshoots; we travelled a bit, and I found that it was both fun and enriching.

Today, at the end of what seems like a long journey, there is the realization that one really cannot capture a place between the covers of a book. HydandSeek is like a drop in the ocean. There is so much more to be documented, and presented about Hyderabad, and I believe it should be an ongoing process.

My sincere thanks to Prof Vijay Kumar, Ms Amita Desai and all the other organisers of the Hyderabad Literary Festival for giving us this time and inspiring space. I thank Pragati printers for yet another chic product. I thank Mr Shahid for coming here this afternoon to help HydandSeek begin its journey. I hope it travels far and wide, scattering bits of nostalgia, aesthetics and the joy that Hyderabad can be.

Thank you all for coming.


Lakshmi Prabhala's address at the book launch

Back in 2006, with a humble Point and shoot camera I set out to explore the city. I did not know much about photography and its technicalities; the ISO, shutter speed, aperture were all beyond me and it took me a while to figure out. But I went ahead and showed up every weekend, each time at a new place, trying to draw a frame around what I saw, making sure I included some of the things I saw and leaving out others.

Slowly and steadily, I began to understand the city better and also got a hang of what photography is about. It helped me make some sense of the spaces around me, the people and perhaps a little bit about life as well. In that sense my visual journey will always have its roots in Hyderabad. And that makes hydandseek all the more special.

For students of this art form, myself included, it is important to not give up on your passion and what you believe in. I understand the challenges are many, and the rewards do not come easy. But one must show up, strive to do better each time, and pursue with a sincerity and stubbornness to not give up. Remember, while practising any art, you are only competing with yourself each time – not anyone else.

A heartfelt “thank you” to BluePencil Creative, for believing in my work enough to present it in the form of a book. It is always a great pleasure to work with someone whose vision aligns with your own. I cherish our discussions on Hyderabad, on design, on art and fondly remember the photo-walks we had.

We could not have asked for a better platform than the Hyderabad Literary Festival to launch our book, and have a lot to thank the directors of the organising team for that - especially Dr. T Vijay Kumar and Ms. Amita Desai.

And finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for making it here and showing your support. Of course, we would like it if you carried the encouragement as you walk into the bookstore. We hope it inspires you to explore the subtle nuances of this charming city, and discover the stories that are just around the corner.

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