Being a photographer, in these times, is not easy. I have experienced many stares boring into me while shooting public places. I can read the expression on their faces. “Is he planning to blow this up?” is the question that going on in their minds. I can expect them to be hostile and suspecting since we all live under the looming threat of terrorism. But what I got from the police was the most annoying thing.
I was a very active N.C.C cadet in my college days and hence always admire the military and police (to a certain extend). I always hoped to make it into the armed forces and hold a “B” certificate of NCC. So anything that is related to the armed forces, like parades, is a craze for me. That’s why I decided to get some photographs of the Independence Day ceremony in my city. It was on august 15.
So dutifully I went to the police station, Vasai Police station, to take permission for shooting tomorrow’s flag hoisting. After an hour’s wait, the Supreme Authority (I can’t read marathi, so don’t know his position on the pyramid) called me in. He asked me the purpose, my details and I gave him what I was looking for. After all it’s just a flag hoisting, nothing like I asking for permission to shoot our nuclear reactor!!
After thinking for a minute, he told me that I can take photographs, and to come next morning sharp 8:00 AM. I gleefully left him promising him a print once I am through with it.
Despite it being an off-day and insistent rain, I slung my tripod over my shoulder, got my camera fully loaded with a new roll and other necessary items. Normally I have one of my friends, who is very keen to learn the tricks, accompany me on most of my shoots. But today he too, took a leave! I reached the police station exactly at 7:45 AM, early enough to set my tripod at a good angle and get whatever required. I went directly to the office only to be told by a constable that the ceremony is over!! It was scheduled for 7:30, not 8:00 AM! He then sympathetically suggested that there is a asst. superintend office round the corner and their’s is on 8:30. I ran there and told the in-charge what I want. He told me to wait till the asst. sup comes in. He came, fully uniformed and ready to do the ceremony. I requested him and his response was a curt “No it is never recorded” ad off he went.
I stood there frustrated, holding my tripod and camera. If the parade and display of India’s latest weaponry in DELHI can be filmed, why an inconsequential flag hoisting at small-time city police station can’t allow it? What if I shoot it with my mobile camera or a simple Point & Shoot camera? Is it just that they don’t want to take any risks? Or plain inefficiency? What risks they run when they allow a photographer to take a flag’s picture along with some shiny boots and a sword? After all that’s the only time one ca see these police men polish their belts & Boots and iron their Khakis!
I still remember one of my instructors at a NCC camp. He was attached to the Madras Regiment. One of my fellow cadets wasn’t stomping hard enough. And when he saluted, he didn’t raise his knees enough to be stamped back. The Major of Army said “Go Join Police”. Since then my perception about police is that of a weak, inefficient and lazy outfit. This incident reinforced it.