Manoj Nigam*
WHO CLICKED THAT PIC?/ WOH PHOTO KISNE KHEENCHI by Both by Nandita da Cunha. Illustrations by Priya Kuriyan Jugnoo/Ektara, Parag Trust Initiative, 2023, 22 pp., INR 100.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Who clicked that pic? If there is a question in the title of the book, then there is bound to be curiosity. Today, when mobile cameras are common in most hands, older readers will be nostalgic seeing the cover, and younger readers full of regret that they did not get to see this two-lens heavy weight camera. Flipping open the cover page, you are greeted with a lot of picture frames, waiting for pictures to be put in them.
The story set in 1930s begins one morning with Mother saying ‘Pari! Leave your camera and brush your teeth! Are you missing class again to take your photos?’ Mother’s admonition capturing the girl’s passion for photography is a story inspired by the life of India’s first female photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla (1913–2012), written by Nandita da Cunha and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan to. This picture-story is originally written in English and translated in Hindi as वह फोटो िकसने खींचीं by Sarika Thakur. Let’s see Homai Vyarawalla’s journey in pictures.
Pari knows that Mr. Nakhrawalla’s newspaper pays ONE rupee for pictures of the festival Ganesh Chaturthi and Pari wants to earn this money to buy a new film roll. She sets out on a bicycle in search of a perfect photo with Parvez. Parvez snatches Pari’s camera and takes a photo of Pari. She is dismayed that now only nine pictures instead of ten are possible in that roll. Some readers may wonder why the fuss over ONE rupee and nine out of ten photographs. You can imagine the value of a rupee 90 years ago! On Ganesh Chaturthi, the streets are merry with children, drummers, magicians, monkeys and many more interesting things. Every two-page spread in the book shows the captured images where Pari tries to compose a stunning visual and every time something unexpected happens. Every time she worries and counts how many pictures are left. Each two-page spread of the book ends with a question —Guess what I click?
Pari remembers her mother’s sacrifice of selling her loom, so that she could spin her photo stories. She needs money to buy a film roll, the only hope was Mr. Nakhrawala’s newspaper. She feels the pressure with only two pictures left. An empty balcony appears, is it safe to climb? She climbs up and clicks the tops of turbans, topis, drums, dhotis, tokris and dolls, but that is not an amazing photo. 9 wasted and last photo to go. BOOM there is a thunderclap. As soon as the first drops of rain fall, children start dancing with joy, everyone looks up in delight… Click! Click! Click! A sea of umbrellas open as it keeps raining.
Pari and Pavez come out of the balcony, covering the camera. The photo is sold in the name of Parvez. What would happen if Mr. Nakhrawala came to know that the photo was taken by a girl? When he sees the title ‘Procession’ by Parvez Mistry, he roars, ‘How dare you two?’ Pari confesses and explains the reason. Mr. Nakhrawala orders them to leave, ‘I will decide what to do.’
Early next morning, Mama screams, ‘Pareeeeeee!’ Has Mr. Nakhrawala come to complain? Mother asks happily, ‘Is that my Pari? On the front page, no less?’ Pari also throws a punch in the air YES!! Being on the front page of The Bombay Buzz newspaper was a pleasant feeling. The story does not end here; this picture story weaves in clever anecdotes with the help of pictures. For example, at a time when the existence of women as professional photographers was denied, to avoid the argument of picture credit or ‘Who took this photo?’, Pari would quietly include Parvez in the frame!
Jugnoo, an imprint of Ektara Trust, has brought out this wonderful book for just one hundred rupees. The book has also received The Big Little Book Award for Priya Kurian’s illustrations. The spontaneity of Priya’s illustrations comes from a subtle observation of the life around her, every picture is like a photo-frame, which makes the book even more special.
Bahuroopi Books have also published this book Ee Pic Yaara Click? translated by Rashmi S in Kannada at a price of Rs.160.00.