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I love you and loathe you… with Aarash K from Mumbai

I knew this boy was gonna be trouble before we ever met. When I first made contact with Aarash before my trip to India, he was totally keen on taking part in Elska but also way too casual about the details. When I told him he needed to write a story, the response was “no problem”; when I tried to schedule our shoot, he’d say “just let me know when you get to Mumbai”… I didn’t hold my breath, so when we finally did meet, I was surprised. 

Yet despite my worries, we had an amazing shoot. He took me on the back of his bike and rode me around his neighbourhood, stopping in loads of interesting spots. His district, Kurla, was a fascinating mix of old and new, decrepit and modern. One particularly striking sight was a landscape of still-empty apartment blocks lining a street filled waist high with rubbish (a local even stopped by thinking I was a journalist and asked me to please draw attention to the dumping). Another sight was an area of shops selling just car parts. And then another was a square of gleaming international office buildings (where we stopped for tea and cake). A truly mixed up sort of place, which I love. And then it was time to go back to Aarash’s place for the more intimate shots.

It was such a great day that my doubts about Aarash went away. And then I waited for him to send his story. And I waited and waited and waited. So long that I prepared an alternate version of the issue without him. And then, just at the last minute, his story came. Oh Aarash, I love you and loathe you at once, kinda like how I feel about Bombay!

To see more of Aarash K and to read that story, pick up Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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Marathi Charm… with Anzie V in Mumbai

After I shot Anzie in my room at Abode Bombay we headed out into the neighbourhood for some street shots. Barely five metres from the hotel entrance, however, I felt a swift breeze sweep up behind me followed by a tap on the shoulder. It was a cop.

Only the second day in Mumbai and it was already my second (and not the last) run-in with the local police, who seemed to have a problem with a white guy toting a camera. And in every case dealing with cops, they didn’t speak any English. They didn’t (or wouldn’t) even speak Hindi. It was always Marathi, the local Maharashtrian language.

With Anzie, who fortunately spoke Marathi, he was able to get the cop off our backs. At first he wanted ID. Then he seemed to want to see a permit for shooting (which we didn’t need). Then he was just trying to be smarmy and obtuse. If it wasn’t for that Marathi charm offensive, who knows what would have happened to us and this issue?  

The dealings with cops aside, I realised that language has a big role to play in the local culture and hierarchy. Even name of the city was changed from “Bombay” to “Mumbai” in part to appease Marathi nationalism. But while the cops seemed to love speaking Marathi, our boys didn’t. Although most of the boys in the issue could speak it, none of them wanted to write their story in it. They all wanted to write in English. The only exception was from a boy who barely spoke English, though he wrote his story in Hindi rather than his native Marathi. It was like Marathi was something to be ashamed of, perhaps a sign of not being educated or being low class… I really don’t know. I tried to ask, but the responses I got never really seemed truthful. All I can say is that ten days in India isn’t enough to understand this place but it certainly makes you want to come back and get deeper.

To see more of Anzie V and to read his story (in English), pick up a copy of Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).