Monday I meet my friend Kari for lunch at her favorite veg restaurant. I like the veg restaurants, but I prefer having meat. I somehow don’t think the veg restaurants are any healthier than non-veg, since their curries and sauces are so hearty.
I decide to walk to Fort to meet with the editor of the magazine, Auto India, but I seem to underestimate the distance and the effects of humidity. By the time I arrive I am thoroughly soaked with sweat. I got this meeting through a contact my friend and photographer Jeremiah Wilson gave me, a photo retoucher in Mumbai who in turn gave me a contact of photographer Makarand Baokar who works in-house for Auto India.
Bob the editor. I meet Bob. He is bald and wears thick-rimmed glasses. His posture says he is someone who holds his position not because of who he knows but because of what he has done. He greets me with a warmer smile than I’m used to receiving from men in his position in the U.S. and begins to ask me about my story. We look through my portfolio, and everyone in the office at least feigns being impressed. Bob starts calling his colleagues, trying to set up meetings for me. World Wide Media. Top Gear India. Inside Outside. He tells me to let him know when I am back in Mumbai permanently.
I had planned on going to visit a few marketing firms in central Mumbai, but I decide it is too late in the day, and I want to say goodbye to James and Ben who are leaving to Diu in the evening. I stop by a photography shop and get my portfolio transferred to CD so I can drop it off at the office of the Photography Guild of India. My portfolio has to be accepted before I’m allowed to become a member. Annual fees are 2,000/- or roughly $40, compared to the $260 some I paid to join the Advertising Photographers of America. In September they are having an exhibition I should try and some work in.
Tuesday. My last day in Mumbai. I am somewhat anxious to get back to Hyderabad. I still haven’t come to a definitive conclusion about Mumbai.
I scheduled a meeting with photographer and PGI board member Jaideep Oberoi for 10am. I had planned on taking the train, but the taxi driver insisted on taking me all the way there. I find the industrial building after asking a few different men and going the wrong direction. Jaideep is full of information, contacts, and encouragement. We talk for almost two hours.
After leaving Jaideep’s studio I meet with a studio and high quality print shop that is on the ground floor of the same building. The studio is available for rent along with medium format digital backs and lighting accessories. The printshop does high quality short-run offset printing. I can make a book to leave at a marketing firm. I decide to again forego my visit to the marketing firms, but this time until I have a decent book to give them. I will concentrate on magazines now.
I am famished and I ask around for a good non-veg restaurant. Several people tell me about the same restaurant on the other side of the train station. I have no idea what they are saying so I look on the opposite side of the train station and see nothing of what they were describing. I stop in a place called The King of Iran. Needless to say I get a lot of stares. I order something that is on special for the day. No idea what it is. The broth is good, but the mutton is sketchy. I am not a fan of the method they take in putting meet in their food. They just chop it up, bone and all, and stick whatever pieces in the dish. Would be so much easier to eat if they gave you recognizable sections. (this is every where, not just this restaurant) I cautiously order “Spacial Curd” or special yoghurt with a typo. There’s a yellow film across the top I remove then half-heartedly enjoy the rest of the cup.
I ride the train back to Mumbai CST and catch the 111 bus to Gateway. I remember the magazine on the 5th floor of the building opposite to where I met Ritam Banerjee on Sunday and I go to introduce myself. When I get off the elevator and face the door to the magazine, I realize I’ve come to the wrong place. In the entrance stands a large poster for Verve Magazine , a women’s fashion magazine. The photograph on the cover is of very high caliber, much higher than any of my “fashion” work. I go in and introduce myself to the secretary and ask to see the photo editor or a creative director. She informs me that the photo editor is out of the country and asks me to leave a card. I give her the leave behind I had printed and she asks me to sit and disappears. A young lady comes around the corner and asks if I called before I came. I did not. She is a creative director expecting to meet another foreign photographer. She asks to see my book, and I ask if a thumb drive is alright. She has trouble seeing the Powerpoint presentation on her computer so I direct her to my website. She says she’s impressed with my work and will pass it on to the photo editor. Please, she says, let her know when I am back in Mumbai. That went much better than expected.
I walk back to the hostel and meet a British guy I went to dinner with the night before. He says he’s going to meet two people from Singapore at a kabob place and asks if I want to join. We meet up with his two new friends, one a university student originally from India but has spent the last several years growing up in Singapore, the other a 23 year old female photographer and travel blogger that decided to travel around Yemen on her own. They are good company and I hope they keep in touch.
All that is left of my trip to Mumbai is getting on the train and falling asleep. I wake up eight hours closer to Hyderabad. Now I must decide…is Mumbai where I need to be for the next few years? Such a scary decision to make. I haven’t spent more than 1 year in a single place since I was 17.