Negatives got us positivity in Simla of the Sixties
In today’s world when more is not enough for the generation Z kids, the breed of our generation was trying to make the best of anything we got…..and it was a blessing in disguise, training our brains to thinks in more exciting manners. The games we played, the toys we had all were the result of pure ingenious and innocence of childhood. And we would search for excitement in our life by searching for discarded pieces of “everything” which could invite excitement in our life.
And one such interesting treasure hove of excitement for me was just a few doors away in our small happening neighbourhood Lower Bazaar.
A few steps up would be Plaza hotel wale uncle watching the rolls of negatives which he himself would process. I was so much in awe of his expertise as he had developed his own darkroom for processing reels of photos that he had shot!! When he would throw away some negatives we would collect those and watch them against the backdrop of Sun and show each other the pictures therein. I never thought about it at that point of time but today I, with all admiration, can say how committed and passionate a person can be to develop his hobby!! Mornings would be his time to devote to his passion as during the day he would cater to his hotel, Plaza hotel, in front of the Kainth Cotton Works in the middle Bazaar. Once when this family went to pay obeisance at Baba Balak Nath temple and on return distributed the prasad, sweet Roat, along with a picture of the holy shrine of Baba Baak nath ji, taken and developed by the uncle ji, himself, we were so much in awe of his capabilities.
Photographing at the shrine, developing the photographs and then distributing a copy each to whole of the neighbourhood along with the prasaad of Roat!!! What ingenuity indeed. He had developed a darkroom in the house itself…though the houses were so constructed on the deep slopes of the lower Bazaar that each house seemed to be dug out like a cave….where you could go on expanding inwards digging and digging further or so I thought when I was a small girl! Once I really thought of digging another room if we so wanted! Such ingenuity and imagination ran wild in my little develish brain.
So there was no problem of establishing a darkroom in any of the houses on the hilly side. But to us, the kids of the mohalla, it was nothing short of a miracle as for us only the likes of Roshan Studios could afford to have darkroom to develop photographs. We learnt watching those negatives that nothing is as it seems and there are only shades of white and. Black intermingled with grey in any human form!!!
These negatives where the fair face was seen dark and dark clothes as white had to u dergi a difficult processing through chemicals to receive their real form. Uncle ji had diverse trays full of water or chemicals where these negatives lay immersed for treatment and thereafter were dried up… What an intricate process it was just like our life….going through so much….we have seemingly processed ourselves to the positive sides, hopefully!!!
When I watch my grandchildren moving their nimble fingers on the keypad of the gadgets in their hands so effortlessly and watching on the screens a world alien to them, I think of my own childhood days in Simla of the Sixties. I pity them as they have a readymade world before them denying them of the opportunity to explore on their own!
We had, by all means, a very happening life and so many opportunities to explore and learn in diverse manners. I am happy that the neural pathways of our brains had so much opportunity to develop new synapses and therefore the ancient bodies of all oldies in this group have young childlike brains and curiosity till date!!
Moving up for the clamour for a negative and putting it against the Sun to decipher the pictures where the light portions looked dark and the dark objects looked light, we got another interesting game to play!
The much developed version of these negatives was the pack of pictures cut from the film reels and sold in the toy shops. These were to be inserted in a special bioscope, a cheap plastic toy with a thin plastic sling attached to give a feel of a professional photographer. How proudly the child having it would display it and the children of the lesser mortals would wait for their turn to have s peep in the world of dreams, beyond their reach in real life! These small bits of picture reels would show the colours of pictures in shades and hues of reds and greens but clear enough to discern the feel of the picture! We would buy those small packs of pictures and exchange with each other. Kids of our times believed in sharing and enjoying rather than repititively watching the same pictures and getting bored!!
Watching these snippets of reels perhaps an inch in size and minutely observing all that we could see in the pictur provided our developing brains the capability to keen obsevation. As one had a limited time to watch hese pictures, the brains learnt to work at lightning speed to seek in as much information as it could….working to its full capacity and beyond!! And then putting all that information in the deep corridors of the brain for later retrieval while sharing the stories with friends made us aquire the habit of deep learning and storing!!
What more could we ask for? We developed sturdy and strong legs running up and down the stairs and alleys and a ever-growing curiocity in our brains…..all because if the games we played in Simla of the Sixties!!!