AMRITSAR:NO FADE OUT YET FOR JHATT-PHATT PHOTOS,LAL TOPIWALAS
This “dentist” in Amritsar confesses earnings up to Rs 4000 per month
A man sits almost motionlessly. He removes a cover from a black case mounted on a makeshift tripod made of old crutches. Within five minutes his black and white (B&W) picture is ready — all with the help of a century-old “jhat patt” (immediate) camera.
BY RASHMI TALWAR
AMRITSAR : While early pin-hole and daguerreotype cameras may have found proud berths in museums in France or other developed countries, the improvised “desi” versions of these cameras are still a source of income in the city, despite the hi-tech innovations in the field of photography.
The indigenously-made “desi” camera called “mint” camera has many takers. It can churn out a good number of photos, and at Rs 25 for two pairs of passport-size photos, there are many who prefer to have their pictures clicked with these cameras to save a few bucks. Photographs for admission, pension and other official purposes are often clicked with such cameras.
Says Mr Kulwant Singh, owner of Bedi Studios, “My ‘ancient’ camera comes alive several times in a day.” Clearly his century-old apparatus competes with the camera of his next-door neighbour who has set up a newly-innovated computer operation studio using the back portion of an auto-rickshaw that has been turned into a colour-lab run by a genset that even has a fan to keep the machinery cool!
Interestingly, many foreigners flock to these “jhatt-patt” cameras to get themselves clicked and carry back memories of the city. Mr Kulwant Singh still earns up to Rs 200 per day from his “jhat patt” camera. He reveals that about seven such “desi” studios continue to line up near the base of the Bhandari Bridge on the way to the railway station.
The city, in fact, is unique in many ways. Here, century-old delights continue to co-exist with the latest technological advances. Next to the photo stall, a “quack” dentist displays various dentures and tooth moulds and his banner reads — “Full denture and artificial teeth”. This “dentist” confesses earnings up to Rs 4000 per month. The profession is more than century-old, he says, as his forefathers had passed it on to him. Dr Navneet Grewal, Assistant Professor and Head, Government Dental College, says that these “quacks” often are not equipped to treat patients. “We get ‘spoilt’ cases of infections, especially from the lower socio-economic strata of society to which these quacks cater.”
Near Jhajgarh and Shani Mata Mandir, Hall Gate, a troop of “ear-cleaners” or “Lal Topiwalas”, as they are popularly referred to, descends in mornings. Many a customer is seen enjoying the strange luxury of someone cleaning his ears. But it is a fact that more than cleaning, these so-called ear-cleaners induce infections. Dr Vivek Khanna, an ENT specialist, admits that amateur cleaning could lead to “iatrogenic infection” (induced) that is caused by unhygienic conditions.
Also “medical messiahs” who claim to be “Khandani Hakims” (ancestral hakims) exploit ignorant people who hesitate to approach qualified doctors due to “social stigma” attached to sexual problems. Clinics run by chemists or grocery shop owners are seen openly selling ‘wonder drugs’ with tall promises of aphrodisiac power. The trump card of most of these unscrupulous persons is a catchy line like “fresh herbs from high altitudes” and big hoardings such as “action”, “energy creator”, “safe harmless herbal capsules”, “a triple energiser for all types of weaknesses”. Such tactics are enough to fleece the gullible customers. “Quackery is the legitimate offspring of ignorance,” says Dr Suresh Chauhan, a qualified Ayurvedic doctor.
The city offers yet more interesting age-old customer-care contraptions. “Kacha-koyla hot presses” operating on pushcarts can give a corporate look to any shirt in the city at just 80 paisa for one shirt! While models of such irons find place as mementos in houses of NRIs abroad, in the city they are very much a part of the daily life.
There’s still more. The dhobi ghats of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time continue to make bhatti (furnace). Manual washing on these ghats is carried out in the city despite the use of hydro machines. Similarly, vendors selling “kikar ki datan” (indigenous toothbrush) are still popular with old-timers, though some use datans of neem, shahtoot for medical reasons.
“Budhi mai da jhatta” candy-man often rings a familiar bell in the city and jaggery-man “gatta wala” blows the whistle ever so sweetly as he designs peacocks, flags, cycles out of the yummy candy.
“Gola” or “chuski” (ice candy) and locally-made ice creams served on banana leaves have many takers. Special culinary delights “batta”, marble-sealed bottle of lemonade and “Rose” from Ami Chand outside the Golden Temple have become a “must-try”, despite MNC beverages and fruit juices in tetra packs! The famous “kulfi” of the Hall Bazaar, too, retains its unusual flavour despite many city cousins of it being marketed at posh shopping arcades in fancy wrappers.
Even the “desi tandoor” (earthen oven), which is exported to neighbouring countries and is especially popular in Dubai, finds favour with many foreigners and Indians who take a smaller version of it abroad for making lip-smacking naans, rotis, kulchas and all Punjabi tandoori fare that is a rage in the West.
It is learnt that persons indulging in dubious land deals prefer to get clicked from “jhatt-patt” cameras for purpose of revenue records, as the picture quality is lost within a short span of time.
This “desi” version of the pin-hole camera is an interesting device precariously balanced on a tripod made of old rickety crutches. A slot is made to put photosensitive Nova RC glossy paper from a hole made in the case and the target is positioned on a chair.
On the other side, a lid is uncovered for a split second for exposure of light from target, while a shade protects the exposure slot from sunlight. The exposed paper is pulled out from the case by the photographer who inserts his hand into an old trouser-leg of a pair of jeans attached to the other end. The paper is put into a developer solution in the case which acts like a mini “dark room” and further dropped into a fixer below which is wrapped with wet towel to keep it at suitable temperature. The pictures are ready in five minutes!