One of Muharraq’s icons Rajab Bu Muftah is no more. He passed on a month ago.
I realised his legendary status on visiting the Old Suq two evenings ago.
On finding empty shelves and a locked door at Bu Muftah’s antique shop, I asked an accompanying friend why it was so and he told me what had happened.
“He was old, very old,” I was told. “He passed away a month ago. The entire Muharraq town gathered at his burial.”
I further learnt he had come to Bahrain from Yemen more than 60 years ago and set up a small trading business in the historic part of the island.
Business boomed and over the years, he did well, raised a family, educated his children and made sure they settled well in life.
In the last few years, too old to run around, he ran this small shop selling all kind of antiques. When they did not do good enough business, he also started selling fruits and dates.
I first saw him a year ago and he happily posed for pictures. He offered ‘discounts’ on antiques if I wished to buy some.
At first he appeared to be a stern man, not very impressed with all the attention but a brief conversation made me feel all at ease.
I did run into him a couple of times after that and we waved to each other. He seemed to be happy and content and sat at his storefront like a lord and master.
Now his shop is locked. The shelves are empty. The signboard is falling apart. All the antiques are probably locked away somewhere.
No one has any time to run his business anymore. But passersby speak about his, stop at his shop, look at the empty shelves and move on.
Clearly, a part of Muharraq, and Bahrain, has gone forever. It’s sad, but that’s life. It goes on. The wheels keep moving.
And we pass on!
I took some pictures of kite-flying enthusiasts playing with what they now call kites.
Made of plastic and fibre, with fibre strings as well, these ‘birds’ just fly in the wind, with no skill involved and no sense of adventure.
Compare this with the days when we indulged in this sport (yes, it was SPORT then) when kites were made of bamboo sticks and thin paper and the string used was a fine cotton thread laced with a fine mixture of colour, glass powder and glue!
During the kite season, the streets of almost every Indian city (except in Southern India), were ‘littered’ with kite sellers, men and women, as well as roadside kite string ‘factories’.
There were competitions, there were teams of kite flyers, and most of all, everyone indulged in the activity – young and old, men and women, boys and girls. The spirit was infectious.
The spirit still exists but the kites of yesteryear are rarely to be found. The die-hard enthusiasts are still there but one has to look for them because they are the ones who still stick to tradition in the real sense.
Most kites are now machine-manufactured though in some parts of India, traditionally the strongholds of kite-flying like Ahmedabad and Amritsar, there are still a lot of bamboo and paper kites.
But here in Bahrain, I have never seen those. There are festivals to mark occasions, in keeping with the Indian traditions, but only plastic “China-made” kites are used.
This is the modern sport anyway. Things change with time and like many others, kite-flying has also turned the corner.
Clearly, this is not the way.
But who would know? And who cares?
Also take a look at this brilliant blog:
Taking night shots is challenging but I have done a lot of it lately, mainly to discover some of the “hidden” features of my camera. This picture, of a clear moonlit night and still waters on the Manama cost, close to Bahrain’s financial district, shows the calmness of the night and the almost pin drop silence when the camera clicked.
Over the years, I have found the most difficult pictures to take in Bahrain are those of people.
It was always not easy but after the unfortunate events of February 2011, it’s become well high impossible.
Everyone seems to be somewhat suspicious of anyone with a camera, perhaps not knowing where the pictures would be used and how. Some happenings that took place in the last few years have made the ordinary people even more suspicious – or careful!
Nevertheless, I have managed to take ‘people’ pictures on several occasions, most of the times after an ‘aye’ from the subject but sometimes, using a zoom lens, on the sly!
It’s these people pictures that are the most satisfying, not only because these display human emotions bot also because of the challenge in portraying those emotions.
What is quite irritating is that when a subject agrees to his/her picture being taken, it’s no longer a picture in that sense – since it’s a ‘posed’ photograph – the subject is conscious and would not be his normal self.
That is why, the best pictures are the ones take without the subject knowing – as with all these accompanying pictures as also the one on the top of this page of three young men preparing their boat to go fishing.
Of course, it’s just a coincidence that three of these pictures show men smoking – but that’s also the reality – since smoking is very prevalent in this part of the world!
And, yes, one more thing! The ‘people’ subjects are far friendlier in some parts of Bahrain than in others. I have had men – and rarely, women, actually ‘freshen up’ to get their pictures taken when asked and in some cases, even re-enact a particular ‘scene’ that I would have wanted to photograph.
Sometimes, looking at all those books of works by great photographers makes me wonder whether I am in the right place to pursue my passion but I realise this is a far greater challenge than most places would present – since the photograph has to be ‘created’ rather than taken!