EDITOR'S NOTE: In celebration of SAJA's 15th anniversary, we talked to senior journalists who have been with the organization since its early days. In these profiles, they share a bit of themselves and their association with SAJA. For the first profile, SAJA Blogger Sweta Vohra talked to New York-based photojournalist Jay Mandal.
Perhaps a bike and a passion for people is what you
need to become a well-respected journalist. At the age of
17, Jay Mandal began exploring and communicating his view of the world with just his bike and amateur Kodak camera as his tools. Today, Mandal is a well-known
photojournalist based in New York, who covers events all over the globe.
While his equipment may have changed over the years he says, “my life’s
passion has remained the same – I am an explorer and I tell stories.”
Mandal joined SAJA just two months after its inception. Over the years SAJA has become a force in the media world, and is a reflection of the influence India and Indians have on international issues. Mandal, a frequent contributor to SAJA Forum, recently was attacked when on assignment in India by Trinamul Congress activists in
Nandigram. Mandal says that the support he received after the attack from SAJA members was
overwhelming. (For excerpts from an interview with Mandal about the attack, please go to http://www.sajaforum.org/2009/05/indian-elections-new-york-photographer-jay-mandal-beaten-by-political-mob.html)
Mandal, a native of West Bengal, says
there was no script for his career path. His advise to young journalists is that one learns the most from experiences, not necessarily
from fancy university degrees.
As for the future,
Mandal says that while he is an “old man with 384,000 kilometers on a bicycle”,
his work is only half done. Perhaps, another few thousand miles
E-mail Jay: jay[at]jaymandalphoto.com or post your comments below.
It was fitting that I met G.T. Roa (above) on the holiday of Holi, the
Indian festival of color that celebrates a man’s survival thanks to his
unwavering devotion to God. On this day Hindus, especially adolescent boys,
throw or smear brightly colored, staining powders at anyone in the street.
Despite this, I left the safety of my ashram and ventured out for sweets.
Zig-zagging in order to avoid the boys, I bumped into G.T., a much-bemused
sadhu, who was color-free except for the orange uniform that all sadhus wear to
signify their life path. I thrust some sweets into his hands and said, “Happy
Holi!” He smiled: “Come and talk sometime. I will be sitting here. I am always
The next day, there he was in the same exact spot. And he
was there every day until I left four weeks later.G.T. Roa is a man who left his job as a welder for the life of a
monk, renouncing worldly desires for a life of devotion to God. One day he told
his family he was going to the mountain – the Himalayas, refuge of seers
(rishis) and saints.
I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of best wishes from people across the globe that have reached me courtesy Sree, the SAJA Forum, Nikhil @ Rediff.com and the many many personal calls and emails.
the 17 years that I spent circumventing the globe on a bicycle, sure I
did come across quite a few life-threatening situations but
nothing comes close to the irrational and incomprehensible mob frenzy
that I encountered in Nandigram on May 5. It is God’s grace alone that
saved me from getting lynched.
incident did leave me disillusioned about the times that we live in but
the concern and messages of solidarity that I have received from each
and every one of you has reaffirmed my faith in goodness, freedom of
press and human-kind.
messages -- some long, some short, some emotional and some humourous --
have been a source of inspiration and strength. I thank you all from
the depth of my heart.
I an humbled that so many of you actually made time not only to send me
"get well" messages but also offered of help -- some offered to rush
medical help, some offered to replace of my camera gears or my glasses,
even a very dear lady offered to send me multivitamins -- which are any
day most welcome!!!!!
Believe me, it means a lot to me and I thank you all!
accept my apologies for sending this mass message. My shoulder and
collarbone still hurts when I try to type. But am hopeful of recovering
fully shortly. Yes, I am fully under medical care and still have not
been able to start doing photoshoot
I hope to see you all soon and express my gratitude personally.
Photographer Jay Mandal sent us these highly entertaining shots of the former New Yorker and UN under-secretary general Shashi Tharoor, who is quickly reinventing himself as an aspiring Congress politician in Kerala.
At the core of his agenda is his own
demystification — to break out of his high-profile image and present
himself as a Keralite who can hold the common man’s hand and say, in
Malayalam, that he is the best bet. He insists that you speak to him in
‘‘I’ve begun to forget my
English,’’ he quips, as he enjoys a quick breakfast of appam and
stew at his mother’s house. Beginning his day’s campaign from the
Udiyannoor Devi temple at 8 am, Tharoor is the typical Malayalee, in white shirt
and mundu, drinking holy water from the priest as if it is the elixir of his
success. As he walks past, giggling women whisper about his handsome looks.
Tharoor does charm.
Both Tharoor and his constituency are new to each other and added to that is the language barrier.
His Malayalam is not very fluent, but he takes that more as a challenge than a handicap.
assures rural voters that their voices would be heard in Delhi both in
English and Hindi. He is also spending more time reaching out to them.
I think you can see me talking to the common man. But in my case
because my experience has been a bit different, people seem to think
that I can thrive only in air conditioned offices. I want to prove them
otherwise," says Tharoor.
A little controversy over the national anthem, from Outlook:
In his complaint, human rights activist Joy Kaitharath had alleged
that on December 16 last, Tharoor had interrupted the national anthem
after a public lecture at Kochi. He took a microphone from the table
and directed the audience to stand the way people do in the US with
their right palm placed on their chest instead of the attention posture
followed by Indians so
Tharoor told reporters at the court premises that such an incident did not take place and the allegation was a lie.
In August and September 2008, a wave of violence perpetrated by Hindus on Christian villages swept through the Khandamal district in the in the Indian state of Orissa. Most estimates put the death toll between sixty and one hundred people, with dozens of churches destroyed and thousands of homes burned to the ground. More than 50,000 people were displaced from their homes. The official reason for the violence was the murder, blamed on Christians, of a widely followed religious and political leader. But the roots of hatred lay deep in a mix of poverty and political interests undermining the fragile peaceful coexistence of faiths and ethnic groups in Orissa.
Khandamal is a mountainous area where every plain is cultivated with rice, the major source of income for the villages. Most of the inhabitants belong to the Khanwa tribe; hence the district's name. The Panos, who are the dalits at the bottom of the caste ladder, form the next big group and converted to Christianity generations ago. The percentage of Christians in Khandamal – 25 percent – is high compared to the 2.4 percent for India as a whole.
On August 23, 2008, 81-year-old Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a political party, was gunned down at night in the district. Notwithstanding the fact that Maoist guerrillas took responsibility for the murder, Christians were immediately blamed by politicians belonging to the major Hindu parties. Two days later, hordes of Hindu militants were attacking Christian homes and places of worship in Khandamal, mainly at night. Whole families were forced into hiding in the nearby forest for days with no food or water. Those who stayed behind, the old and sick or those simply not willing to surrender their land and belongings to the assailants, were killed, mutilated and burned, or severely injured.
Three months after the peak of the violence, the situation is deadlocked. While Christians are still stuck in inadequate relief camps, the local government is encouraging them to go back to their villages. But they say the threat of fresh attacks is too high, and the local police force is unable to protect them. Every week new assassinations of isolated Christian peasants are being reported, and the promised compensation of Rs. 20,000 is not enough to rebuild a house.
A relief camp near Dopakia village. There are now 12 state-run relief camps hosting displaced Christians. The situation is still tense, with the killings of Christians being reported every week.
An estimated 20 churches were burned. At least 15 Christian leaders, including Lutheran pastors, Catholic priests, and Christian missionaries, were killed while guarding their places of worship.
A crowd looks through the bullet-shattered glass of Café Leopold
I arrived in Mumbai several days before the terrorist
attacks. I was excited about being here because it's the "New York" of
India. Moreover, I wanted a change of pace since I had missed the city
life. I had been dying for a real coffee and going to a western
restaurants and bars. Also,
I had been reading the novel Shantaram, whose story takes place in
Mumbai, and I
wanted to explore the city and hopefully encounter the same
exciting adventure. The first place I visited upon my arrival was Café
Leopold located in the heart of Colaba, a tourist district. It gained
international recognition when Gregory Roberts wrote about it in his novel. Though he
described it as a watering hole where gangsters, gunrunners, drug
dealers, tourists, and locals mingled during the early years, it is
now a city landmark attracting tourists and backpackers from all over
On November 26, I went to a bar to
have drinks with some friends. We
decided to go to a local bar rather than Café Leopold because the beer
significantly cheaper. Around 9 PM I went to check my email at an
Internet café across the street from Café Leopold. Minutes later I
heard loud bangs, which I thought were firecrackers. However, more
bangs followed, and they were louder and closer. My
instinct was telling me something bad is happening outside. I knew then
they weren't firecrackers but gunshots, and my heart was racing. My
first thought was that it was a gunfight between gangs. I peeked
through the window, and I saw people scrambling and hiding in dark
alleys. The owner of the Internet café immediately locked the door and
turned off the light. He told everyone to go to another room and close
the door. People were huddling in the corner overwhelmed with terror.
Bystanders take an injured victim of the terrorist shooting out of Café Leopold
of the gunshots filled the air, and our hearts with fear. I could
hear the owner calling the cops and requesting help. I was listening
closely for police sirens to drown out the sounds of gunshots. I was
hoping that I would hear them soon. But they never came and help never
arrived. I worried about my
friends, and I hoped that they didn't go outside. Through the window I
saw a woman being carried by two men--she had been shot in the leg. On
the other side of the Internet café, a man was lying face down on the
ground, covered in blood. He was not moving, but I could see he was
barely breathing. I tried to remain calm and wait patiently for help
I saw the two killers walk calmly and confidently past our
hideout. Each of them carried a machine gun and a backpack. They
weren't in a hurry, and they didn't wear a mask to hide their faces. I
wanted to get out and help the man that was shot, but I was not sure if
there were more gunmen. I couldn't believe that the cops were nowhere
to be found because the police station was across the street from Café
Leopold. Then I saw a car stop next to the wounded man, and the driver
and the passenger put him inside. I also saw a truck next to Café
Leopold putting injured victims in the back. I knew then that it was
safe to get out. I told the owner to unlock the door, and despite his
protest he let me out. I ran towards Café Leopold and discovered the
place had been torn apart by bullets. People were still ducking under
tables, helpless. The workers of Café Leopold stepped outside with
their hands up in their air. They didn't want people to think they
were gunmen. I was worried that the gunmen would return and open fire
at us. It
was chaos and confusion, and I couldn't believe that it was happening.
took my point and shoot camera and started taking photos.
Please take a look at the following link. There are 15 photographs that say more than 15,000 words can about the floods in India. Photojournalism at its most effective...
That link, from WSJ.com, is here. He's right - it's a very good slideshow of images from a variety of sources (that first photo above is by Manish Swarup of Associated Press). I wish they'd allow us to embed the slideshow. Anyway, please do take a look and post your comments below.
There are estimated to be more than 25,000 transgendered
persons (TGs) in Mumbai, trying to survive in the face of significant
discrimination. Some earn money by
blessing and greeting people, including couples and families on special
occasions. Some work as professional
dancers in bars. Others beg for money at traffic signals or on the
street. But the majority, some sixty percent, are involved in commercial sex work. Twenty percent of the TGs living or working
in Mumbai are thought to be infected with the HIV virus, and seventy percent of the
customers are married men with children. Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is the
capital, is home to around one in five people living with HIV in India.
Some transgendered sex workers begin at the age
of 14 or 15 before joining the TG community, while others start after becoming
part of it. For most TGs, joining
the community is a way to express themselves in a unique culture. The community
becomes the family, with sisters and moms.
The 1st Lane of Kamathipura, Mumbai’s oldest and largest red-light
district, is where most of the TGs live in brothels and do sex work. Normally
in each brothel there is a family, where the guru is the owner and guide for each TG working and living in it.
Pooja (center) gets ready for a day of begging
Payal’s Guru, Inal, comes home while Payal prepares chapati
Other TG sex workers live in groups or with their
gurus in houses in the suburban areas of Mumbai. In this case, TGs do sex work
in slums or in isolated places and not in the building where they live to avoid
problems with the neighbors. Work starts around seven or eight in the evening and ends
when there are no more customers. A TG can have an average of 10 clients per
night, but in some cases they deal with more than twenty.
The luminous Tannishtha Chatterjee talks about her role in "Brick Lane," the film adaptation of Monica Ali's novel about a Bangladeshi family in Britain. Chatterjee spoke after a special screening of the film one day before its US release.
Manu Narayan (center), who co-stars with Mike Meyers in "The Love Guru," shares a meal with Diana Rohini LaVigne, Sree Sreenivasan, and Sugi Ganeshananthan.
Nikhil Deogun, international editor of the Wall Street Journal, speaks at the opening plenary session.
Amitava Kumar leads his popular seminar on long-form narrative writing.
Photographers Dipti Vaidya of The Tennessean and Adam Huggins of The New York Times, with Annalisa Merelli, at the reception at the new New York Times building.