Yesterday was the last day of the old Parliament building. During its 75yrs of service I had the opportunity to cover Parliament for 1yr as the Chief Photographer of DNA newspaper, Delhi.
I enjoyed that year to the fullest. I found the Parliament to be the most interesting part as a PIB accredited journalist, though my former colleagues might differ.
The architecture of the round building is really wonderful. The tall pillars, high ceilings, wide stairs and the never-ending corridors were fascinating. Once I had to go to the Shiv Sena’s room in the Parliament and then I realised that this grand building housed narrow corridors along awkward stairways too.
As a photographer we were only allowed outside the building except during the lunch time and that too only to the canteen and the Central Hall during any special events with special passes.
Taking a photo of the parliament building with an extra wide lens from beside the Gandhi statue was mandatory for every photographer. And post mobile phone revolution its mandatory too to take selfie with the grand structure. This was a nice place to get close to the seniors. I miss shoving with Pritam (Asian Age), Moorti (The Hindu), Arvind ji (Hindustan Times), Sonu (Hindustan), Manvender (PTI), Sipra di (Senior photojournalist), Shahbaz bhai (PTI).
The Gandhi statue was the favourite place for the opposition parties to protest. I have even witnessed them destroying the flowers kept for beautification in the name of protest. I also saw the senior Parliamentarians smoking in front of the Gandhi statue (a prohibited place).
During the Parliament session our job was to shuttle between the two entrances of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively. The distance was more than 100metres. Things were a little difficult when two leaders (in news on that day) arrived at the same time in two different gates. Once during such sprints my unpadded bag went off flying in the air though I luckily managed to catch it by fluke. Saved many thousands for my office with that shot.
The Budget session was quite an event at the Parliament. We had three spots to choose from. The two sides of the stairs of the main entrance and one opposite to the stairs. Every centimeter mattered. It was like a lottery. Which side will have the best view of the finance minister raising the briefcase? was a million-dollar (rupees) question. Since childhood days we saw that stereotype photo and yet I was very thrilled to capture that moment. Another cliched photo was the sniffer dogs sniffing at the stack of budget documents. Clicked that too, very boring.
When PM Modi was elected as the Prime Minister and came to the Parliament for the first time, I was very excited to capture that historic moment. When he arrived at the stairs, he was surrounded by his security men and all the cameras were at least 2ft away from the respective photographers to capture the moment which he was unable to see. I was no exception but PM Modi being Modi did the unexpected. He touched his head at the stairs and prayed. Me and my camera both missed that which I still regret.
The historic Central Hall is decorated with huge portraits of national heroes. This hall has experienced so many historic events that it would give anyone goosebumps. The ceiling is so high that the ceiling fans are not hanging but fixed upside down on dedicated pillars. Flashlight gets lost in this huge hall, just imagine the hugeness of it.
The best part of the Parliament was its canteen. There are two canteens where we had access to. One is a bit sophisticated one which had access to the MPs. The other one was dedicated for media persons only. These were both selling subsidised meals. I used to wait for the lunch time to have a plate of biriyani. A plate full of biriyani for just Rs.51/-. Since the reporters had access to the canteen prior to us so only the luckiest of us would get the biriyani. I always enjoyed having food there. The place was very cramped, those who couldn’t get a seat had to eat standing in the balcony. There was another canteen in the annex building which was for breakfast. Burp!!!
I miss going to the parliament even today.
During the Parliament sessions mostly we photographers used to click only those cliched “going in” “coming out” photos of the politicians. I always loved to click the offbeat photos there. The car trunk full of saplings of the environment minister on the occasion of environment day; the parliament staff moving out with the portrait of the outgoing PM Manmohan Singh after the 2014 Lok Sabha election; A parliamentarian smoking in front of the Gandhi statue; The politicians who fight during the elections engaging in hugs post sessions.
Whenever the celebrity Rajya Sabha members visited the parliament made it became a very busy spot. Be it Sachin Tendulkar, Rekha or Mithun Chakraborty, the craze was different. Have seen journalist’s touching the feet of politicians. Jaya Bachhan was famous for shouting at the photographers for taking her photos. Moonmoon Sen's naughty looks for the camera with her Pallu on the edge. I remember politicians being taken to hospital after they sprayed pepper spray during Telengana debate in a fury. Scenes of politicians distributing sweets after Telengana a separate state was formed was also a memorable incident.
Don't know if I would ever get a chance to enter the new Parliament building, the nation has all the best wishes for having a new one.