'I grew up watching Bollywood'

'I grew up watching Bollywood'

'I grew up watching Bollywood'

India is viewed in many ways by those who simply read or hear about it. But there are those who have the urge to come back every time they visit the country like Karl Dmitri Bishop.

Karl splits his year between Cambridge (UK) and Bangalore, a combination that works well for the photographer-cum-visual artist.

“I live in Bangalore for three to six months every year. I’ve always had a passion for India since I was a kid. I remember watching a Bollywood film when I was six or seven. I was too young to understand what was going on but I quickly got mesmerised
with what was flickering in front of my eyes — the dancing, colours and singing! Most kids grow up watching Disney but I grew up watching Bollywood and I’m sure my parents must have thought I was mad,” he recalls.

He adds, “As I got older, I read more books about Indian culture and Hinduism and later went to Oxford to pursue Hindu studies. I still hadn’t been to India at this point!”Owing to the fact that his childhood was submerged in this culture, coming here wasn’t such a culture shock to Karl. In fact, it only heightened his curiosity."

“I’ve been coming to India for many years, falling for the place in a new way
each time. But Bangalore holds a special place in my heart. On my first arrival to India, my friend surprised me with a one-way ticket to Bangalore,” he notes.

“I had never intended on coming here as it wasn’t on my typical ‘tourist attraction’ route. I remember being slightly annoyed having to waste my time in a City that I didn’t want to go to but that soon changed!” he says.

Continuing his ode to the City, Karl says, “I still remember sitting in that auto and travelling through the city looking for a hotel. I remember the smell in the air and instantly falling for the charm of the City.”

He adds, “The trees, gardens and beautiful old houses amazed me. I soon realised that there was something special about Bangalore. No matter what type of person you are or where you come from, you’d feel a sense of belonging in some part of its diverse population. I was most definitely ‘Bangalored’, which is in the Oxford dictionary, if someone doesn’t believe me!”

When asked if he has had any bad experiences so far, Karl politely replies, ‘Nothing too bad’ before revealing some rather interesting experiences.

“Of course, I have found myself in some rather bizarre situations, like swimming in a lake full of crocodiles and auto drivers driving me to their home to introduce their ‘new friend from the West’. The most freaked out I’ve ever been was being chased by an unknown
animal at night though a jungle nearby. I was sitting on the back of a speeding motorbike to get away from whatever was chasing us. The light on the hired bike wasn’t working and it was pitch dark. I have no idea to this day how we managed to survive!” he recalls and laughs.

Comparing his two homes, he says that Cambridge and Bangalore are ‘similar and different at the same time’.

“I have a good group of friends in Cambridge and Bangalore. But after making friends here, I realised that they like to do the same things my friends back home like to do – they enjoy going out for a drink, go for gigs, watch the same shows and talk about the same films. It was a shock to me how people growing up in completely different settings could grow up liking the same things as me,” he notes.

Bollywood, the Himalayas, Hindu temples and festivals have all inspired Karl. “India has influenced me as an artist. My work explores our roots – who we are, where we came from and how it’s made us who we are today. |I feel that we live in a mechanical age where we have lost our sense of belonging. There is no mystery or magic anymore. But in India, there’s a much stronger connection with the past that’s still alive today. There’s also some very interesting artwork and music coming out of India.”

He adds that he has met some amazing people here without whom he wouldn’t be who he is today. When he leaves the City, what does he yearn for most?

 “Everything – from waking up and feeling sunlight stream in through the window to the chai man shouting down the road to diving into the bizarre streets. Somebody once told me that once you’ve felt the Indian dust, you can never be free of it,” wraps up Karl.