In search of Bangalore’s 99 lesser-known faces

Albert Arush Prakash believes rarely seen hundreds of nondescript people, without whom city cannot run, define the character of the city. He aims to document them as a token of gratitude.

Prema, a resident Richmond town, who feeds street dogs everyday. Pic : Albert Arul Prakash Rajendran

Murderers, rapists, racists, eve-teasers, corrupt traffic police, misbehaving auto-drivers and obnoxious bus-conductors of Bengaluru are all well-documented by the media. Media chooses to chase only a few faces of the society, leaving people in a crisis of faith about the humanity and hospitality left in the city. However there are hundred unseen faces in the society which need exposure.

Working as a Senior Engineering manager in a multinational company during weekdays, 34-year-old Albert Arul Prakash Rajendran is a passionate photographer, roaming the city streets with his camera during weekends, in search of humble faces that reinforce our faith in humanity and hospitality of our city.

99 faces of Bangalore is a project he started in May 2014, as an expression of his gratitude to these people who, he contends, are the very essence of this city. “My project”, he says, “is about highlighting the 99 faces that are ignored by the media, and ignoring the hundredth face which has now threatened to become the defining character of the city.”

The tendency is to associate inhospitable characters to the very fabric of the city. On the other hand, says Prakash, “I see IT professionals claiming that they define this city and that it is due to them, that Bangalore city was put on the world map…  However, if we look at the fabric of this city, the contribution towards the hospitable living in this city by IT workforce is minimal.”

They may be the icing on the top of the cake. But the cake, or the city, itself, he says, is held up by those at the bottom of the chain, catering the needs to the top. “Imagine the plight of Bangalore if the garbage collectors went on a strike for a week. There is nothing we can do but walk around the garbage piles closing our noses. We will make no efforts to segregate the garbage at our houses before disposing, but we will, nonetheless, blame those workers for going on a strike.”;

Albert Arul Prakash Rajendran

99 faces in next two-and-half years

One such face he had discovered was that of Prema, an old homeless lady in Richmond town, who feeds 30 abandoned stray dogs each day, while she herself lives on a meagre 600 rupees she earns in a month by working as a housemaid. “She is my fourth face of Bangalore, [exemplifying that lack of] money does not stop one from doing good deeds,” he says.

Although he has dedicated his weekends to this project, he is, regardless of what day it is, always armed with his camera. “You would not know when the opportunity comes to find a new face. The laptop bag, which I carry to office, is actually my photography bag, custom stitched to hold all photography gear along with laptop.”

He regularly keeps an eye on online communities like Put Me In Touch, Whitefield Rising, Cupa, Bombat Dogwz etc for potential story leads. In fact he first learnt about Prema from a person who posted about her in CUPA and left him a message. 

“I have prepared a list of 20 faces, each denoting a certain trait that warrants our sincere gratitude. I am yet to find all of them. The remaining of the 99 faces will be identified as and when I discover them. But even the list of 20 I have already prepared changes every day based on my experience and parameters I set. I hope to wrap up the project with the 99th face in the next two and a half years. Will need ample time to verify, validate and authenticate that each person who goes onto this page is a real face.”

What you do defines the face of the city

When asked if he is confident that all those faces which make the city better can be summarized in 99 faces, he assures that they cannot. “But it is a start. Perhaps after I close the project with the 99th face, some other inspired person will expand it to 999 faces.” If this inspires others to search for more such faces, that, he says, will be the victory of his project.

Though this is a solo-project, if you are interested in contributing, you are “always welcome to provide information about the genuine people you meet and want to thank. If you provide a photograph, the copyright and credits will be given to the photographer”, he assures.

When asked what is the underlying common characteristic of these 99 faces he is looking for, he says:
“I like this dialog from Batman begins. “Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” Anybody fits with this dialog is the face of Bangalore. It does not matter who you are and how you are. What you do defines you as a Face of Bangalore.”

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