Heard about Satyan’s demise from his neighbourhood friend Mr Bapu Satyanarayana ; shared an auto-ride with Satyam’s long-time media colleague Mr Krishna Vattam to his Saraswathipuram residence, Mysore , for the last glimpse of Satyan. His mortal remains were placed for public homage on his frontyard. Within half hour after our arrival he was carried away to the crematerium.
A graduate from the Maharaja’s, of 1944 vintage, Mr Satyan took to photography at a time when most others in his profession were not even schooled enough to write a photo caption in grammatical English. Satyan rose to represent Life magazine, an odd sized and picture-filled weekly founded by Henry Luce in 1936. As someone accredited to Life , Satyan enjoyed the status of an aristocrat among the Delhi press corps those days. But this photo-man from Mysore retained his common touch.
To quote him , “My people are not the rich and the famous; they are simple ordinary folk…..(who) were there when I picked up the camera six decades ago, and they have been there every time I have gone back to capture the interesting moments in their lives” So wrote Satyan in 2002, when his In Love with Life - a photo journey through life - was released.
Among numerous historic events he covered for Life, if I remember right , was the flight of Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959. Among the chapters in his subsequent work – Alive and Clicking – that still sticks in my mind is Satyan’s account of a meeting with Satyajit Ray for a photo assignment , when Ray, a coffee house regular, took Satyan along for meeting friends at the Calcutta Coffee House.
My association with Satyan dated back to early 60s when I was a sarkari journalist with the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in New Delhi. Despite our gap in the pecking order in the media, Satyan always found time for a chat whenever he dropped in at my office to collect photographs of government functions and other official events handed out by the PIB photo publicity unit. He had an affinity with reporters and writers in the media. Being a photographer with a flair for writing Satyan practised photo-journalism at a time when they had not invented the term – photo-journalist.
Earlier this evening as I lingered for a while in front of his residence, after he was gone, memories of my Satyan connection flashed through mind. This photo of his deserted residence may well symbolize the end of the Satyan chapter in the book of my life.