In 1960, I started working as an assistant at Sagar Studio in Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi. There, I apprenticed for four years under Mr. B.S. Gupta, the owner of the studio, and began quite simply sweeping the studio’s floors before I was given the opportunity to take photos. I was initially allowed only to work on simple projects, such as employee identification-card photos for the Home Ministry. After six months, I gained the confidence of Mr. Gupta and was allowed to take wedding photos and portraits. In 1965, I was employed by the Audio-Visual branch of the National Council of Education, Research and Training (NCERT), where I worked until 1972 as a Darkroom Assistant under Mr. Yashpal Khanna. The rough photography skills I had gained over the past several years were refined at NCERT. In 1966, while working at NCERT, my family and I began Awasthi Photo Studio at Ring Road Market in Naroji Nagar, New Delhi. With three talented photographers in the family, we could not help but enter the wedding- and portrait-photography marketplace. We shot photos for some very important persons, such as the Vice President of India, the late V.V. Giri, and the then-Education Minister, the late V.K.R.V. Rao. We even shot photos of famous Indians actors, such as Jitendra and Rajsree (Geet Gaya Patthron Ne), Dharmendra (Neel Kamal) and Mala Sinha, as well as Madan Puri and Manoj Kumar.

I came to Canada in 1972 upon the invitation of my brother, Joginder Awasti, and stayed with his family; my wife, Aruna, and son, Rajesh, came to Canada in 1973. Our families lived together for another year while I worked at Jasco Colour Lab until 1976 and studied photography simultaneously at Sir George William University; it was amalgamated into Concordia University in 1974. Indian and Canadian, or North American, standards of photography are very different. There are significant cultural differences, also, between the two that influence how we tell a story photographically. In India, colour photography was not popular; and photo processing was performed manually. In Canada, colour photography was beginning to dominate the market; and processing was automated. Consequently, I returned to school to learn these new ways of photographic perception and presentation; and to improve my technical skills. In 1978, I joined Master Colour Photo Lab as a partner, where I participated in all types of photographic projects— taking photographs and developing them— and worked there until 1983.

My perspective on Canada and India and retaining “Indianness” and connections to India. After almost fifty years in Canada, this country has become mine. India is an important part of my cultural identity and my past; I do not reject them, nor will I ever abandon them. I do remember them, the time of my youth, my friends and family quite fondly, but Canada is home as my heart and soul are now here. Most of my children were born and raised here; they, too, are essentially Canadian. They do not deny their Indian background, but their identity is disconnected from Indian culture. Our family speaks in Punjabi and Hindi; we do partake in cultural and religious activities; we watch and enjoy Bollywood films but, surely, they are not entirely representative of contemporary Indian culture. Will they or their children ever consider migrating to India? I do not know and will leave that decision to them.

Global image of India; suggestions for its improvement. The government of India has two images to break: India as a poor, developing nation; and India as a nation whose economy and citizenry are limited by inefficiency, lack of depth— technological; research and development; and financial—; and by individual, political and institutional corruption. In addition, India is perceived as a collection of disparate nations; not as a nation unified under one flag. India is gaining strength globally, but its gains seem superficial and fragile. The most important questions for India and Indians to answer: What do we aspire to achieve globally? Do we dream of becoming a global power equal to the Group of Seven nations; do we wish to exceed them? Do we wish to become a global military power? Do we aspire to remain a regional or local power; and a nation satisfied in servicing a niche market? What is India’s place in the future world? What does India hope to give its citizens? A less-polluted, more-healthy and secure environment and food supply; better access to governmental services that are more effective and efficient; better primary and secondary education, and strong, goodquality public healthcare; stable, long-term policies that facilitate public and private investment to promote job growth and improved employment and labour standards? Perhaps these are not all achievable immediately or at all, but they are worth the effort. In the end, these are questions for India and Indians to answer; the diaspora can only lend its moral support. We would not want to be too deeply involved in India’s internal affairs as to be unwelcome.