A for amiable. C for camaraderie. Ashwani Chopra was a jovial, happy, helpful, happening photographer who served Delhi’s art field, selflessly. Pay him, don’t pay him but he continued to smile. He always had a good word for most. Came to halls to take photos of dancers and musicians unobtrusively. Others do drama, change ordinary sounding names to be in things but don’t rise above the mundane. Ashwani Chopra’s frames were like himself: natural, unaffected, unpretentious. He never attached ego to his work and dine out of routine work, which few upstart photographers now pretend to in a Delhi. All Johnies-come-lately, they strut ordinary stuff as extra ordinary. Not one for self-promotion, Chopra remained genial and gentle, ever smiling. At heart he was the quintessential artist. A photo artist.
He must be a happy man at home too with Rosy for his wife, daughter Shaily and Aditya Kapur as son in law because if one is happy at home, then one can be happy in the cruel, jealous, tiring world outside too.
Padma Shri Kathak dancers of Delhi, sisters Kamlini and Nalini on learning of his sudden passing away say “Oh, very sad. We had a long association… he served Kathak Kendra as a photographer too, he indeed was very generous and a good soul … we will miss him…”
Once at a function in BVB, at my book launch, he just came uninvited (we couldn’t afford a photographer and this was pre-cell phone days, when anyone could take a photo!) covered the function and later sent me free photos. When I said, “Ashwini bhai hum kahan se pese de sakte?” He said “pese ke liye thoda aya, aapki dosti mein aya!” True Punjabi by nature, he was: Giving, generous, gregarious. There was nothing petty about him. Dilwala dilli wala.
Many national art organisations benefitted from his photospheres. He created atmosphere of beauty and an ecosystem of goodness. Government organisations are drab places, his photos decorated the halls and galleries of many august bodies like the Kathak Kendra, National School of Drama and Sangeet Natak Akademi.
A for Ambala where he was born on March 12, 1960 and A for Anand Vihar in Delhi, where he lived with family. He will be remembered most for his gentle nature and genuine work in art photography. His heart gave up in the end but that’s because it was made of gold, in this age of tin. His end came yesterday (April 18) in Delhi. He and his camera must be now busy documenting devas in devalok. If not Vaikunth. Om Shanti.
Ashish Khokar is a renowned dance critic, historian and editor- attendance.