As a brown-skinned and clearly Indian-featured woman, I should blend in, but I stand out with my camera and attire - just as it was in Brick Lane. I document the reactions to me and my camera - and suddenly I'm the subject - a change from the usual routine of being the observer, the photographer.
Some men wave and strike a pose.
Some shyly wave, and then blush furiously.
I click a shop sign while the Sikh owner watches me with a smile.
"Give me a pound"
"Give me a pound", he repeats.
"Because you clicked my shop sign" he grins.
I give him a look, shake my head and smile that says "nice try Mister" without saying it aloud. We both know the other is Indian. I walk away, as he laughs.
Some others deliberately saunter into the frame and pretend to be nonchalant about it (a typical behavioural trait of Indian men)
Yet some others are unaware of me - too drunk to notice, too taken by the glittery pawnshop.
But the women are different. They do not want my camera on them. Some turn their backs on me, a bit arrogantly at times.
And some just go on with their business even though they know I'm clicking them - which is both a relief (after the men's reactions) and a bit unsettling at the same time.
But some women tear out of the frame! I had to put away the camera and reassure a couple of very scared hijab-wearing young women that I did not take their picture, that I was only clicking the signboard above their heads. I have to repeat myself a couple of times, gently, firmly, asking them not to worry. I do wonder what scared them so much. It couldn't have been me, they were only threatened by my camera.
"Kya baat hai badi photo le rahe ho!" (What's with all the photography, then?! - loosely translated and said in a leery tone)
Hello?! Oh Hello!
I pretend not to hear and decide it's time to go home.
"Are you from TV?", he asks, looking extremely worried.
I say no.
"Then why you take picture of me?"
"I don't think I took a picture of you specifically, but I was clicking the market, I do these things..."
"You click why?"
"I click London because I like it"
He finally relaxes.
"Where will these photos go? Print?"
"On my blog, my website"
"How can I look at it? I want to see because I think you click me and I would like to see my photo"
"I can give you the website address if you want"
He breaks into a smile. "Yes please"
"Do you have a piece of paper?", I ask as I pull out my pen.
He rummages through all his pockets and finally hands me his oyster card. Thankfully my pen is a Sharpie. I scribble the url down and hand it back to him. He takes it, tries to read it aloud "ffll.... OK, thank you very much".
Dear Bengali gentleman, I don't know why you were so worried. I went through all my pictures carefully and you were nowhere in them. Sorry!