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A man of many parts

It was his fascination for the inside of a camera that motivated Thankappan to take up camera servicing as his livelihood



Thankappan at work

HE IS a man of many parts. A guitar player, a magician and a photographer in his own right, he is however most passionate about the inside of a camera. It is this fascination that has led Thankappan to take up camera servicing as his livelihood.

A native of Thiruvalla, he spent 15 years in the Indian Air Force at New Delhi. His vast experience in avionics instrumentation and technical know-how stood him in good stead when he retired and settled at Neyyattinkara in 1984.

Thankappan had a host of options before him, but chose to set up a camera repair unit for there was hardly anyone who could claim to put any kind of camera in a working condition. His stint as a staff with a Nokia service station in New Delhi had prepared him for the job on his hands, though "one camera is never like the other".

Clients

In all these years, never did Thankappan consider moving to Thiruvananthapuram though a bulk of his clients (mostly studios and those in the media) were from the city. For Thankappan, it was job satisfaction that was most important. "I was not interested in the compact camera for they do not pose any challenge. Nor was I interested in too much work. So I had to be choosy. I have had to turn away clients." It is only half a year ago that Thankappan shifted base to Thiruvananthapuram and set up Avis Camera.

Why the sudden change, that too this late in life? "For one, photography has undergone a sea change over the years. Digital photography is the rage now. And though the number of photographers has increased, the same cannot be said of their professionalism. More challenges awaited me in the city. Moreover, all my clients were here."

These reasons apart Thankappan also wanted to pass on the knowledge and experience gained over the past three-and-a-half decades to someone. Thankappan is yet come across the ideal candidate though. "Many have approached me but I tell them that they should not hope to become an expert overnight," says Thankappan. And in today's fast paced world, Thankappan's reasoning holds little appeal for most people. He has not entirely given up hope though.

Challenges

What are the challenges that have come his way? "Camera manufacturers bring out new models every year but do not divulge the technical know- how to outsiders. Neither does information on how to undertake repairs figure in books or magazines.

So, a camera serviceman has to fall back on his wits and experience to repair a camera," he says. And you do not get a second chance. "If a camera malfunctions at a critical point of time, the client will not return to the service man nor recommend him to someone else. Mistakes may cost us dear," Thankappan says.

He likens the camera to a pen. "A camera creates it's own language and mood. But photography here has a long way to go. People have sophisticated equipment but do not have a feel of photography. Our idea of photography is limited to social functions and the like," he observes.

Thankappan does not have big plans for the future.

"I want to hand over my shop, Avis Camera, to someone. But till then, I will continue to work. This is my passion. I do not depend on it to turn around my fortune. I am a satisfied man," he adds.

R. K. ROSHNI

Photo: S. Gopakumar

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