words: MUJAHID HABIB / photos: MESUM VERMA
It was another lovely day, and I was totally unaware of whom I was going to meet. But it wasn’t that hard for me to figure out the guy in cool colorful sunglasses. And that’s how I met Mesum Verma. The man I am talking about is a photographer who shoots for various magazines around the world, especially those having extreme sports columns. Mesum is well known in his community, and now I want to introduce myself. My name is Mujahid Habib , I am a native of a small town named Rampur, which is full of culture and heritage. I practice an extreme sport known as Parkour and freerunning, I am also pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the well known university Jamia Millia Islamia, and I am the first person to win the Red Bull's Parkour and freerunning competition held in Oct. 2013 in Mumbai, India.
It was not my first time working with a professional photographer, but this man is a mountain biker, and also a semi-pro snowboarder before this profession. This is probably the reason that he knows a lot about the mental setup of an athlete, the way we athletes think. The moment before that huge jump, you just don’t want anyone to interrupt that thought and stop you.
He knows this well and I noticed that, he knows when to get ready. On the first day together in Delhi, it was about 4 PM that we decided to go to a nearby place known as Connaught Place, to take some pictures and see how we both work together, and to improve our coordination. As Independence Day was near, we saw a huge flag flagging in the air at about 50 meters height. We decided to click that flag incorporating a flip, so we selected a high platform and then tried different shots from different angles. Then we took some more shots with a structure standing above the underground parking, which is actually a skylight. After that shoot, we sought out another site, and found Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in Delhi. It was the holy month of Ramzan and every day there was an Iftar (dinner) inside the mosque, and everyone was allowed to take Iftar. So we went there and decided the location for next day. Afterwards we said goodbye for the day.
We had decided to meet at 7 in the morning next day, but because of usually heavy traffic in Delhi, it was impossible to reach our destination on time. I was at least two hours late. Mesum was already there when I reached the rendezvous. He was really frustrated, because someone outside the mosque had stopped him from entering, and asked him for money. When I got there we decided to enter from a different gate, so we did successfully. The next thing was to shoot the pictures, and this was much easier than entering. We got some really good shots with pigeons flying in the background and me trying a flip on an old man’s shoulder. But as I was doing everything barefoot, I hurt my ankle, so we decided to move on to the next spot, which was India Gate. The location didn’t have many obstacles to try different moves. It was completely flat and after doing some flips on ground we started looking for some interesting location where we could find some gaps or heights for jumps, as free running is all about using your environment. We luckily found one; a big fountain adjoining India Gate, surrounded by a water body, and stones in between the fountain and the ground. That was the last shot of that day, and as Mesum had to leave for shooting in the mountains, we decided to do another session after his return to Delhi.
It was 3 weeks later that we met again, on the same spot, outside the New Delhi station, and then we decided to go to the heritage site known as Lodhi Garden. It is a garden full of huge scale monuments and landscapes. We started with the entry gate of one of the tombs, and then jumping out of the window of another building. Then a guard came to us warning us not to jump from those monuments, so we decided to use some bars, nearby in the garden. And then with Mesum sitting on the ground and me doing a flip over him. And then we decided to take a final shot that we wanted. It was the one for which I needed to enter the monument so we waited for the guard to go away. After some time, the guard wandered off and we entered, and took the shot. We clicked two or three times, but the guard returned, and we had to run away. We took an auto rickshaw out of the area, and then we shook hands and hugged each other, wishing to see each other some other day again.