Exclusive: The President’s Photographer, Know About Samar Mondol
Jobs in India are fundamentally meant to chase your livelihood or to chase your dreams. Sometimes your sheer dedication and commitment for tasks give you a big leap in life that exposes your different variants, soiled with immense hardships and adversity. Such is the story of Mr. Samar Mondol who hails from the outskirts of Kolkata, West Bengal. He took one of the most hectic and responsible jobs in this world to serve as the President’s official photographer.
Samar Mondol was the man behind the plethora of still photographs of former Indian presidents. He served as the official photographer for 8 former Indian Presidents. Taking his first big assignment for the then President Gyani Zail Singh, he retired during the current regime of honourable President Shri Ram Nath Kovind. After Zail Singh, he worked for R. Venkataraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma, KR Naraynan, APJ Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee.
The 60-years-old Samar Mondol while going down the memory lanes spills some beans about his life. His early life in Kolkata saw days filled with adversity and crises at nights. When his family couldn’t afford his primary education and he was dropped out from the school in 5th STD, soon he decided to do some odd jobs in the streets of Kolkata. Mr. Samar Mondol was headstrong to complete his secondary education and then his intermediate and finally a diploma course in photography in Kolkata. His aspirations took him to Delhi in the year of 1987 where he was selected as the official photographer for Gyani Zail Singh.
About his rapport with all the eight Presidents Mr. Mondol says, “Working with such learned and important people of the country opens up number of challenges in front of a person. Every President is different in his or her approach. Tuning with them is extremely important. Along with the Presidents one has to deal with the bureaucrats as well. In the last 2 decades of my service I came across various challenges.”
When asked whom do you admire the most during your service he denies commenting upon that, however, he did not hesitate to applause the missile man of Indian, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. He said, “Kalam Saab was a different personality altogether. His calmness was his key. At many instances he used to ask me about my view on a particular issue. Once, the government of India initiated a scheme to educate the children who could not afford education. It was ‘Each One, Teach One’. Under this flagship program the students from finishing schools were supposed to nearby villages and help poor students. Kalam saab asked me what my view was. I suggested him that these students from rich family background will never understand the essence of the objective. Why not ask their parents to educate one of their domestic helps in every household? It will automatically serve the purpose without pushing the well-off students to visit villages on weekends. As soon as I completed my sentence he humbly accepted my suggestion and directed other authorities to do the same.”
Mr. Mondol further says..
“Apart from Kalam Saab, former President Smt. Pratibha Patil did also seek my suggestions on some instances. Sometimes I thought it was their generosity that Indian Presidents are taking a note of my aid.”
About his foreign trips with the Presidents, he said, “I have 4 passports completely filled. You can imagine how frequently I travelled abroad. This was my job. I couldn’t give much time to the family because of my foreign trips. It’s my wife who made my home a family. She handled those days with great pious and calmness.”
Mr. Samar Mondol is married to Deepika Mondol, who is the General Secretary of an NGO named as ‘Divya Jyoti Cultural Organization and Welfare Society’. She is known as an ace social worker dedicated to uplift the lives of thousands. Recently, her work was recognized when a photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi went viral while he was greeting a woman with his folded hands. The woman was Deepika Mondol. The NGO promotes Indian art and culture, Education and Literacy vocational training to work on Tribal Affairs.
Many of you would think that post-retirement the couple would be enjoying their leisure time but as I mentioned above that ‘big leap in life opens up different variations’, Mr. Mondol and his wife are planning to launch a Gurukul in his hometown in Kolkata. Samar Mondol says that the thought of the Gurukul was inspired by a dream which he saw decades ago. Since then he has been trying to open up a Gurukul. Even in his 60s, his aspiration is inspiration for the millennial in today’s world. He lived his job enthusiastically for years where ‘Age is just a number’ for the Samar Mondol.