I had no idea what it was. I had seen many pictures- sketched, embedded or sculptured as a piece of stone art. But when I saw the first photograph, I was nine. It was a black & white one, from the seventy’s. Indeed, it was so descriptive. How easily one grabs the human emotions into something real & proven! Right from the faces, the background, the lifestyle of people, everything was properly evident and beautifully portrayed. Though every photograph may not guarantee the true notion. Some might have been forced while some unintentional.
Since then, I had been an ardent fan-cum-admirer of photography. My childhood had never been stagnant. Being the son of an army personnel filled the heart with immense respect. At the same time, I had no place for emotions. I had seen countless faces right from the banks of Brahmaputra to the cliffs of the Annapurna. Relocating to new places made me aware of new surroundings, new behaviours and new friends. During those awful afternoons of spring, I used to look for various birds over the woods of the Kumaon ranges. I bought this small toy-camera from Kumbh Mela and I used to click those everlasting meadows and the blushing horizons.
All in vain, though.
I wasn’t someone who would dedicate hours in the library. So, soon after my bachelors, I had shifted my career towards art and photography. Since my early twenties, I had been assisting Zeeshan Bhai. I used to carry the wires and pieces of equipment for his setup. Often, I used to visit new places and accompany him for various ad campaigns. I was quite inquisitive about the technicalities of the shoot. Sometimes, I used to just give random opinions and he used to pretty much like them. Gradually, I gained much knowledge about the various intricacies such as light, exposure and timing.
After the long burning of the midnight oil, finally, I got myself a DSLR. Zeeshan Bhai always used to say, “ Eye is the ultimate weapon of photography. No camera can portray what you can see beyond. What you see, is what you express! Always keep in mind, Shere.” He used to lovingly call me Shere! Indeed, we bonded pretty well with a great rapport.
When I had clicked the first photograph of a roadside teenager selling balloons, I was quite confident that I could make good things look great. Even my mentor had praised me for the theme. Since then, I had been seeing, experimenting, and grilling my clicking skills for few years. Meanwhile, I tried my best for the proper upbringing of my daughter, Deepti. She had just started treading the vast desert of knowledge. Since I had to move out for outstation shoots often, my wife played the pivotal role of guidance and support. Nostalgia hits me whenever I glance at the orientation day photograph of my daughter. With the two of us along, she seemed so excited.
We have come across quite a bit, my princess!
Now, I am fifty-five, a tad old guy with white whiskers. I still don’t call myself a perfectionist. For someone, perfection may be the river-bed, while the peaks could be the limit for the rest. So, in my eyes, I had been the sole contender.
I had my own small studio on Janpath Marg, with the two of us-both Shubhash and myself. Subhash is a young and talented, who often used to assist me in various outdoor projects. It hasn’t been long since I lost my family. I was on the verge of discovering new styles, shades, designs -getting different roles and offers. But who knew, that our destiny would simply wipe us out from fulfilling those dreams. My trip to Rajasthan was cut short as soon as I heard some terrible news in my hometown in Uttarakhand.
A million ounces of water, and the woeful echoes of people alongside. That’s what I could see all over.
With months passing by, I couldn’t find solace in my life anymore. It carried on throughout the rest of my life. I couldn’t sink in the fact that I was left with none other than myself. There’s nobody to play mischiefs with, neither someone pleading for those meatballs at the Chinese restaurant.
Anyways life didn’t wait for me, either. After getting to know, the last few glimpses of the tragedy from a close-by friend, I had nothing left inside me- except repentance. Its been two decades, since I lost my “ones”- the only ones I had. Initially, I couldn’t focus on my shoot at all. Every time, I mounted my lens, tons of regret and depression used to shatter my mindset. On several occasions, I had thought to quit photography forever. Still, Shubu always infuses the courage and helps me fight for life every day. For everyone else, he may be an amputee, but for me, he’s a warrior. My Shere!
I had been clicking faces- happy, glee, tempting and dull. I received much appreciation for whatever I did. Though, there wasn’t any cease on criticism. I still hit my refresh button, whenever I get a chance to click those budding toddlers, wearing those new uniforms. Deep down, I recapitulate those days, with my own child.
But something keeps me peaceful amidst all the rush.
For someone like me, who are always captured and still going on clicking people, with wide jaws and cute smiles, my life has been a damn living oxymoron.
Every night, I look at that last family photograph, clicked years ago. I talk, smile, convey my applauses and experiences of the day to my beloved ones, up there.
“A bit closer,… yeah, all good, ….. okay, so smile please….!!!!!”