PhotoSTOP!!!

“Cake fir se khilao, photo achi nahi aayi.”

This statement pretty much sums up last decade. We all have been to that dinner when we had to delay savoring the food, because the person-with-the-camera wasn’t getting a perfect shot, or when the birthday girl had to take multiple shots to satisfy the ego of the aunty feeding it, who wanted to eat the cake and not let the picture show it too! No offence, cake.

Be it your friend’s wedding, your kids first birthday, you having a blissful afternoon nap or the first time you shat in your pants, everything is documented, everything is captured, everything is rather lost in the process.

Right from waking up in the morning to going back to sleep (also in the morning, most times), we use this tool to document every microsecond of our life, like there is no tomorrow! Not to mention, this entire exercise is to re-live these moments “tomorrow”. Somewhere between fidgeting with the camera, looking for a better angle or the moment with a better light, clicking and uploading and counting the likes, we forget to enjoy the moment.

But if only some genius could tell me how to re-live a moment that you haven’t lived in the first place?! What is the point of scheming through this beautiful life (I am not saying this, your Instagram pictures are) through a 7” screen in between!

Didn’t have a camera by my side this time,
hoping I would see the world through both my eyes.

Today I finally overcame,
trying to fit the world inside a picture frame.

Maybe you should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes;
it brought me back to life.

—John Mayer, “3×5”

Don’t get me wrong. I am not disparaging the art of photography!  I think photography is a beautiful art form. When well-executed, photos are breathtaking. Furthermore, we’re a visual culture, so pictures play a large role in the way we communicate.

But the question is about how cognizant we are to our environment. Do we lose the knowledge, the experience of the impermanence of this moment, in making it rather permanent in our life? Well, for me, the concept of using pictures to reminiscence about the past in the ‘then’ present is debatable – but let’s keep that for some other time.

There is nothing sadder than seeing a couple enjoying the sunset with their camera. There is nothing crazier than people putting their life in jeopardy for a “perfect click”. There is nothing sillier than clicking the coffee every time you give a witty name at Starbucks (oh so passé). There is no skill in getting the candid picture right on your 176th attempt.

Or like someone tweeted the other day – We are a generation with maximum documentation of Human stupidity. I couldn’t agree more. Touché.

Karmic Cleansing Retreat

So, Nashik is all geared up for probably its biggest event – the one where you would wash off all your sins in the most unhygienic way possible! So much for cleansing your mind, only for being able to do exactly what you have been doing all your life, with revived gusto and a clean slate!

Nashik has gotten its 12-yearly makeover done, which probably – according to me – is the only good thing of this fanfare. With roads widened, temporary structures in place, portable loos adorning the city, river cleaned (erm?), ghat extended, we are all-set for this mega event – by booking ourselves on vacation and vacating the town for people with purpose. Just the kind of thing to do on an extended weekend, right?

Now that the dates are so close, people have started pouring in in the city – by which I mean all the photographers are already here to get a “feel” of the place. They are just trying to capture one image, without a person with DSLR in it. This Kumbh Mela will be witness to the first time ever air traffic issues during the “snan” – with all drones bumping into each other. It’s going to be a new learning experience for the officials, and next time they will have a special team and an ATC set-up right next to the ghat. After all, documentation of people taking selfies as a proof of their purity cannot be missed, you know!

Besides, this time it is going to mark a great example of technology-meets-devotion. Around 700 CCTV cameras will keep vigil to ensure better security. LED screen have been installed to keep giving live updates to people. Community radios have been set up in buses to disseminate information to pilgrims and travelers. Of course, not mentioning the coming of age Sadhus, who have renounced even their clothes, but an iPhone! iPhone 6 to be precise.

One of the exciting things in the last few weeks was to visit Sadhugram and see the structures come up. One drive through these temporary colonies is enough to know the stature of these godmen – from corrugated sheets to air-conditioned tensile structures, everything speaks of their respective grandeur. They have now started to be occupied with various people coming in from all over the country. Numerous events and sabhas have been organized, where people lose themselves in this high intoxicating energy. It is of course devotion at work. We all know that.

Another interesting thing will be to see a lot of tourists – oops, “travelers” – coming to Nashik, and combining their holy dip with a trip to the vineyards! And why not? What is important is to attain Nirvana, one way or the other!

Amidst all the religious pomp, people like me are content having a shower of Godavari in our humble abode. At least our body is washed, if not our sins. Perks of staying in Nashik, I say!

PS – Have fun in Goa, by the way!

(This is my column in Deshdoot Times, Nashik – 22 Aug, 2015)