The Price Nature Demands

There is a long list of to-dos posted on my computer, phone and numerous post-it notes. I continue to avoid looking at them, even as they scream at me in their urgency. I prefer driving through the empty roads of the city, focusing on the question that pushes itself more often into my mind these days. Was the world meant to be this way? 

If earth was an actual living creature, Mother Earth, as we like to call it… what would she be thinking, feeling. Numerous weird creates moving over her at breakneck speeds, sounds that were perhaps never meant to exist, things that were never meant to exist. What is humans were an accident of nature that nature has not been able to eradicate. Yet. 

My newsfeed on Facebook is flooded with photographs of people eating, posing cutely in various places, marking their territories conquered with a photograph of them with their conquest in the background. Like Alexander went on conquering worlds and never looking back, most of them never look back to pause and admire what they are at. Do they really look at the beauty of the mountains behind them and forget about the camera hanging around their neck, the phone in their hands and the fact that they need to ‘check in’ and tell the world where they are? Do they realise that they might want to keep some of those breathtaking images to themselves, to ponder over in their old age when people have begun to fade away? Has the overwhelming presence of cameras around us made us so obsessed to catalogue every single minute of our day and share it with millions of strangers? 

What does the world make of computers, let alone strange wires flowing through the ocean, carrying bits of information in formats that were not even a part of imagination a mere 100 years ago. We cut short our communication even as we increase the  mode of it. And much of it is white noise. Photographs of loved ones, loved pets, favorite places, all the places you visited, all the clothes you own, all the shoes you own, all the people you know, all the cats and dogs with weird faces, all the gossip about people you would never know… 

If I woke up tomorrow to the sound of mere birds and nothing else, I would be lost perhaps. And that would be the kind of lost that I like. The sound of birds, the sound of silence… days without a watch. 

I stopped wearing a watch a while ago, without really noticing it. There are reminders of time all around us. My constantly flashing cellphone, the dashboard of the car, the little taskbar at the bottom of my computer screen. Why wear another reminder of time when it is so constantly pushed into our face? Do I miss it? I did not even realise I had stopped wearing it till so recently. I’m told that it signifies being a little unprofessional, a little casual, a little bohemian. Really? So be it. 

There would be a day when we would escape from this structure. When your day would be yours to do as please. Perhaps I would be old and senile and that will be my license to roam around as I please, to sleep when I wish and wake up without the worry of a day ahead of me. Being senile would perhaps give me the right to say exactly what I am thinking, without having to worry about being politically correct, offending sentiments and such nonsense. The wrinkles on my skin would free me from the constraints society puts on you regarding your appearance. The shaving, the waxing, the combing, the tightening.

But why wait? Because, perhaps, deep inside, we are all slaves to something that doesn’t exist. We escape from it for short durations… and then are compelled to return… to pay the price for whatever be it, for a while, till you earn your way to freedom. Till you earn your way to live peacefully. Till then.

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Photography – Chapter 2

It has been about a year since I began this journey as a ‘professional’ photographer.

When I look back, it pretty much feels like I am only 6 months old. There were so many mistakes and so many answers to find, particularly the answer to the question “What separates a professional from an amateur or a hobbyist?”

The answer used to be that a professional is one who has made it a career. That still stands true, for most part… but I cannot give the clients that answer. They are looking for something more philosophical that would make them feel okay parting with money. Because most people do not see the work go into photography. They do not see the planning of shots, the juggling with lights, the expenses of the equipment, patience required to get that right shot, the jumping around and the hours spent in front of the computer removing a little bit of dust, freckles and pimples on your face.

What they see if a person with a huge camera, shades on his face and a big ass bag and a bottle of water.

So I learnt… I learnt about making invoices, judging the right client, chasing them down for payment, about taxes and expenses and actual profits, about the need of having an assistant, a support and tie ups with various other people I call ‘associates’ and about the need to ‘market’ properly.

Well, the last… I know about it but I still haven’t learned it… nor have I learned the art of pricing, which sort of go together in my mind. Sometimes, a price seems too high for what I’m doing and sometimes too low.

Money is a brilliant motivator, particularly when you have none. And when the job is a boring one. I’ve spent hours waiting for the client to be ready, I’ve learned to be on time (almost!). I’ve learned the importance of the position of the sun and seasons.

I love winter… shoots can start at 7 AM, even if it is quite cold them. 7 AM seems a lot better than 5.30 AM.

Now that I’ve gotten through what I’d term “Photography business for Dummies – Chapter 1,” I’d need to read through all the annexures and footnotes before moving onto Chapter 2.

Everyone is a photographer in today’s digital age.

A professional, I’ve realised, is one who dedicates time exclusively to that passion. Knows all the details completely and lives in a world behind the lens. I’m not there yet, completely. I see the frame but the photograph mostly remains in my mind. And sometimes, I am okay with that too.

Now to learn to distinguish between work for money alone and work that is fun and pays.

The Easy Generation

If the 21st century had to be defined in a single word, it would probably be ‘speed’. This century is all about technology, gadgets and each faster than the other.

It makes me wonder if this makes everything come too easy to us, making us lose the ability to have the patience to work towards anything.

Everything is ‘booming’ and technology makes things that were previously expensive dirt cheap.

Cannot find a publisher to publish your book? Do it yourself. Or better, just put it online.

Cannot find a studio to record your songs? Do it yourself. And release the video on YouTube a la Justin Beiber.

Beiber was a mere speck when I first heard of him… and look at him now. Does he give YouTube royalties?

‘course, in the end, talent does really stand out (not thinking of Beiber here). But you can still sell those 1000 copies of your book and maybe 500 to all your friends. you might even get lucky with a few blogger reviewing your book and you are the next big thing… well, till the next big thing.

Kids are taught that too. No place in the dance school? Get another 4 kids together and start your own. You finish the exams and you have a certificate. You can buy an engineering degree and a medical degree. And a certificate for anything.

Quality? Myeh!

‘Course the creme always rises to the top (or is that froth) but there is a lot of more crap floating out there to find that ‘creme’.

I would also argue that the cheaper cost has made it easier for everyone to live their dreams. So what if it isn’t good enough? You want a book published and you got it done.

Everyone does deserve a chance to live their dream…

I had this strange obsession a while ago… I wanted to find a ‘good’ Indian faff writer. You know… like chick lit but not bodice rippers. Something like the Shopaholic series or maybe… fun fiction?

We do have our share of Naipauls and Lahiris but I did not want to read another tale about the NRI. I wanted to read about my city and someone like me, perhaps. I searched everywhere and read some really horrible stuff. They were written in such bad english that I wondered what the critics who said ‘english writing in India is booming’ were smoking.

These were copies of Chetan Bhagat’s books – all about IITs or the call centers.

Women authors were worse. They wrote about ‘independent’ women. The definition of ‘independent’ though were women who slept around, worked in HR/PR, wore skirts, smoked and drank. And in the end, were more desperate to simply find a guy and get married.

I found redemption in a book titled ‘Keep The Change’. But one book in millions?

And then I find out that a lot of these books were self published. Like a movie director who wanted to live out his fantasies. We all dream of being Speilberg… but the reality is something else.

True, thanks to this new ability, a lot of people have been published or done stuff and recognized, as it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

But are we creating a generation of kids who simply take the easy way out, or they would be known as ‘go getters’?

We could cite the examples of Bill Gates and Zuckerberg who went their own way and created something. But are those geniuses the exception to the rule or the new rule?

The Race

My mind goes back to 2007… July and August were hectic days then too. I had just graduated and there was the graduation ceremony to attend. So had all my friends, so there was the party to plan. It was frantic because it was almost time to go home after being away for more than a year and a half.

It was summer. The days were long and the beach was right there. There were no more assignments and the rush of the university. Only the fun of knowing people were free and partying. And working. Late nights at the restaurant, with tourists filling it every night. Funny people, stupid people, clever people, gorgeous people. Guys you wanted to date and wouldn’t ask you out and the ones that did whom you didn’t want to go out with. Shopping for a “graduation dress” and wondering what else you could do to while away time.

Partying till wee hours in the morning, knowing you could sleep late. I had just met someone and it was fun and exciting and absolutely comfortable. It was perhaps the most idyllic time of my life that I enjoyed.

3 years later, it is a shock how much has changed. I know I have written so often about this but every year, I begin thinking about this stuff. So many people are married and many more are on their way to be married. Actually, forget the marriage race, now it is the ‘having a baby’ craze. Which means I can safely drop out of the whole thing because there is no way I can catch up, if I wanted to.

I guess life can be simple that way.

Recently, a friend was planning a party for her 3-year old kid. It was the first major party… and she was going a little crazy. “What do I do?” she asked me. I was a little confused… it was fairly simple right? Get the cake, give a shout to all the surrounding bacchas… who would already be waiting because they saw you get the cake out of the car, buy those party balloons, some caps, put on the music and you are done.

But apparently, it is a little more complicated than that. Which I realised only when another friend offered to help. This one just had a similar party for her kid so she knew what was involved.

That was when I felt a little out of touch. Yeah, I still don’t see what the fuss is. I mean… fine, even if you have to invite every friend you have… call up the caterers, book a hall and the rest follows. And with thoughts like these I wonder if I will ever be cut out for such a life… I would like to do it. Oh yes! I already have the party plan in mind… but am I cut out for it.

I guess I am the slow bloomer… when my friends are planning birthday parties, i’m thinking of a steady relationship. It follows the natural course… when they were drooling over guys, I was still rolling my eyes at my best friend – who happened to be the object of their affection.

Indian movies perhaps ruined us a little bit… all those stories about how a boy meets a girl on the road/in the bus/across a room/in the classroom/on the cricket field/in a fight… the girl says no, the guy pursues and she eventually gives in and gets married. And then she becomes boring. So people thought life follows the same track. Guys didn’t think twice about approaching a girl they thought was pretty, or sending “frandship requests” to random women. And while I was laughing about these idiots, I realise the girls right next to me are reciprocating.

When did I miss the booklet passed around about how to respond to such guys? Or I got the wrong one.

So some of them dated, some of them broke up… and I was still in the phase of thinking “bbbut… he’s some random guy off the street! (and he aint cute and he stinks)”

So I missed that bus. And because most of the people I knew got onto that, our worlds just split into areas complex than the bermuda triangle.

I guess what I’m really trying to figure out is what race am I running? Am I in a race? Who makes up these things?

I have ten short minutes and so much to say. Where do I start?

It is the end of an era. So many changes. I am 25. And fittingly, I am having a quarter life crisis. As a part of that, I quit my job. And did a few other things which have an indirect impact on me. There is no going back and changing things now. And all I want to do is hide inside my closet or pull the sheets over my head and sleep, so that when I wake up it has all sorted itself out.

But that isn’t the way these things work, so I wake up early and I am having quite an active life.

Most of that is photography. The classes are really fun. I never realised how much I love capturing those images. Well, I realise it everytime I start clicking actually. And I realised it isn’t always the situation that make it interesting. It is the people too. Like today, there were people and there were colours. The entire scene as a whole was quite fascinating. To see the bustle and the jumble and the noise and the smells and the colours. But when you start to pick them apart, they lost their fascination. It was bland and everyday and… quiet. Or maybe I was just sleepy and the smell was getting to me but I did not want to shoot any more flowers or textures. I wanted people… the laughter, the tears and the fun. I got it much at the end when a boy was extremely camera shy and his friends attacked him enough to finally get him to pose. Those moments are what I live for, though I get a thrill at capturing a building from a fascinating new angle.

I am on the brink of a mountain… and I wonder how I should jump. You see, depending on how I jump, I will land in a particular place. And it is freaky to make the choice. Funny… jumping isn’t so hard. The way to jump is what is scaring me.

Time out.

Photo of the day:

Junior Exec, originally uploaded by amulya.

The 5-Year Plan

While talking to someone today, I realised those things called “five year goals”. The little lists we made on paper or in our heads.

Mine was rather simple… mostly written on the paper in my head, it ran a couple of lines, with a few bullet points perhaps. But as small as the list was, I forgot about it.

So when my friend asked “what was your plan when you got out of college?” I simply stopped for a minute. I had a lot of plans… but there was this firm plan of working for the BBC in like about 5 years. Or a company like that. Of course, I still have time to go but it is just bizzare remembering those things which were vital to my life plan.

Is it a wonder that I am confused?

Eyes on the goal formula really works I guess. Except, I ended up with so many goals, I constantly kept swivelling and ended up dizzy.

I’ve met people who are so absolutely focussed on something – which could be their heart’s desire. Or people who are focussed on the money, and don’t really have a ‘desire’ and if they do have something, it is deeply hidden. They make me feel a little incompetent, or at least, scatter brained… with all my schemes and running around and wanting to do a million things.

But they also make me wonder how they live… how they get on from day to day without that something special to look forward to at the end of time? True, I would require several lifetimes to do all that I want to do. But once I perhaps identify a couple of things in this lifetime, it would be an interesting few decades.

Who makes up all these rules anyway? Job continuity without any ‘gaps’ in between. Showing initiative etc etc. Shouldn’t creativity and reliability be prized more than a person who has been slaving away regularly for years without anything much to show for it?

Anyway, photo of the day: Found this in an old old old issue of Life magazine… loved it. If you want the real magazine, check out here.


You go out. You have a shot.

You dance a little and drink a lot. You party. You hang with friends. Do you do movies and you lunches. You curse at the traffic. You goggle at a guy and drool over shoes. Or cars. Or a watch. Or slurp a drink.

The next day is a blur. A mist called the hangover. You curse. You swear. You promise you’ll never do it again.

And then you do it all over again – in a short time.

Life happens when you aren’t looking. Or drunk.

Photo of the day: