As is usually the case, I change location and start writing about the space I just left. I can't seem to will it any other way. Today I face the backwaters of the sea. The water changes direction as the tide rises and falls in the sea. Water flows in both directions here, in stillness. There are no waves. When it drizzles, the surface of the water develops stretch marks which seem to spread from one bank to another.
So since the words have been slipping by my sides as I walk around barefoot, I thought I might as well record them. It's funny how watching a little bird building a nest in the bush in your front lawn can get the brain working.
My voice sounds peculiar today, peculiar but clear, so I won't tarry any further. Must be the birds.
I am a people watcher, I observe them. Doesn't matter where. Facebook, Instagram, creative people selling their ware, curators of the online arena, messaging in independent films, Bollywood, Hollywood, at a train station, I read, I listen, I watch. I believe it reflects the present, all the individual threads form the collective. It pulls in all the layers of who I am seamlessly, me the sister, the film maker, the daughter, me the musical eared, the listener in me.
I am interested in a person's version of the truth, their truth.
And then, I like watching them living out their truth. It comes into my films and photographs as well, sometimes the faces are unremarkable, but I want to remember or share that face that made me warm for a moment as I passed by.. an attempt to capture the comfort I feel in a face which shows a life being lived.
Most people in Mumbai in the creative line stress a lot on keeping 'the art' separate from the 'visual work'. A delineation I have never understood, but since all the monkeys say it, the monkeys think it must be true, the Jungle Book being the Bible to follow in the arena.
I sat up to pay attention recently, when I noticed certain themes in images sprouting with a heightened frequency, like old age, the weak, housewives, office workers, the subjects being as old and as weak as they would appear if you passed by them on the street. .. but with the photographer's gaze showcasing the detail of the wrinkles, the creases, the freckles from many suns, the folds the body assumes when age lends the body a visible habit. The photographs dressed these details, sent out the highlights, accentuated the shadow. All this started out as personal expression. And now, I have started seeing similar images sprouting more and more in advertising. So you have the untainted beautiful face on one side, and an old person in decay on the facing page. A curious preoccupation for image makers who claim to be producing only for money in exchange. Are they groping for life, are they missing the detail? Is this how the search will look like in the media, when it saunters in and out of reality?
When the article is a piece of women's clothing, why do they place her in an abandoned part of the Dark Lands? Why do they not let us see how she can step out of that cast we have set her in? Is everybody feeling this locked down in time? I mean even the camera filters in an Instagram kind of add a tinge of loss instantly to an image taken a few seconds ago. A couple of months back, I started piecing my thoughts together. More so, when it started looking like an infection around.
It feels like people are serving a time sentence. They celebrate their loss in this way somehow through such expression. I call on it as a malady, a general malady which extends out to those who are not creatively expressive too. After all, it is for them that the stillness has been composed. A malady of loss. All related to there not being enough time. There never being enough time.
Both image maker and image viewer somehow have resigned themselves to the idea that time is uni-linear. They somehow have thrown to the wind the density and depth of the moments one lives, thrown out the ideas of the expansion and contraction of time according to our experiences. The themes float around loss and the fear of loss. In the meantime, both collect more objects, and sell some more, and sentence themselves to the mythical straight line of time.
If you want to look at the same thought in literary terms, as a writer, as a narrator, John Berger once wrote a couple of lines I could never have put better, it threw up all fears about creative structure to the air, I watched the pieces fall down like I was observing fireworks explode on a clear night sky. He said, 'That a poem may use the same words as a Company Report means no more than the fact that a lighthouse and a prison cell may be built with stones from the same quarry, joined by the same mortar. Everything depends upon the relation between the words. And the sum total of all these possible relations depends upon how the writer relates to the language, not as a vocabulary, not as a syntax, not even as structure, but as a principle and a presence.'
How then, has everyone forgotten about their very presence?
And it isn't a worry only a person looking for expression must wrangle with. Expressing is living. How could one love if one could not express?
Have they then forgotten how to love?
Here's where the stories need to be retold. More images must be made in the city. Stories need to be told in a different light. We can't all be infected. We can't let this spread.
And I say this calmly.
The photograph up there is of an old prayer wheel up in the snow ridden mountains. She lost most her fur over time. One of those unremarkable faces which keep me warm and thinking of a life being lived.