The Lens Can Feel

Posted by Nayanika Chatterjee
March 10, 2017

Self-Published

There is no time to rest, for there are so many things left to see. So much to take in, such little memory space.

Entering the streets of Kasba Peth always gave me joy. The familiar faces, the smell of chai and the fried bhajis, the pandits bolting towards Kasba Ganpathi and their paunches catching up with the hustling and the greet of the old woman at the flower shop validated my purpose of capturing all of it. The life of the ancient peth.

Click.

It is in that sound of the shutter that lies the ability of a machine to come closest to humans – to be able to freeze time and save it permanently in memory. We forget the pixels of life, but the camera never does. There’s a man who has longed to live the life of a photographer. He says he used to click pictures of the armory of the Indian Military back in the day, that he longed to buy a camera for himself but was never able to do so. Through the viewfinder, the tiny clear screen I can see the cracks and the wrinkles on his face. There’s nostalgia in his eyes and he looks into the camera with a yearning to revive those days. He says thank you, with a smile that breaks as soon as it fails to curve. He rushes inside his room and shuts the door.

She decides to grab some bhajis, dismissing from her mind my presence as she swings the bag to her side. It’s going to happen again, those oily stains will destroy the screen and the dirty fingerprints will haunt my eyes. Then the painful cleaning process with the ends of her kurta will make her feel like an altruistic human being, and me, a filthy camera. And her highness’s gobbling wouldn’t end there. She sees jalebis and sprints towards Adi Kaka as I struggle with the uncontrollable swinging and the painful jolts with the coarse bag. As she devours the sweet, I can foresee my future – those terrible red ants trudging over the shutter dial and my silent screams left unanswered from within the dark, eerie bag.

Click.

The girl shies away as I point myself towards her. She looks into the lens and is introverted the next second. There is something overwhelmingly captivating about her smile. She probably read my mind as she suddenly turns her head towards the camera. There is a soft breeze blowing past her face and the wind caresses her eyes. The seventeen year old gathers some courage and asks to see her photo. I can feel her surprise as she touches the display because the picture invoked in her some assurance of her beauty. Suddenly, a little boy clinches on to her waist. It is her five year old son, waiting for his mother to get done with her conversation because it’s time for her evening lessons. His eyes glittering with the magic he learnt about adding one and one.

Back inside the bag I cannot stop thinking about the outside world especially since someone forgot to put the lens cap on, yet again.

There’s a plate of kaccha aam and the grains of chilli powder are so intense, I seem to lose focus. There’s a constant blurring which I can’t seem to get right. This perpetual struggle to reach perfection continues to boggle my mind with every moment that needs to be captured. A little delay, you miss out on the climax. A little shake and the first relieving sip of chai, turns into a ghost and you fail to capture it forever. And that is how we remain guilty temporarily, for even the photographer’s morale reduces and it takes some lens repairing, name-calling and indifference until the two of us patch up.

After a tiring walk, it’s time for doomsday. When my memory is pulled out of me and loaded into the peculiar machine that seems to contradict everything I ever stood for. I shut my eyes in the hope that the pictures come out well. For when they don’t, it only degrades my work and the photoshopping, lightrooming dissolve all of the candidness. Two hours have passed and I feel drowsy and she finally remembers to unplug me along with the bonus of putting the lens cap on. She puts me back in the horrendous bag but I know that in her childish dreams, I’m still capturing her memories.

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