An updated post from my archives:
‘In the future we will photograph everything and look at nothing,’ said the title of the article from the New Yorker, which one of my friends had shared on FB the other day. It went on to give some mind boggling figures: Humans have two billion smartphones, and, based on the ultra-conservative assumption that we each upload about two photos a day to various Internet platforms, that means we take about four billion photographs a day.
Truly stupendous, isn’t it? When I read this, I remembered one of my posts in which I had said that some of the best moments of my life are etched in my mind, and not captured on camera. I believe that such images are more beautiful and cherished, though they can’t be shared as the ones that are captured in photographs and on videos. Honestly, how many of us get the time to even browse through our photographs whether printed or digital?
The selfie craze and ‘sharing’ every moment of one’s life with the world at large is becoming something of an epidemic. There is a Nokia mobile phone that is touted as the ‘selfie phone’!
Of course capturing moments with our children and loved ones including friends and then sharing or looking at them years later has its own charm. Sometimes they are the only memories we have of those whom we would never meet, like grandparents who had left us before we could see them or even recollect them or when they see the photos and videos of grand and great-grandchildren whom they would never meet….
Let me come to my story.
For a long time we had a small camera, a simple point-and-shoot Canon Hotshot. We took many photos of the Brats when they were babies and then toddlers and kids. But somewhere along the way it went kaput and we never got another one for quite some time. As they grew up, things became pretty hectic with school, exams and work.
Then we went on a holiday. This trip is one of the most memorable since it stands out in the collective memory of the entire family.
I think the older one was around 12 and the younger about six. We decided to go to Jaipur. Back then we had no car and of course we still had no camera. It was the Christmas-New Year holiday week for the kids. The L&M had got a week’s leave for a family vacation, I took leave and off we went, armed with huge bags and suitcases full of warm clothing, it being the last week of December and bitingly cold in the north.
At Jaipur, we didn’t take any guided tour since it meant that we visited places as per their tour schedule and wouldn’t be able dawdle at sites we wanted to or pick and choose the places we wanted to visit. The kids were fond of forts so it was the Amer fort first and then the Jaigarh fort. We spent a whole day in these two forts, with the boys posing with the cannon and standing on the ramparts. We looked at them with pride and imprinted the sight in our heads and hearts in the absence of film.
Am I glad that it turned out that way! Because I still remember the joy on their faces on as they pretended to be soldiers and strutted around the grounds. And the elephant ride to the top of the Amer fort, with the little one giggling at the huge droppings of the mount ahead of ours, as the procession wended its way up to the top.
We had also planned to stop at Sariska for a couple of days while returning. It was here that we missed having a camera. Or did we?
Even in those days people went on holidays in their cars. We were perhaps the only guests at the Sariska Lodge who had come by public transport, having lugged out oversized bags to the lodge from the highway where the bus from Jaipur had dropped us off. And that had its consequences. The reception clerk asked us where we had parked our car and when we said we didn’t have one, made us cool our heels!
Finally we got a room, but only for a day because it was the year end and they were booked for the New Year, which was just a day away. We debated about going to another place nearby, but took it because we were raring to start on the safari right away.
Those were the days when tigers were really on the dangerously endangered list and were hardly to be sighted even in Corbett National Park. Sariska was worse. But the guides know how to keep the interest of the tourists stoked to peak levels and keep them breathless with anticipation at a sighting ‘any time now’!
The first time we went to Sariska we fell lock, stock and barrel to their tricks. The jeep would be moving when suddenly it would stop and the guide would place his finger on his lips, while pointing out to the pugmarks on the ground. We would sit with our hair on end waiting for the beast to show itself for something like half an hour, pinching our noses not to sneeze, trying desperately not to cough….and then the jeep would move again, with the guide shaking his head ruefully. After a little distance, the vehicle would grind to a halt again with the guide whispering that the tiger was around somewhere near and point at the mangled flesh of some animal at a distance and the charade would continue.
But the next time we went there — this time with only the younger brat, since the older one was working by then — we had become the wiser and got to know how the guides did it. They made the pugmarks (if you see them, they will be perfectly made, as if by some mould) and have the carcasses placed strategically to dupe the travelers. So where were the tigers?
But that’s not what this post is about.
Coming back to the first safari, we got to see other animals – neelgai, foxes, hyenas, deer – quite a few of them too. The first mentioned is a blue cow literally (neel (blue) + gai (cow)) At one place where we had stopped to look around, we felt eyes on us. Our searching eyes revealed a neelgai, its large soulful eyes looking at us from behind the bushes. It didn’t move and we stared at it in fascination. After twenty years and more, that neelgai still stands out in our memory. Ask anyone in the family about the first trip to Sariska and the neelgai would be the first to be mentioned, not even the hyena which had made my skin crawl and made me want to bolt.
If we had captured it in film we could have looked at the picture and reminisced about it and shared it on FB with our friends. That would have been awesome, right?
But look at it this way: today we can recall that neelgai anywhere, anytime and all we need to do is to close our eyes and hark back to that biting winter day in the forest to see those beautifully large, kind and limpid eyes of that neelgai.
There have been many holidays after that, when we went by our car (and didn’t have to cool our heels at the reception for the lack of it!) and took hundreds of pictures – of the kids, of the entire family, of the mountains and rivers and waterfalls – all memorable and dear to all of us. But they all pale by comparison to that single no-camera memory of the neelgai back in the woods of Sariska….
Do you have any such no-camera moment? How about sharing them?
Image courtesy: indiapost.com