Right after pressing the last note, I felt pain in the chest so sharp that I could not hold my body in the chair–I fell face down on the piano keyboard. The long clapping and cheering of the crowd faded slowly out into a white noise and then into silence.
“You had a cardiac arrest,” the doctor told me. “A minor one.”
“Mahler! A good death, then.” I was quick in my thought. Life holds many a lovely and beautiful thing. Everything. With a tinge of sorrow. Beautiful. Still I have a too weak heart for this. At the same time there is beauty in letting go. In parting. You look the whole of something beautiful from a distance. Not too close. You look at the beauty of life from a distance. You put away life, take a few steps back and look at it. You see life clearly. Without getting lost. Or you close your eyes to put yourself to rest.
Back to my room, I played Mahler. The phone switched off, the door bolted up with “Do not disturb” hung on the knob outside. For days.
Quartet. A Minor.
He was an interesting character in the surrounding I found him in. What he was dressed in, how he moved, how he walked, how he bore his body, how he sat, what he did, where he was. I was immediately interested, and the interest remained alive for the whole while (the thirty or forty minutes) we were almost next to each other. My balls were not big enough for that much close proximity😁😂😅 to take a shot without asking him first. I have had quite a few dramatic experiences (which are quite a lifetime’s adventure not to be repeated, to some people) in my short photographic journey. Earlier that very day, some Myanmarese policemen made me to delete some photographs they did not want me to take back into India. The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at the border entry gate had also made me to deleted five invaluable photographs. Deleting them was like undergoing an abortion.
Photographically a rude and aggressive person, I don’t like most of my photographs taken after communicating with my street and found subjects. Something is usually lost from the situation in the photograph. If we both are available for a long enough talk to establish sort of a contextually required mutual understanding, I like (and sometimes prefer) talking with them. That is a different aesthetics and the subject behaves differently, in a more relaxed mood.
That day we were not available for such a walk-up talk, but he was too close and aware of my presence and every movement I made, and I did not want to regret not having photographed him. I requested him. He immediately smiled broadly. That was something I had not seen in the last 30 minutes or so, and that totally changed the scene. I lost something forever, and gained something unexpected. I photographed his smile. I still miss his face without that beautiful smile. That was quite something.
Legs splayed out carefree in a care-wearied world, he was beautiful seated on the dusty pavement between a highway and the Kangla outer moat one late afternoon in mid-January. He became conscious of me when I had taken a few shots of him—he shifted uncomfortably where he sat and took up a balled-up towel behind him, unrolled and unfurled it before him with both hands. I felt guilty to have invaded him. That boldly, too.
I approached him and asked in Hindi if I could photograph him. Suddenly a calm smile spread across hitherto blank face and his lips flickered wordlessly with excitement. That was beautiful. I interpreted that as a gesture of willingness. I took a couple of portraits. When he sensed I had done with the last shot, his gesture of willingness changed to one of curiosity, the desire to see the photographs taken. I immediately connected it with his initial discomfort with my photographing him. I wondered if he was mad at all.
He took a few diffident and tentative steps toward me when he read the willingness in my face. I also approached him and showed the pictures. His smile broadened. The portraits were good.
“Where are you from?” I asked him.
“Assam,” said he.
I could not but wonder if he was mad at all.
“Buy something and eat. You must be tired.” I said as I took a ten rupees note out from my wallet and gave it to him.
Cities press their poor out into the streets, under the bridges and into the gutters. Once homeless, your sense comes across as nothing different than insanity and you fall on the edge of humanity with little or no chance of getting back to where you really belong. Once out in the street, you are a nameless part of the city most pathetic landscapes–dust, pieces of paper and other litters, scavenging birds and animals.
I walked on, looking back at the man every now and then, and he looked stiff as if he was trying to resist the temptation to look toward me. When I took the turn I saw him bending to sit where he had been.