Through The Lens (Chapter I)

At 3:30 in the afternoon I finally turned off my laptop and went to the kitchen for a hot steaming brew of tea. Today has been quite intense, utterly tiring and extensively exhausting. It was Saturday and unlike most of my friends who were out on trips, I had been glued to my laptop since morning 6 o’clock for the very important production release that was due. “I am so drained”, I told myself, as I poured water in the pot. “Damn! this life”, I heard the inner me calling out… my heart heavily frustrated. I lit the oven and placed the pot for the water to boil. I turned to the racks to get the pack of the Darjeeling tea when my eyes fell on the huge photograph on the wall beside the racks that I had recently laminated and framed.

The photograph had three different pictures, combined together to give an illusive effect of a single picture. It had a photo of two men rowing a boat, a photo of The Howrah Bridge taken from a boat and the famous Victoria Memorial of Kolkata… “Kolkata, The City of Joy !” the inner me told myself and as I did so I closed my eyes. With this, I seemed to have got lost in the busy city’s bustling crowd… The tall artistic spire of St Paul’s Cathedral, the first tram tracks, the first metro railways, the Jorashanko Thakurbari, the prominent Howrah Bridge, the mighty yet sombre river Ganga at Princep Ghat, the elite Park Street, the busy Chowringhee Street, the beautiful Kumartuli and my very own birthplace, South Kolkata all seemed to flash by like that of a powerpoint presentation.

n1n2n3The wide streets lined with yellow cabs, the occasional blabbering of the political leaders, the never ending chirping of the school-goers, the deliberate strolling of the lovers hand in hand, all seemed to pace before me. I opened my eyes slowly, still staring at the framed wall, engrossed in the swarm of memories. And as I did so, I found the water droplet run along my cheek only to get absorbed in the way. My mind continued racing with the very familiar image of the busy office goers in the overcrowded buses, the occasional whistling of the trains and the periodic onset of the amateur photographers, vehemently searching for that perfect snap. My heart was heavy, my eyes misty, when suddenly, a low rumbling sound nearby let me out of the reverie. I wiped my moist eyes and turned around following the sound to realise the water in the pot was boiling. “How long was I lost?” I thought to myself and put the tea leaves in the pot. I put off the oven, took out the dangling strainer from the hook, pour the fuming hot tea in my Japanese cup and went ahead and placed the packet back in the rack. I lifted the hot brewing tea, took my lazily resting cellphone from the bed and glanced at my NeXtime wall clock … it read 3:45 in the afternoon and so I decided to spend the rest of the day on my couch in the balcony reading to Matthew Reilly’s The Tournament.

As I walked towards the balcony I opened the drapes of my room. I had had them shut so it did not glare my laptop screen too much while working. But now as I opened them a narrow yet strong streak of sunlight entered the room and rested directly on my bed. The soft radiance was so fervent yet comforting that watching this, I quickly opened the balcony door and stepped out to feel the glorious sunlight. With my Japanese cup in one hand and the book and cellphone in the other, I felt rejuvenated at once the sunlight struck me. All the heartache that had conspired by looking at the mounted photograph in the kitchen slowly began to heal and as I comforted myself on the couch, I felt vibrant and lively and found myself smiling again. I dragged the circled table near to the couch and placed the cup and my cellphone on it. I put a couple cushions vertically behind me so that my back can rest. I positioned myself perfectly for the perfect evening to enjoy….watching the sunset….accompanied by the strong aroma of Darjeeling tea and my favourite book. “Perfect!” , I said to myself and felt contented. As I lifted the cup and hold it close to take the first sip, the intense fragrance of the tea leaves made me relax. Far, far away from my city in a foreign land, yet the aroma triggered the same emotion every time. I sipped onto the hot brew and placed the cup on the table, the warmth of the afternoon sun rays and the picturesque view of the surroundings…everything was surprisingly peaceful. I let out a sigh of relief and started reading the book when …. Suddenly the familiar Facebook ping got me distracted. I reached for my phone to check the message and found that an old friend had posted an astounding photograph of Durga-in-the-making. The candid shot was so impromptu that I sat back on the couch saying out loud, “Wow. I acknowledged the picture by reacting a ‘wow’ emoji and got back to reading.n5

Moments later I realised I was reading the same line over and over… I understood I was not able to concentrate fully. I kept the book aside and took another sip from the cup. I looked around and then it got me …. My eyes fixated on another framed photo that hung in the balcony.

The picture was that of Sunset and one of my favourites. I remember taking it years ago, back at my hometown. As I kept staring at it I got lost in my thoughts once again. Sipping unto the tea, I travelled back to this day which was like just another weekend that I was spending at home. I recalled seating infront of my room one spring afternoon listening to my very customised playlist on my phone, enjoying the view outside. “A perfect lazy afternoon”, I claimed to myself. When all of a sudden, there emanated a radiant red hue all around. The beautiful blue sky had now changed to a very specific red hue accompanied by an orange and then a yellow hue. Within seconds the azure above was bombarded with plenty of shades each one overlapping the other, the view exquisite. Like a painter throw colors on the canvas, smudging them together to give the perfect artistic view, so was Mother Nature’s canvas, blobbed with paint. It’s myriad colors smudging together to give the perfect appearance during her transformation from the lively day to the mysterious night. “Wow!”, my jaws dropped and I felt the irresistible need to capture this spectacular sight. I quickly grabbed my camera and rushed to the terrace. With the Sun bidding goodbye to the mortals for the day, the colors intensified, revealing a bold yet serene look. Whether it was my imagination or it was in reality I could not distinguish but the slowly darkened sky looked more potent and ethereal than the previous. “Not much time” I told myself and positioned properly to get the full view. I pointed my camera at it, looked through the lens ….. and “Clickn4Yes! These were my snaps, my photographs, my collections. Photography was my passion, my favourite pastime. Back at my own city in my own country I had spent most of my leisure hours snapping pictures, trying to unleash the hidden beauty, the beauty everyone tend to overlook, trying to portray the same old structures and monuments, the same old places in a more familiar yet unfamiliar manner …. or rather through my eyes…through my Lens. And in all of it I took utmost pride. Today however sitting on my couch, twenty two thousand miles away from home I felt a certain pang embrace me all over. Was it loneliness? Was it the pang of staying away from my hometown for three years now? Or was it something else? I could not figure. I got up from my resting couch and looked down at the streets. Across the streets in the park I saw the children shouting and playing and their mothers videotaping the same. The elderly couple enjoying each other’s company. The young adults learning baseball from their fathers, the lovers strolling hand in hand, the bookworms seated on the bench, glued to their books, the young girls taking selfies… All of which made me sad. Instantly, I missed my town, my city, my country, my people, most importantly …. I missed Home. The pangs of missing home started growing so strong that I felt helpless, broken. I decided to place a call at home only to realise that my parents would be fast asleep. I decided to call on my friends only to realise they all left for the Manhattan trip the previous night. Never in my life had I felt so beaten than I was now. It had been three years since I moved out of India with a job opportunity in the First World Country and yet never for a day did I let my emotion dominate … until today, for today was something different, something unusual. Never have I realised how much I loved my country, my city, my hometown, most importantly my Kolkata. The memories came flooding by and with each resurgence the lump in my throat increased and the water in my eyes concentrated.

I sipped the remaining tea and decided to take a walk in the streets to let go off the enormous despair that still had me eating up. I locked the balcony door, threw on a pair of jeans, put on my coat, wore my watch, plugged in my earphones, locked the door behind me and out went of the apartment building. Turning up the volume, ears reverberating to the sound of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You I decided to take a nice long walk in the park. “Nature is therapeutic”, I reminded myself and crossed the streets. I entered the park and started scanning the place for a nice cosy spot to sit. I have always found it soothing amidst Nature with the light breeze and the greenery, and today once again when I was all alone battling with my crude emotions I knew resting in Mother Nature’s lap would be the only and perfect solace that I was fondling for. As I hooked onto this thought I kept walking. The soft feeble wind grazed along my body and as it did, I could feel my innerself calming down. The cold, misty wind as entered my body soothed me and I found my battling emotional tempest slowly turning tranquil. I lowered the volume of the playing song and spotted some empty benches infront of the pool. I walked towards the pool and occupied the centre bench overlooking it. The place was away from the hustle somewhat interior to the park surrounded by trees of all kinds and shapes. Only a few elderly couple occupied the nearby benches. The greenery around further accelerated my healing process and I felt better than the previous. I unplugged the earphones from my ears and put it inside my jeans pocket, put my phone in silent mode and sat there staring blankly out before me. The silence was so lively that I forgot I was far away in a foreign land. The serenity all around accompanied by the lush greenery and the calm evening wind with the occasional chirping of the birds made it so surreal that I once again felt at Home. I looked at my watch … 5:25… “some more time” I told myself and continued getting absorbed in the elegance.

 

Just then as I was witnessing the gentle breeze producing ripples in the calm blue pond, I spotted a flock of swans swarming away in ecstasy. They pranced and frolicked gleefully in the then still waters completely oblivious to the world. Some bent down to drink water, some were swimming joyfully across the perimeter of the lake without a thing to worry about. A four-five of them were flapping their large pretty wings while some of them secluded themselves from the group. Sitting on the bench engrossed in watching their activity made me realise how Mother Nature is so selfless in giving out her love. Even in an unknown country amidst unknown people when I am drained out with the early morning production release accompanied by the helpless feeling of aloneness and the utmost homesickness, She is not unknown. And as I realised this I was pleased for I did not feel alone anymore. I looked around and up at the celurean sky as if discerning how Mother Nature is calling out to me, her arms wide, wanting to embrace me like a mother embraces her child, as if asking me to rush out and rest my heavy head on her lap. All these made me super emotional and I found a drop of tear rush down my cheek once again. “Thankyou. I lowered my head and continued staring at the flock. Their activity was so lively yet peaceful that I wish I could forever stay there and watch. This triggered in me my eternal lust, my undulating urge of capturing the moment forever. So I took out my phone and opened the camera app. I was setting the app for a raw shot and as I looked above to take the snap I spotted one of the swans, secluded from the group sitting all alone in the midst of the broad lake. The blue waters with a streak of the bidding afternoon sun’s rays falling, the blue sky above slowly changing into its mysterious night’s color …. and there centering the stage, rested was the milky white swan lost in its own world. I was stupefied with the scene and without wasting another minute “Click” went my phone’s camera. “As above so below” I thought as I looked at the shot.

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The afternoon sun was now retiring. Evening was about to befall. The night sky would soon make its appearance. The light was slowly diminishing and getting substituted with the artificial lights in the park. Across the park on the other side of the boundary the city lights were beginning to get prominent. The once infinite hues of red and yellow that extensively painted the omnipotent horizon was now beginning to get dark and coarse and hefty. The cool soothing breeze slowly started to get chilly. The occasional chirping of the birds that livened the surroundings had grown distant and they flew back to their nests…Evening has arrived. There wasn’t enough time and most of the people were leaving the park premises. I too had to leave although my immature heart continued signalling the opposite. It was as if my heart and brain was once more in sheer conflict. But like any other sensible mature individual I listened to my brain and got up to leave. As I was walking towards the exit I looked towards my right to see the wonderful brown hue that emanated from across the boundary walls of the park. I decided to walk till there in order to enjoy some more this tranquillity and the view.  I exited the park and took a right turn to get to it. I was strolling without having to rush, enjoying the beautiful naturescape that I had just witnessed. I continued walking a while when from at a distance I witnessed another breathtaking sight.

With the evening sun radiating its soft yet strong vibrant rays, with the surroundings conjuring up to reveal its boldness….the palm tree beside the road looked astounding. In all these three years of my stay here, on my way to work I have watched this tree a million time yet today it was different something surreal. The glowing ochre yellow rays of the retiring evening sun seemed to get lost within its massive canopy, its leaves as if bathing in its decreased yet profound glare. The tree seemed to absorb each exuding ray as if to calm itself whilst discharging an even sombre yet powerful gleam out of it. The slowly gradually darkening surroundings casted an obtrusive shadow such that the tree looked eerie yet mysterious, gloomy yet upbeat. Once again my jaws dropped and I stood there transfixed. My heart started to tremble witnessing this heavenly view. And as I reached my jeans pocket to once again take out my phone I realised “this was what I had been looking for”. I suddenly recalled in the past how restless I got had I been unable to snap a photo that would be etched in my brain, my soul, my heart for time unknown ….and today Mother Nature did not disappoint me yet another time.

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As I grabbed the king sized burger from McDonald’s sorting out tonight’s dinner, I walked towards my apartment building, my heart uncluttered. For amidst everything I received yet another masterpiece from Nature, another paragon to my collection. My heart felt light, leaping within with inexplicable joy. At that moment I received a call from home and talked to my parents guilt-free having nothing to conceal. I felt light. I felt contented. I stopped across the pavement infront of my building and as I ended the call, a broad grin spread across my face. I looked onto both sides and crossed the road … when instantly I recalled something I had read the afternoon before … Everything happens for a logical reason, from the downward flow of streams to the illnesses to the actions of men. We just have to find that reason. The acquisition of knowledge, the sheer pleasure of finding things out, is the greatest gift in life … I nodded as if in agreement for I as I now know discovered my reason, discovered my joy, discovered the contentment I received while looking Through the Lens

 

….. to be continued………..

 

By  SouthWest

Photo © Nirnendu Roy