Lessons from Loss


Incy became a part of our little collection of lost, abandoned souls about five years ago. He was probably left behind because he was the runt of the litter. We found him badly wounded and near death. We also recognised an uncommon will to survive, somehow common with all newly born creatures. This little orange tabby did not want to go down without a fight.

The privilege of naming all the new cats always went to the youngest in our rather large joint family—to my daughter, who is now six. We have a Paru, Beauty, and Trella and Bella are sisters. We have Popcorn, Cottontail, Krishna, Gutter, Mother I and Mother II. All of them live around my house, and look to us for food and attention. We take care of their medical needs. We sometimes let them in during the day, and would turn them out at night. They have given us more love and joy than I could have ever asked for.

After several medical emergencies and interventions, Incy grew up to be a big, healthy, strong tabby. He was fond of different family members in different ways. He liked climbing into my mother’s lap, late at night. He liked to snooze next to my daughter. Much to my father’s annoyance, he loved to examine his Ikebana from close quarters. With me, he would get into loud, lengthy debates, sitting in the golden, evening sunlight at the window grill, while I had my tea. And he could leap unusually long distances, in a show of fantastic feline precision, power and grace.

I have tried to record some of these moments. The easiest way was to simply use my cellphone because it just happened to be with me all the time. I wasn’t out to create artistic photographs, or tell a story to the world in some sort of interpretative way. But rather, record moments spontaneously, as memories, just as they occurred, as part of our journey as a family.

A few nights ago, Incy met with a fatal accident. He was crushed under the wheels of a dangerously speeding car, and was badly mangled. For the driver, he was less than roadkill, because the car just sped on. It is unlikely that the driver was unaware, but very likely without an iota of remorse. People like these damage the planet, hurt others, and don’t care. My family is still processing the fact that It happened in such a horrible manner. We are already missing his presence. I’m still trying to figure out the right way to explain all of this to my daughter. She will have questions that I’m going to find very difficult to answer.

Today, I went through all the photographs I made of him. And I plan to make a single edition book of memories of Incy, for my family. Just photos with no captions, because they are not required. It would be a great solace to my family, to help come to terms with everything.

As mundane as those photos may appear to others, I am extremely glad now that I made them. While I was going through those images, I could not help but reflect once more that the beauty and power of photography is not just in the documenting of important historical moments or in the art of it, but that it offers every single individual a practical, simple way to record memories. And if photography can calm the storm in the mind of a loved one, that is its most significant virtue.

With our complex, busy, screen-time-inundated lives, we ignore simple, pleasurable moments with family and loved one because there is always something more important or better to do. I’ve been guilty of that, much to often. Time does not stop. The tides roll on. There are beautiful footprints left behind. But unrecorded, they wash away, deepening the void.

Recording for posterity does not really require you to know the nuances of photography. It just needs you to see the value of it and start now. All life is fleeting, impermanent, and delicate. We must take our small joys as they come. And save all those seemingly plain, little moments before it’s too late. For a thing is truly and fully lost if it goes unremembered.

This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Better Photography.