The Meandering Route


…where my aim is to not have one. Quieten the mind so that it whispers inconsequentially in the midst of that reverie. Nothing more but pleasant communion with the road. The crowds swirl past, as though I do not exist. They don’t exist either. Just a form here, a movement there. Raucous laughter. Faces, drenched in the late November afternoon sunlight. Bicycles glide slowly into the frame. A goat thoughtfully chews on watermelon peels by my knee. Things happen in a coordinated dance, a ballet where nothing is in control but everything really is. Who am I now? There’s no identity anymore. I’m free. Not everyone is, though. Tacked inescapably to the banyan tree, a faceless colour-streaked rain-damaged God watches on with infinite patience. One more monsoon, and he would be free too. A few missed moments stick around, and then fade. Once in a rare while, I manage to pluck one and save it from oblivion, hopefully just as I saw it. How the hours roll away!

A delicious, dull ache in the feet finds them ambling over to Cafe Hindustan. The tiny, rundown, hole-in-the-wall eatery behind a line of parked taxis looks exactly as it has, for the last three years. “Do Suleimani chai, shakkar kum, nimbu daalke”, yells the owner at a window connecting to the sooty kitchen. And then asks me about my thoughts on The Potato Eaters. He introduces me to Edvard Munch, I introduce him to Frida Kahlo. “It’s Mun-kh, not Munch,” he corrects my pronunciation. We talk lighting. He made me look at more paintings than any gallerist. Odd place to discover great conversation like that. Behind the kitchen is a door that opens to an aquamarine green wall. A red bicycle leans against it. It has been around in exactly the same position for a while now. The cook at the kitchen window leans out for yet another portrait. I remind myself that I need to get back to work with sending this issue to the press.

The greatest joy of photography is that it lets you escape, away from yourself and into yourself at the same time. It slows you down and yet you speed up because you see so much more. There is no focus and there shouldn’t be, but so many things inexorably become clear and sharp. When you meander, you let yourself discover. The type of photography you do does not change anything. The streets may differ, the path remains the same.

The article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Better Photography.