It was a chilly morning in the month of June. I was staying in a resort by the side of the sacred river, Kaveri. Standing on the stone steps leading to the river in full spate, camera slung over the left shoulder, I gazed at the river, both hands thrust into the pockets of the over coat. Gigantic trees formed formidable ramparts on either side of the stone steps. It was six in the morning. All around me were nature’s graceful expressions. Small rocks in the bosom of the river here and there gleamed like dark moles. The flowing river resembled the long untied tresses of nature clad in green velvet. The hovering mist, the gentle gurgle of the ripples and amorous bird calls induced me into deep reverie. The blue sky was spotless.
As the sun shone brighter, I got into the business of arranging the camera. Turn in any direction, nature looked wonderfully attractive. Tiptoeing on the edge of the stone steps, I clicked several shots. Capturing the fast changing countenance of nature in the rapidly altering sun light seemed an impossible task. My camera was no match to the myriad faces worn by nature in the ever changing morning light. I felt incapable of capturing even a fraction of nature’s bounteous beauty. Resigned to this humbling realization, I sat on the stone steps deep in meditation. The lenses of the camera are more of a hindrance than help to drinking in the gorgeous beauty that is doing its peacock dance before me, I felt.
An amateur photographer, I had come from Bangalore on a two-day excursion. As I sat there gazing at the waters in perpetual motion, a youngster walked up near, a camera with long lens hanging from his neck and the camera bag slung over his back. Casting an observant glance around, he set to arrange his camera, lifted it up aligning the lens to his right eye. Seeing him focus the lens on the other side of the river, I looked in that direction. There, at a distance, I saw a snow-white crane taking cozy gentle steps. As the young man started clicking away his quick shots, the bird flew away. His face wore deep anguish and despair. He might not have got the desired shot. He tried to find some bird in that locality, but there was none. Not finding any bird, he returned with a gloomy look. I was observing his every move. I felt compassion for him- and pity. Pity, because insensitive to the profusion of beauty all around him, he had chosen to concentrate all his attention on the bird. Was that bird more beautiful than the many-splendored beauty that was playing around him that morning? He represents the frustration and anguish of the millions who are fixated on their desires, I felt. Lost in the narrow world of personal ambitions, captive of the allurement of the morrow, do we not lose the broad felicitous vision that is our birth gift? As we go on winning our small goals, do we not forfeit greater graces of life?
My mind was reeling under existential questions. That day I toured Mysore and Srirangapattanam and took a large number of photos. As I returned to the resort in the evening, it was pouring down. It was also quite chilly. The thunderous downpour corresponded to the emotional tumult in my mind. I remembered: this visit had another purpose. I wanted to destroy the photo album, relics of a failed relationship. Destroying the photos, the material evidence of the relationship is more painful that breaking the relationship, I realized. Since the relationship has ended, it is necessary to destroy or at least get rid of the relic. Brushing aside the sentimental attachment, I had decided to get rid of it.
To ensure that I am free from any feelings of guilt, I decided to consign the relic to the waters of the sacred river. I looked out from the window. The rain had stopped. Determined to perform the last rites of the painful relic at once, I took out the album from the bag. I spent a few seconds looking at the black and white cover of the album. I did not feel like opening it. Was I becoming a momentary captive of once cherished but now painful memories?
With the album in my left hand I walked over to the spot where I had sat in the morning. There was no one in sight. It was late in the night. The steps gleamed in the white light from the lamps on the electric posts. The trees, wet in the intermittent rain, stood still. The chill of the night and the croaking of the frogs energized my ears. I walked to the edge of the steps, caressed by the gentle ripples. The nature I had adored in the morning now wore a despondent look. I lifted up the album over the river with both the hands. I was on the point of dropping the painful weight I had been carrying along for days when I heard the sound of a bird perched among the leaves of a nearby tree flying away.
Two large rain drops resting on the leaves fell on the cover of the album. With great care I wiped away the water with the ends of my shirt. I resumed the posture of uplifted arms with the album. Moments passed. Motionless I stood there. Was I expecting rain drops?