The Photographer

Published on April 15, 2012  in “The Kathmandu Post” –

Picture of Old Woman don't know who took it but matches with the story

Picture of Old Woman don't know who took it but matches with the story

I have never seen a camera as big as the one he has in his hands

in these seventy five years of my life. He is young, well-built and smiles continually as he clicks away at his big camera; its lens pointed towards me. I have never seen such a wonderful young man in my life, apart from you. What’s with age? He proved that I am more beautiful than these young chuckling girls by taking hundreds of pictures of me. Something amazing happened while he pointed the “straight” camera lens right at my face—it reminded me of our unification.

It’s you whom I saw in this young man. Who knows I might still be awaiting your arrival. I have waited fifty years already. I have never put on white clothes because no one has bought your dead body to me. “Dead,” thinking of this makes me suicidal. But again the hope of your arrival has kept me alive till today—till the age of seventy-five. It’s you whom I saw in this young man. Is it that you died and were born in the form of this man? Is it that—in the form of this man—you came to meet me? Or is it that you married some other woman and this is your son? No!! No!! These things can never be possible—I console myself.

“Aama please smile,” the photographer says.

“Please stay in the same position,” he demands.

“Don’t go away, please wait Aama,” he stops me as I try to turn away.

I smile from ear to ear. I am shy; I hide my face with the edge of my bright red dhoti. I move my head. What is this young man doing? Why is he taking pictures of me? Why does he like me so much? Why does he ignore these young girls and come after me? Am I that beautiful even now? Why would I not be beautiful… my ears are decked with gold earrings that have lightened my face all these years. What about the gold necklace from my marriage? Does this young man not see that I am a married woman? A line of sindoor parts my head—proving that I am married to someone else—I belong to someone else. What will he do with my pictures? Will he hang these pictures on his walls and look at me day and night? But why? Am I more beautiful than these young girls? Is he fascinated by me, like I with him? Can I be compared to these young girls now when I am a 75 years old? Well I was young, some fifty years ago. But now, each year my skin loosens, my face is shrinking and my cheeks are no longer seen. I am wrinkled and you take my pictures? My bosom has loosened, so have my things… But you take my pictures? What do you feel about me while taking these pictures? Oh lord! I see him in you. I love him and I have been waiting for him all these years. And for the first time in fifty years, I got to see him; in you, dear young photographer.

“Ama this cameraman dai likes you,” chuckles Kali.

Kali adds, “Oh dai, why are you not taking our photos, why you are just after this old Aama?”

“We are young, take our pictures. Or would you like to take me to the jhilimili Kathmandu sahar”, says Resham. He smiles, he is shy now, and he smiles that faint smile which reminds me of you once again. I fall in love with his smile.

“Aama, do you want to go to Kathmandu with me?” he asks me.

I am surprised. I am nervous. I am shocked. It feels like a dream and I am dying with shyness now. Is it that he has fallen in love while taking beautiful pictures of me? What is this young man up to? Does he not have a woman in his house? Why does he ask me to go to Kathmandu; not Kali, Resham and Sharmila? Why is it so? I turn away again.

“Please don’t go away Aama,” he tells me in a soft, humbled voice which indeed stops me at the doorway of Sabitri’s bhatti.

“If you can buy me, then take me away,” I put a clause over his demand.

“How much worth are you, seems like you are a whole gold shop in you,” he teases me as I am full of gold ornaments.

Sharmila hides her face and is about to faint as she is laughing so much. She is binds her mouth with her shawl as she tries to suppress the loud sound of her laughter.

Her laughter makes me red.

“This dai is killing us. Why you are taking so many of Aama’s photos? Are you going to look at her picture in dark nights?” Resham teases him again.

“Night is the perfect time to see each other,” adds Kali. Sharmila’s laughter echoes from the other side of the road.

“You’ve got to buy me if you are taking me away, but you have to see me only at night,” I add another clause.

Kali says, “Aama is too old for you; dai take me to Kathmandu not her.”

“Old… who’s old?” I say. “Buda haddi chamro huncha (old bones are resilient),” I say.

People burst into laughter; the young man is speechless.

I am confused. What is this young lad doing? I remember you crossed the border fifty years ago when you set off to Lhasa. You had promised me to come back. I did not have the nagarikta to join you in your mission. For fifty years, I have waited for you and the promised golden earrings of Lhasa. This young man reminded me of you. I see your image in his. For fifty years, I have not had this feeling of attachment with anyone. His camera makes me feel beautiful; his lens is pointed and straight, reminds me of you again. This is strange. He smiles. He is shy. I want to take him home. I want to talk with him in private. To ask him, to ask him, “Why did you take my pictures, young lad? Do you find that I am beautiful young man?” I want you to see how beautiful I was while I was young in the pictures that have saved my beauty and youth. I see him in you. I see my husband, my lover and my entire existence in you. Young man, do you really want me? Young man why are you taking my pictures? My dear young man… Oh! What is this? What is this I am doing? He is of my grandson’s age. I am 75, he must be 26. No, am I committing crime by thinking of this? What is this? What feeling is this? I feel love. I feel alive. I feel my 50 years of waiting getting over today. Young man, please take me to your jhilimili Kathmandu sahar. Young man. Oh my young man.

His coaster arrives. His friends call him, he bids me good-bye.

“You were supposed to take me with you; make me sit on your lap,” I shout.

The bus moves forward. I bid him a good-bye.

Kali, Sharmila and Resham are uncontrollable while they are laughing.

Again from the window seat, he bids me good-bye and again he clicks his straight pointed camera.

My eyes are tearful, with happiness and sadness. My eternal wait for you has been supplemented by this meeting… this young man… I feel poetic:

The dimming eyesight and shrinking face,

Cheeks you have touched,

remember how rosy they were?

You promised to bring home,

the golden earrings,

That would light up my face and end all our miseries,

While you set off to Bhot, leaving me here on the banks of Koshi

I wait for you along these banks, and also for the promised

golden earrings.

Virtually, I achieve you, But in

reality—Together… when shall we be?

April 04, 2012

2 Responses

  1. very intersting sweta. this story is different from the usual romance. i like how u portray taht feelings never die even when u r old

  2. Reblogged this on Desperate's Diary and commented:
    This is master-stroke telling us about what life is and how things go all the way till we drop!

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