The Creaking Chair - Part XII

28th May 1999

I have an abnormally large collection of photographs

moments I have captured over years
and I use them as mirrors to keep me grounded on a plane of simplicity
so my pictures are not the regular friends laughing in a pub kinds
or teens banging their heads in a rock concert
or even the quintessential birthday party as a kid
with the lettered cut out on the wall calling out ‘Happy Birthday’ 
and the beaming smiles of friends behind the cake & the Birthday Boy.

My collection has a rather abstract view of life
A fallen eyelash resting on a copper pooja thali;
the queer expression of a rebelling atheist
An aimless braided chair sitting idle on a sunny day with a hint of cloud in the background;
the untainted memory of a peaceful afternoon embossed upon the mind 
A rope line with my mother’s freshly washed saree hung for drying
the untarnished smell of unfiltered warmth spreading through the heart
A shuttered public library with the leftover ashes of a burning sigri
the aftermath of another cold night in the open for the watchman

But the one photograph which made me write this entry today
was the photograph of my beloved coleus plant 
It was a housewarming gift from a dear colleague when I moved to Kolkata
Placed in a fish bowl shaped casing it had layered soil and tiny crystal like rocks on one side
the plant nestled nicely in the middle of this boundary between the decorative crystal patch & the underlying soil 
there was another smaller budding offshoot on the other side 
I liked the gift – it was good, but I did not love the life in it, yet

And then a few weeks later, I saw tiny new shoots on it
beautiful red leaves with spreading green on its corners 
Oh boy, that was a feeling difficult to match
an untainted adoration and pure love spreading like a smile on my face 
and for the next few weeks, every morning it was my first ritual to watch the new bud & smile 
This was my first experience with the weight of responsibility of nurturing a life 

But the photograph was not of that little bud

the photograph had to be inanimate right? 
if you have not yet caught the recurring theme in my photographs
It was a black and white shot of the same bowl with a fallen plant with shriveled leaves 
In my youthful zeal filled with an arrogant ignorance 
I kept feeding water & sunlight to it – at times too much water & too less of sunlight 
without realizing the underlying build up of tiny root eating aphids
the day I look the photograph, I realized they were too far in their act of weakening the roots 

I did replace the plant with another 
and this time took much better care 
for I was now prepared and a little bit more wiser 
But I miss that original plant for it gave me my love for gardening

~ Ashk

P.S. – Sahil has taken up to ‘digitizing’ my photographs as his project this summer vacations. I have a feeling I have a summer filled with walks down the untrodden memory lanes & loads of stories to tell. 

P.P.S. – Maybe I should convert these stories into something like ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’.

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