My sister rang the bell from downstairs. I was on the floor above. I ran to the stairs and asked her what it was. She told me the cart had come. I could hear the characteristic tune of Sai Baba’sbhajans ringing from the street. It was the cart indeed. I wore my slippers and went out.
I hummed the tune of the song as I took out twenty rupees from my pocket to put in the hundi. The cart was now right in front of my gate. I pulled open the gate so that the cart could be brought in. That way, my grandmother and grand-aunt could see it from the porch.
It was a typical Shirdi Sai Baba cart. A motorised tri-cycle fitted with a small temple-like structure. It housed many idols of Shirdi Sai Baba neatly arranged on a tiny shelf. The idols were either in Orange or off-white. They distinctly portrayed an artist’s image of the saint. In some, the complexion was creamy while in others a little pink and orange touch was added to the cheeks. They come in different sizes too. Some carts have a palm-sized idol of Lord Ganesha in them. This one didn’t. In fact, this one had a cute red and yellow teddy bear attached to the cycle in front.
It had a small, orange cylindrical hundi. An ornate steel plate was below the shelf with yellow flowers on it and two little katoriswith kumkum and vibhuti. There were a few pictures of Baba, shaped like pocket calendars, held together with a string to distribute among devotees.
Amidst all this, a music player, the size of a school lunchbox was in the cart. The Bhajans played in it were heard across the neighbourhood through two dull-blue megaphones tightly tied to the top of the cart.
Painted in vermilion, the cart had large pictures of Baba on three sides. It was a wonderful sight. The colours were vibrant and beautiful. The music, the hundi and the vibhuti lent a true temple experience apart from adding to its aura. I loved it and actually wait for it to come everyday.
Yesterday, the cart was accompanied by a small family. They had come before also. The father was in an Orange shirt, light orange dhoti and upper cloth with kumkum on his forehead. He was riding the cart. The mother was in a simple saree and their daughter was in a yellow t-shirt, with two short pigtails.
After I had taken the kumkum, I suddenly wanted to take a picture of the cart. I pulled out my cell phone from my pocket. Just when I was about to click the photograph, the little girl got excited. I stopped and looked at her. She pranced up and down, clung to her mother’s saree and then pointed towards my phone. She looked at me with eager eyes.
I observed her for a few seconds. She was perhaps, five years old. She had a wheatish complexion and horizontal lines of chandanam and kumkum decorated her forehead. Her eyes and her smile expressed genuine happiness. Tiny specks of sand stuck to her skin and her bare feet were covered with dust.
Evidently, she had rarely caught a glimpse of cameras. She was thrilled to see mine. I decided to take her picture. The minute I told her this, her eyes gleamed. Happiness knew no bounds. She animatedly told her mother that I wanted to take her picture. The lighting wasn’t proper but I managed a photograph. I showed it to her. She was delighted. Her parents smiled at her and thanked me.
After that, I was about to keep my phone inside. But the girl reached for my hand and asked me why I wasn’t taking a picture of the cart. I smiled at her and quickly took a picture of the cart. The cart left after that and she waved good-bye to me.Evidently, she had rarely caught a glimpse of cameras. She was thrilled to see mine. I decided to take her picture. The minute I told her this, her eyes gleamed. Happiness knew no bounds. She animatedly told her mother that I wanted to take her picture. The lighting wasn’t proper but I managed a photograph. I showed it to her. She was delighted. Her parents smiled at her and thanked me.
That little girl taught me so much in just a few seconds. Her innocent smile and bright eyes had a story to tell. A photograph was a rarity to her. But it brought her so much joy. Surprisingly, she didn’t even want a copy of it. She was elated that someone had photographed her. It was perhaps a dream that had come true!
There was a teensy voice that spoke inside me. We live in a world where clicking a picture has become commonplace. Selfies are the norm. Instant-sharing, smartphones and social media sharing form integral parts of our life. Simply said, we take it for granted. Every moment needs to be captured either for popularity or for fame. A photograph no longer means the capture of a memorable moment to be cherished years later. It has become a medium to count your likes.
But this encounter changed me. That one picture I took of her, gave me so much happiness. Perhaps, way more than what I had experienced while clicking pictures on trips or through my DSLR. I was thrilled that I could make someone so happy with a mere picture. These simple joys of life can make a huge difference to someone else’s day.
Now, a photograph means something more to me. I realised that it isn’t about the quality of a picture. It isn’t about a DSLR. It isn’t about a selfie. It isn’t about the number of likes. It isn’t about editing it for increasing your follower list.
It’s about capturing an emotion and making someone happy. It’s about capturing a story. Essentially, it’s about a person.