Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Careless Whispers

Stock Photo - sea gull in flight 
over gulf of mexico 
at sunrise, padre 
island, texas. 
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The sun was still a faint red hue peeping above the vast ocean when he arose. He quickly washed his face and put on his running shoes. Then slowly, so as not to disturb his sleeping wife, he opened the door, and slipped out.
The morning breeze was inviting to his lungs, uninhibited, and carrying a salty tinge. He slowly jogged over the rocky terrain, building up a steady pace and five minutes later he found himself on the coarse beach. The sea in these parts was rough, untamed, even dangerous. He could immediately bond with the many storms that raged havoc underneath the steady calm of the ocean. He loved the beach, it was a universe in itself, vast, and full of secrets, waiting to be revealed.
Adit had chosen this quaint sea side town as the spot to revive his marriage. He was forty-five, that precise age when one is often left wondering whether the journey had been worth the scars. Ironically, this was the same place where he had brought Kavita for their honeymoon, almost nineteen years ago. Nineteen years had changed the world with its explosion of technology,  consumerism, new political order, gay rights..the list continued. It had changed his own world; from being a hopelessly passionate youth with strong views that he freely advocated, he had come to a point where he was guarded, always measuring, and not really as sure of things as before. He was scared that one day soon he might even become cynical. He had blended and changed with circumstances, in an effort to adjust and attune, but now he wondered whether he had lost himself in the process.
Adit hastened his pace as the sun became a glowing ball, proudly emerging from the unfathomable depths of the sea. His thoughts went astray as he remembered his young bride on this very beach so long ago, with promise and expectation in her eyes. What happened to the promise? What happened to her expectations? Had the trail of nineteen years actually changed her eyes? Adit realised that he did not even know how her eyes looked today.
So immersed was he in his thought that he did not notice a young girl, about seventeen, dressed in sleeveless white T-shirt and shorts, capturing his movement with her camera. When he did notice, he was too close and he stopped his run abruptly.
“What the hell!” He exclaimed. “At least you should have the decency to ask before you shoot someone.”
“Really?” she said. “Nobody told me that.”
He had the distinct impression that she was trying to control a fit of laughter.
“Well, young lady, you cannot go about taking snapshots of anyone and everyone, some call it invading their privacy.”
“Strange!” she replied, “That is precisely what I do. I capture the world through my lens. Nobody has ever complained before; neither the sand nor the sea, nor the seashells.”
He wondered if he should even reply that one.
“And you are no different from the landscape,” she continued, “You, in fact, complete the frame.”
He looked at her. She was no longer amused, in fact she seemed very earnest.
For some reason he felt his annoyance ebb.
“Can you explain what you meant by that?”
“Yeah sure,” she said, and hesitated before continuing slowly, as one would speak to a child.
“You see, the rising sun had to unveil the secrets from the sea, but only those secrets that the sea would allow it to. There was a brief conflict and I was wondering how to capture its essence when you came by. You were an intense silhouette and the rays of the sun almost created a halo around your frame. Look..”
And she showed him a succession of snapshots, he wasn’t even aware that she had taken so many.
“You seemed to be the perfect replica of this conflict in the human form. You were running and you leave behind a trail of your footprints to be visible for this moment before the sea washes it away. Look behind.”
Intrigued by now, Adit looked around. Sure enough, he could see a long trail of his footprints, some of them already erased by the incoming waves.
“See?” she said triumphantly, “You have travelled that path, and some of the trace is lost, even to you. But that does not negate the fact that you have come that way.”
“I am a bit lost,” he said, “I seem to lose the bigger picture.”
“The bigger picture,” she said , “Is that the world creates a kind of hide and seek and apparent conflict through movement. But underneath the conflict, everything remains unchanged. Their essence remains the same.”
He thought of his marriage and the various conflicts over the years.
“Can I see, some of those?” he gestured towards her camera.
“Sure,” she looked pleased.
She led the way towards a cluster of rocks and sat down abruptly. He sat gently next to her.
“I have been here since last two days, “she explained, “You may start at the beginning”.
She showed him a picture of two children, playing around in the sand, bare feet. “See, they are challenging the world through their innocence. Innocence, of course, cannot be challenged as it’s rooted in truth, not facts.”
“What is the difference?” he asked.
“Facts may lie. Facts consist of actual words, actions, things that have happened. You may have hurt someone, that is a fact. But truth lies in the inner harmony, the permanence of your soul, the depth from which your feelings arise. That is timeless, changeless. ..like love. You may have hurt someone, even yourself, on the basis of all things that are facts, but not truth. The truth is that you have always loved.”
He gazed awestruck at the child-woman, less than half his age, who was teaching him to see his life through a new lens.
“See this picture,” she continued...
He could see a small crab-like insect climbing up a sand castle which may have been made by some-one. She had taken a close up, so the insect and the sand castle in proportion looked huge, almost a world in themselves, yet in the backdrop was the inevitable sea which would wash away this world, on an impulse.
“What do you see here?” she asked as the screen changed and he saw two distinct sailboats, with separate identities, yet sailing together in harmony.
“This one is my favourite,” she exclaimed. It was a name inscribed on the beach..’Tara’. A solitary seagull was sitting on the base of the ‘T’.  “Someone must have inscribed the name of his lover,” she said, “And a lonely bird takes a moment of refuge in the token of his love.”
And so on she continued showing him snapshots, one after the other and he felt as if he was waking up from a deep slumber to see the world for the first time.
Finally, she came to the pictures she had taken of him running. There were six in all, in each successive picture, his frame appeared bigger, and from a tiny speck in the distance, he finally emerged to fill the entire frame.
“That’s you,” she declared, “You are both a small part in infinity, as well as complete creation in yourself. I had to take these pictures,” she hesitated before continuing, “I have been capturing the sea and its moods since two days, and then here you came, at just the right moment, totally lost in your own self, and I felt that the ocean with all its knowledge untold and the beach with all its mysteries buried, exists just for you, if only you would care to look. You define them and complete my album.”
“Wow,” he exclaimed! He was grinning like a schoolboy. “May I ask you your name?”
“What the hell!” she said, “You should just say...tell me your name. Why do you have to be so damn polite? I am Zoya.”
“Zoya,” he smiled, nothing about her amazed him anymore, “ That’s a beautiful name. You remind me of how I was long ago, or maybe I still am underneath layers of facts. You have just showed me a world that is perfect in its imperfection, constant in its change, and profound in its simplicity. You will never know what you have done to me without knowing. I wish you continue your passion and one day the whole world will see itself through your lens. I work in the media, Zoya. I happen to be the CEO of a leading PR firm. I have met many photographers through my profession. Some are good, some are excellent..technically speaking. But I have never met anyone whose photography can change a life. You are gifted beyond words and it would be a shame if you don’t pursue your talent, or keep it hidden.”
With these words he rose. The breeze was a shade warmer now. It was almost eight in the morning. Good Lord! His wife would be up and waiting for him to have breakfast together. She may even wonder whether he was besotted by a mermaid in his obsession for the seaside run.
Zoya watched the retreating figure, slowly jogging away to oblivion. She had come here with her camera as a last attempt to live her passion before the inevitable preparation for entrance exams of engineering. The words of her parents and elder sister invaded her mind. “Who will buy your photography? You need a decent profession that can make a living. We have strived all our life, sacrificing so much just so that you can get your professional degree...” She pushed the voices away and got up with renewed zeal. There was at least one person who could see the mysteries of life through her eyes. There may be more.
Adit had rounded a corner and disappeared from her line of vision. Little did he know that in a world of fear and scepticism, he had just saved a dream from dying young.

They sat before a spread breakfast on the terrace. From here the sea looked tranquil and playful. In nineteen years, the sea had endured many fierce storms, yet it had remained the same.  He looked at the woman he had always loved. She was sipping orange juice and talking about her plans for the day. Adit smiled. The promise and expectation were still there in her eyes, and next to  that, every other detail seemed irrelevant.


  1. After our discussion today in the coffee shop, I feel you must have written this specifically for me, but seeing that you wrote this yesterday, and unless you possess the ability to see into the future, I'll have to acquiesce to a greater meaning and a greater purpose.

    I'll read this again tomorrow, and consider the concepts you put forth throughout the day.

    And 99, wonderfully written. Thanks.

  2. Dear Cay, if you have felt that, then its my pleasure to have written this exclusively for you. Damn the actual time of writing. What is time anyway? Truth is timeless.

    Thanks for reading it. People like you keep my passion alive through your careless whispers.

  3. This is an absolutely poignant story JM. Reading it is worth the wait till it got posted.
    It is how you have beaded together varying elements of the universe, despite its diversity, in to one cohesive piece. And then I read it again, and no longer see the distinction. Instead I see a congruence and everything is in perfect symmetry. To say it is beautiful is an understatement. As always, you left a piece of your soul in your post. :D Thank you for sharing that piece.

  4. It seems, JM, that you have taken bits and pieces from your known and imagined universe, have strung them together beautifully into your own new creation. This is very good, very strong, very unified. I like what you have made.

  5. I love it!
    I felt so connected to both of them.
    to both of their view points.
    it's kind of me...and the new me..
    view points that is.
    I so relate.
    Great Job Love!

  6. I know that man, and that girl. The facts are different, but the truth is the same.

    Beautifully written.