Echo Of A Song Not For Me

Photographs, like paintings, are actually creations of the originator. The slight difference being, an artist may be sitting in her/his place of convenience and creating through memory or imagination. While, the photographer is in the heart of his own creation. Or at least, is witness to the events s/he wants to freeze in her/his frame. And sometimes, new photographs exhibit old places. Places oft visited. By us. In hordes or as free individual travellers. And many a times, new photographs carry new events, never visited places & fresh people we desire openly or secretly to be with.

I became part of a kid’s birthday party recently. At 40, being in that gathering was both exciting as well as embarrassing. I walked into the venue a little hesitant. But thankfully, excitement soon burst the embarrassment balloon & in a few minutes, I was feeling just fine. Watching these kids run around, oblivious to the world around. They did not bother too much about people who had brought them to this gathering, or whose gathering it actually was. They were here at this moment, but in their own world, at the same time.

And I was taken back, momentarily, to when we would celebrate birthdays as 8/9/10 yr olds in Junior School. Once we stepped into Senior Boys School, every day was like a birthday! There was hardly any day when you would not get lip smacking snacks smacked across your face by a very benevolent senior. Anyhow, comparing today with our days in a residential school, I was embarrassed again. And this time, embarrassment blew the candles off excitement. Back in the hostel, the only two things that were branded was Ravalgaon Orange lozenge & Parle Kismi toffee. Else, we never knew where the cake came from, the chips was in transparent unbranded packets and so was the namkeen. And all these items would come, if your parents could afford all this. I doubt if even 50% of us kids celebrated our birthdays ever. Some lucky bastards had luckier classmates, who could afford some more, and actually had two/three more items to choose from – one unbranded cream roll & one branded eclairs or Kismi bar (in place of a toffee each) to distribute.

The worst part of the evening was, the birthday girl/boy’s cake cutting would happen right in the middle of the dining hall & everyone was supposed to sing & wish the kid. But the snacks would be distributed only to her/his batchmates & may be a select few who were from the same town, or neighbourhood, and sometimes, someone special. Why would I wish anyone if I don’t get anything in return? Not even a orange lozenge! But then, I think, we as kids would think, when it is my birthday & the dining hall wasn’t echoing louder than the last birthday song sung for someone, people would think I have lesser friends. So, I ended up singing at the top of my voice for someone I didn’t even like. Or measuring the echo of the song with the last one & sipping the usual tea with less tea, lesser milk & no sugar! Nothing sweet that day!

Anyhow, did you notice, I started with photographs, artists, creativity & desires? I wanted to click photographs of the birthday cake, the child, the event & celebrations. This photograph would be new. The event would be new. The people in it would be new. But, it did not have the unbranded celebration I was used to. It did not have the expectation of just one Kismi toffee. I missed the song, with the same lyrics but a different echo, every time.

– Kanishka Mallick (1996)

This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on  June 10, 2018 over email.


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