Look at me again

The act of taking one’s photo with the built-in camera of a mobile phone, called taking selfie, is primarily a favorite thing among girls. For some reason boys are not so interested to learn from others how they look.

Taking selfie is a very difficult art. Almost in any selfie the girl’s neck appears at least one inch longer than what the length of her neck would be if she were hanged from the neck until death. It appears that the head lost interest to stay with the rest of the body and was about to leave. But that is not all, her one eye, depending on which hand is used for taking the photo would appear so large that one might think that it is about to come out of the orbit.

When these photos are posted in social networking sites there would be hundreds of ‘likes’. Selfies are like modern art. Each selfie signifies something very-very deep but the hidden message is known only to one person and the rest including those who ‘liked’ them will have no clue about it. The compliments that will be posted with those photos are also very thought provoking, e.g., ‘you look beautiful’ and the invariable reply would be ‘ten q’ (means thank you).

These days every boy and a girl are having at least one camera phone and as a result old days’ photography with an analog camera (sometimes called film camera) has lost popularity. Gone are those days when a photographer was called home on special occasions for taking the picture of children with their parents and grandparents. Everyone was asked to smile just before the shutter was clicked. After taking the photograph the film was sent for developing and everybody at home would wait to see how he or she looked in the photo. Sometimes the waiting period was as long as one week. One never knew how he or she would look in the photo, which generally was in black and white, when it would be washed and developed. It was almost like a film star giving an interview to the media and never knew how his or her statements would be twisted when published in a film magazine. Immediately after I passed out of high school I visited a photo studio to get a passport size photograph of myself for college admission. When I went to collect my photo I was shocked to see my face in the two inches by two inches paper. With almost tearful eyes I asked the owner of the photo studio, who was almost of my father’s age, “Uncle why do I look like this in the photo?” He examined the photo and then looked at my face for even less than a second and said, “Stand in front of a mirror.”

During those days very few people had their own cameras. A camera was expensive, films were expensive too and so was the cost of developing films. But we had a camera in our home, a very old Kodak camera, a cuboid shaped mysterious looking black box, similar to a pinhole camera in a physics laboratory. When I was in standard five our eldest brother bought it from a gentleman who got rid of it because its viewfinder glass had a scratch.

Our brother bought the camera for ten rupees. Ten rupees was very serious money during those days which can be understood from the following real incidence.

My classmate Ashok Kundu, a boy having an elliptical shaped head with ears along the major axis and nose along the minor axis was asked by his mother to buy washing soda, coconut hair oil, mustard oil for cooking, and some biscuits from the nearby grocery. She gave him a one rupee note and also reminded him that all those things combined would not cost one rupee and therefore he should count the changes carefully before leaving the grocery. When my friend reached the grocery shop he realized that the one rupee note was missing and he discovered a hole in the pocket where he had kept the money. He searched every single inch of the road he had walked, from his home to the grocery shop with a hope that it would still be lying on the road. But that was not his lucky day. When he reported about the loss to his mother with tearful eyes she only told “Let your father come home.” My friend having never lost so much money before did not know what to expect when his father would return. When his mother reported the incidence to his father immediately upon his return from work his father gave him a sound beating for being careless. When his father had finished his part his mother gave him few slaps. Probably she was waiting for her husband to ‘cut the red tape’. Her beating was not so severe but she was also screaming and cursing. Then it was the turn of his elder brothers, probably two or could be three. Everybody in his home stood up in solidarity for the noble cause of making a boy more careful to face the future and to be a better person.

“You have an elder sister, don’t you”, I asked Ashok when he was narrating the incidence the following day in the school.

“Yes I have”, he told.

“Did she beat you too?” I asked.

“No. At the end of the ordeal when I was crying sitting on the floor with my head down, she sat near me, pulled my head towards her and started wiping my tears with her sari.”

“So you stopped crying”, I asked.

“No, I cried even more” Ashok replied.

“You have no sister?” Ashok asked.

“No I do not have a sister. You are very lucky”, I told Ashok.

I felt a lump near my throat while Ashok was narrating his sufferings.

If one rupee or loss of one rupee could cause so much suffering to a small boy one could easily imagine the value of ten rupees. But still a new camera even during those days was not less than hundred rupees because those cameras were all imported.
Nevertheless the camera which our brother bought was good for taking pictures, only once my brother loaded a roll of black and white film into it because films were too expensive.

He never allowed any of his younger siblings to go near it, leave alone touching it. He used to make a ‘prrrrr’ sound if he found anyone was trying to go near his camera. Our brother used to hang the camera on his neck using red colored cotton string and roam around in the neighborhood. If anybody inquired about the black thing hanging from his neck he used to say that it was his ‘Kodak Camera’. He claimed to be having serious interest in photography. Every photo of his had some uniqueness, either the topmost part of the head or the bottommost part of the leg would be missing in the picture and sometimes the person in the photo would be standing making an angle with the ground, defying gravity. “That is the best you can get from a very old camera” he used to say if anybody questioned him about those pictures.

After roaming around in the street with his camera for few months he got seriously interested to teach others ‘how a camera works’. He opened his physics book and showed everybody present the diagram of a pinhole camera. He explained how images are inverted when light from an object passes through a convex lens and made his audience spellbound when he told that an image captured in a camera film is always upside down. “Now I am going to show you the internals of this camera so that you will understand why this camera is not any different from a pinhole camera, at least in principle.” And he started opening the screws with very small screwdrivers which we had in our home. But he could not assemble it back and make it work again. After that day everyone present had some better idea of a camera and they also learnt one more valuable lesson.

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