There was a beautiful challenge on AKN (Aap Ka Nazrana) network. A photograph of a ragpicker.. dishevelled hair, torn clothes, expectedly walking through filth.. and I wanted to write something positive… here is what i wrote — a fictional letter.
Trust this finds you in good health and cheer.
I write to tell you that our ploy worked — and superbly at that. I have just got an e-mail from the World Press Photo Academy to say that I have got an honourable mention in the human interest category for the year 2003-04 for my picture of the ‘rag-picker’.
I tried calling you on your phone but I was unable to get through… perhaps you are on one of those treks that you set off on ever so often… and I know how you detest carrying a cell phone… I smile when I recall how you called the piece of equipment an e-leash!
I just needed to tell you about the letter from the World Press Photo Academy before I spoke with anyone else and hence this letter. I wonder if you remember how we were both searching for some soul-satisfying work last year. You went off to Manasarovar and I have not heard much from you since your return, though I did read some lovely reviews about the exhibition you held in Calcutta and Bombay.
As for me, I kept seeking that one photograph that would define my life. Each time I thought I had done some good work, I realised that I could have done better. I shot some moving pictures of HIV-AIDS patients and others of inmates in Tihar jail.. you would have loved the play of light on the faces of the inmates… I also went across to Virender Sehwag’s home in Najafgarh and came back with a neat compilation of a day in his life but I hadn’t found anything that satisfied my soul…
I so longed to speak with you… and was walking to the STD booth to make a call when I spotted Maya. She was out that morning, picking rags… I was mersmerised by the eyes… I must have shot hundreds of frames of Maya, including those of her beautiful eyes. I chose to send but one to the World Press Photo Academy… I have enclosed that for you.
I just want to say thanks for being there… We may not stay in touch over the phone and mail but Pablo, you mean much to me… you have shown me the way and I do not think I would have been a good human but for the long hours that you spent sharing your own take on life with me…
PS: I have written to the World Press Photo Academy declining the award. I have told them that I have got the best award I could ever have… that I have aadopted the girl and she now goes to a good school. Finally, I can be proud of some things that I do in life. Pablo, I am sure you would approve.