Looking through a friend's photos recently, capturing precious moments from our trip to the Himalayas that now feels like eons ago, I came upon the realization that good photos encapsulating moments which, at the time, might seem entirely insignificant, can transport you back to that same emotive state months or years later. As I flicked through the images, some of the shots of the mountains, of the sacred Mount Kailas, majestic in their awe-inspiring silence, brought tears to my eyes; and one particular picture, aside from making me laugh, made me crave watermelon to such an extent that the next day I had to, come what may, eat watermelon.
I recalled a recent conversation I had with my husband, "Do I take photos or do I enjoy the moment?" when I scolded him for not taking enough snaps of the places he visits, of himself, of me of course. Enjoying the moment versus clicking away and enjoying those moments later, I wondered about that. Does taking pictures really not let us enjoy the moment? Does it put a barrier between us and the moment occurring before us?
Seeing charming black and white photos from decades ago, a couple made to stand next to each other, stiff and upright, often not smiling, still makes me smile -- in fact, you find photos like this taken today in the villages in India and elsewhere. But now, it is not so much about the touristic "let's smile in front of the Eiffel Tower and take a picture as we look like we're holding it at the tip"; rather, we appreciate photos that capture the beauty of the world in their own unique way, or that grab a moment of action, a moment of thought, where the emotion is conveyed in such a way as to involve the viewer and create a journey.
And so I sat in the Indian night sky, peacefully remembering bits and pieces of the trip that had somehow loosely been floating around in my mind, that if not consolidated once in a while, would get lost. I realized that pictures and of course words are both as important as each other in piecing together stories, painting a life we once lived, a journey we once took. In fact a picture is itself a stepping stone into a puddle of glittering memories that tell a story or two and depict an entire canvas of emotions and as such bring reality to a journey which becomes more and more surreal with time.
Despite being a writer and even though I wrote about the Himalayas while I was there, there were certain things that, had it not been for such caught-in-the-action pictures, I might have forgotten, that even now I had to ask someone to tell me the full story. And while it is for ourselves, for our families and our friends that we take these pictures, we are also recording history, we are creating an album of this era that we're living in, for our grandchildren and for future generations.
I looked up at the stars, feeling almost as though I was in the Himalayas, only that there were a few lights around me, not quite so many stars, and I could not hear the music of the water as it rushed past, the way it rippled as it swept over the rocks, and the obscure silhouette of peaks could not be discerned even as I squinted my eyes. They were memories that suddenly felt close, almost as though they happened just yesterday. I looked at the grass and sighed. And then, suddenly struck by the post-bite onslaught of itchiness, I got up reluctantly and carried all these gems, my favorite reminiscences of a world which seemed far away from earth, to bed.