“Phir se cake khilao. Photo acchi nahi aayi.”
The above statement sums up the 21st century. I was at this family event a few days back. It was my cousin’s birthday. A grand party was thrown for all family members by my aunt in order to show off her wealth — because why not? It’s a common practice in India to throw a grand party for minor occasions to subtly notify everyone about all the arrogance that is being earned in form of money. This was one such event and as much as I hated attending it, I wholeheartedly loved observing it.
Essentially, the birthday party was just a mask to cover up the main event i.e. taking photos till the batteries die. First, 25 photos of the cake were taken from 12 different mobile phones. Then, the cake was nicely cut into portions for everyone to hold each piece near the kid’s mouth for about 15 minutes until the perfect photo was clicked. Retakes and re-retakes were taken until the ego of the person holding that piece of cake was satisfied by the way he/she looked in the photo. Once everyone was done with their photo session, after about 30 minutes, the cake was simultaneously fed to the kid and smashed on her face by her cousins for reasons everyone (including the inventor of cake) is unaware of. The only time I can understand smashing cake on everyone’s face is when the cake is shitty or the person is.
Anyway, everyone participated in this big fat photo session, from my cousin’s grandmother to my cousin herself. I lost my shit when the grandma requested my cousin to put cake on her face again because no picture was clicked the first time around. And guess what, the kid complied. After having dinner, they even went through all the photographs that they clicked an hour back, but let’s not get into that.
This wasn’t the first such event I’ve witnessed — where the entire affair is rigged up just to take photographs. Be it my friend’s wedding last year, his kid’s birthday, his kid’s first day in school or the first time he shat his pants. In some of these events, apart from the whole family clicking the photographs themselves from their expensive phones, they hire professional photographers too who come with their professional cameras and professionally ask people to put the tilak once again because they didn’t get it right the first fucking time. Everyone is busy “capturing memories” so that they can “relive” them. Relive, heh! To relive, you gotta live first. Also, my grandma is 88, she doesn’t have time to live. Why the fuck would she want to relive anything?
And no, sometimes it doesn’t stop here. These assholes then go to their respective social network profiles and upload the whole album of them posing like Baba Ramdev with different people. And they keep uploading them to stay relevant in a circle which can’t give more than zero fucks about them. Yes, throwback Thursdays I am talking to you. And no girl, that wasn’t a candid picture. I saw your boyfriend clicking 150 pictures of you to produce that one supposedly perfect “candid” shot.
It’s funny how most of the memories of our lives depend on a small piece of plastic. If there were no cameras, I bet it would’ve been difficult recognizing ourselves in our childhood pictures… because there wouldn’t have been any childhood pictures. If we think about it, we have invented certain things so that our minds don’t have to remember shit. No memories of your past? Invent a camera. Can’t remember data? Invent a computer. Can’t remember meetings? Invent reminders. Can’t calculate? Well don’t worry dear mind, calculators are there. And thus, our minds started getting less occupied. And what do you do when you don’t have anything in your mind? You invent. You invent more useless shit to comfort yourself.
For a fact, my family never had a camera. We never bothered to buy one. There are no pictures of me showing my small penis. I don’t have a reason to get embarrassed. There are no pictures of my parents having fun with my sister and me. We don’t have those big albums, which people tend to open whenever they start reminiscing about their childhood. We don’t have any properly framed pictures of ourselves hanging in our old house. You might find thousands of pictures of gods, but you can’t find a single one of us on our walls. And what’s the point anyway? You aren’t going to forget who you are or who your sister was or who your parents are! I don’t think we really need a camera. I mean we do remember stuff. If we can’t, then the stuff was probably not worth remembering. It’s not fucking necessary to remember every goddamn good thing that has happened in your life. The whole production of smiling and crying and smiling again after seeing the old photographs seems ridiculous to me.
I might never buy a camera. I don’t want to capture my kids’ childhood. I don’t want to cry looking at the photographs when they go away to study or earn. I don’t want that shit. I don’t give a fuck about what toys my girl played with when she was small. And I bet on my life, she wouldn’t give a fuck either when she’s 20. Capturing a picture of your girl playing with her toys and reminding her 20 years later about how you cared about her says a lot about you. Well, I certainly won’t need validation from my kids. And what if my kid is ugly? She surely won’t need a thousand pictures to remind her of that fact. No, I am not being mean. I am just being rational.
Funny how in the process of capturing memories, we are forgetting to make some. There is nothing sadder than the sight of a couple enjoying the sunset in front of their cameras. There is nothing stupider than the sight of a group of friends on a hill getting killed while clicking a selfie. There is nothing special about anything you see in pictures. Whatever there is, it’s out there. It’s not in your camera.
First published on Huffington Post.