It took me more than a month to write a few words about the man I used to call ‘Udayan Uncle’. To go back and read from the pages, I thought I will never ever return to was not easy. I apologize to my readers for the delay. But finally here is the story of a man, a photographer, a drunkard and how much happiness he brought to me through his photographs. This is certainly a feel good story. Hope you guys will enjoy reading it. Read On…
The era before freelance photographers mushroomed in every household, the days before every other person owned a DSLR; I knew this man who had perfect knack for a perfect click. Everybody called him Udayan and I called him Udayan Uncle. The days when I loved the mirror in the house more than books, the times when saris, shawls, bindi, bangles, lipsticks and every other accessories went missing from my mom’s drawer; I loved posing for photographs.
Udayan Uncle was my mom’s friend. Soon he became my bestie. What else will happen when a pro-photographer meets a young poser. I don’t even remember what camera he owned or what lenses he carried in his camera case. All I knew is that he had a tricky machine that can freeze me in a rectangular paper. And every time I gazed at it, I felt happy. He asked me to smile, I smiled. He asked to tilt my head, I tilted. He asked to jiggle my bangles, I did it more than I am supposed to do. When the days of gloom and desperation hit me, the numerous albums filled with my photographs certainly helped me come out of my extreme dismal.
He never worked, I am sure he never clicked photographs for money and I am double sure most of the days he slept without eating. He was a drunkard, an outcast and a hippie. He goes missing once in a while. Nobody knows where. Dead or alive?, a question only destiny could answer. But on a fine summer evening, he used to come visiting me with a handful of photographs of absolute resolution. I go amazed and beg him to click more of me because I knew my happiness will not last for long.
Periyar river loved him because she looked the most beautiful in his photographs. In the depth of the forest, he found the creator’s soul. He shot the love birds perched on a branch of a gulmohar, without intruding their privacy. Foreigners who visited the Periyar wildlife sanctuary, rewarded him alcohol, drugs and money. He accepted alcohol and drugs; and humbly rejected the cash.
He was a dark man with mustache and long beard. He smelled of alcohol and of the previous night’s food. He was almost a beggar or rather a hippie. Sometimes I used to feel, he breathed through his camera. And I believe even he knew his happiness wouldn’t last long, so he captured as much as happiness in a rectangular paper. Solidified happiness for all those who met him. He used to tell me to become a model, when I grow old. I didn’t know what that meant;but I am sure if he was alive today, I would become one. A Fashion Model.
The day I heard from my mom; that he fell into a well and died on the spot. I was not surprised. I am sure he found something unusual in the depth of that well and he would have wanted to capture it. Everybody else believed that he committed suicide. I lost a man, a photographer, a bestie and a magician to the destiny. The poser love birds on the gulmohar tree miss him more than I miss him.
I am sure there won’t be a single human being remembering him today, as he was always the nuisance, the menace and an out-caste among the commoners.
But dear Udayan Uncle, I am not sure whether you can read this from the place where you are today. I, an ex- model of yours remember you as the most talented photographer I have had ever come across.
Love you and miss you.