Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taxi Shikara

17 year old M Namoos Bukhari doesn't immediately surface from amidst the crowd inside the India Habitat Centre's Experimental Art Gallery. As I walk in, a most unusual smell teases my senses and makes me frown. I walk down the corridor and past the State Bank of Hyderabad ATM, right into the familiar humming that always heralds the arrival of new talent. Kurtas and salt and pepper beards peek at me and I peek into the frames silently adorning the walls all around me. The Dal Lake. Many moods of marvel, indeed. Try as I might, stereotypes creep into and cloud my mind's eye, making me want to see the oft-repeated conversations between sunlight and the waters of the lake. A reflection here, a cauliflower cloud there and a hunched up Kashmiri inside a Shikara on a chilly morning.
But what greets me is so re-assuring that I smile indulgently. Shikaras in ones and twos, with advertising from "Rupa" frontline briefs, shikaras for the thoroughfare covered in yellow tarpaulin and named "Taxi Shikaras", shikaras that keep the promise of paradise alive with names such as "Janat House" and like the rest of our "filmy" nation, shikaras that promise to provide "music on demand".
"I've seen you around, do you write for a paper?", asks a gentleman in spectacles, "By the way, meet Namoos."
Namoos glides into the space in front of me, almost like a genie in a bottle, conjured by black smoke. A young lad, a trifle shy and seemingly hesitant in being on the other side of the camera. He stands with his arms crossed and whispers about the places he's been to. It's almost as if words, if not tenderly cast into the universe, might warp the calmness and the beauty of the Dal and his memories of it. And yet, he invites me to be a part of his world on the nearly done to death Facebook, a strange, virtual word that is too realistic right now and would have woken me up had this been a dream about Namoos.
"Your photographs have a sense of balance. There's the dawn and the dusk at the Dal, and yet, there's the commerce and the tourism."
He nods his head and thanks me politely. There's a fragile truth in him that I walk away from, a truth that exists in moments. He isn't lying but he isn't just a conduit either. He carries the Lake with him.

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