Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Strangers

My Marius tour

Day One
Marius W Hanson
I hadn't even heard the name 24 hours ago, and here I was, thrown together with a complete stranger, touring sites (not particularly nice ones; both being hospitals) in Delhi for shoots. Hanson is a UK-based photographer we've brought in to shoot our annual calendar, and he's touring some 11 cities we operate in to shoot key external contacts our departments work with, to feature in the calendar. So, in one city, it could be the head of an NGO who our Governance and Social Justice dept works with, in another it could be a film director or musician or playwright our Arts team works with. You get the drift. I was accompanying him on the North India shoots.
So there I was, making polite conversation with Marius, age 35 (it said so in the Shatabdi ticket). An aside: another thing about me since I've switched sides: I've become friendlier (yes I've been accused of being 'snotty'). Corporate Communciations means no ego. Zero, zilch. Got to go, shake hands, say hi. And now in any small party when someone new walks in and the host or person accompanying them has forgotten to do the introductions, I promptly make eye contact and introduce myself (earlier I would have gone all evening averting eye contact and ensuring I didn't have to be close enough to say hi).
So anyway I found myself talking to Marius, while he just listened. He did talk, but hardly. We walked around the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre to scout for locations to shoot a visually impaired lady who works closely with the hospital and the National Human Rights Commission. What struck me very obviously at the hospital was that patients have no privacy. The person showing us around took us right into the wards and straight to the beds. I wanted to run away and was more embarrassed than the patients. We finally made our way out, even as the over enthusiastic presenter (for whom the hospital was something to show off, the patients its prized possessions, just as the owner of a pirnting press may go around showing off his cutting edge machinery) wanted to take us to the nth unexplored corner...
Next stop: A centre for the blind, housed in a modest Hauz Khas plot. The people here make some really pretty recycled paper handbags, purses, and are booked for orders for a year! The trainer at the computer institute provided us valuable insight (pardon the pun) when he showed us the spekaing software blind people use (each key speaks out) so they know what they are writing by the sound. He then switched off the monitor and told us that when the electricity goes, the UPS' can't run the monitors since they consume a lot of power. "But we blind people don't need the monitor since we can't see it anyway. We only hear it."
Oh My God! Can you ever imagine working without a monitor... I wouldn't be able to see any of this...

Day Two
Picked up Marius at 7 am, took the Shatabdi to Chandigarh. Shot the head of an institute called Regional Institute of English. Then headed for Nek Chand's Rock Garden, which I've seen several times since I have lived in Chandigarh. But never before have I been so hassled. The minute someone would see Marius, 6 feet 2 inches and all white, they would come up say hello, and want to shake hands with us. I, of course, very rudely refused to extend my hand (ignore corp comm bullshit written earlier). They (read young rowdy guys) even wanted to click a photo with us. I once again refused to comply and let Marius bathe in this unexpected popularity. Why are we so white-skin obsessed? I mean what would a guy clicked with a white stranger show the picture and tell his folks/friends? Maybe he'd cook up a nice story that he and Marius in fact became good friends etc. Indians live on dreams. So it would make him happy and popular. Good for him. Anyway, we walked on, and there was this portion of the wall that looked like sandbags but were cemented and Marius happily tapped his knuckles on it much to his chagrin. That helped to crack the ice between us. We then saw the lake, had lunch and then headed to the Modern Gallery of Art. Here, something happened. The details of Marius' background weren't fitting in. He said he had just graduated (but his ticket said his age was 35 I'm thinking) and then he lives alone, eats microwaved stuff and doesn't have a studio.
"Just how old are you" I ask him.
"25" he says.
"What? The ticket said 35."
"Gosh, where did they get that. I hope I don't look 35."
Suddenly he had dropped 10 years.
Whoever said age doesn't matter can take a hike. When you're talking to someone you think is 35 (and therefore older than you) and then you figure they're actually 25 (and therefore, younger) the equation sort of changes. For one, I immediately felt more responsible.
From then on, conversation flowed. The entire train jouney back we were dying to sleep, but were kept awake by what a co-passenger termed an 'Indian nasal explosion'. Yes, someone had the weirdest snore I've ever heard and he snorted for the entire 3 hour 10 minutes. We giggled and laughed like school children pretending to adjust our seats but actually peeping at the snorer for all of 2 hrs and 45 minutes. The stranger was becoming an acquaintance.

Day Three
Shoot in Delhi. The lady in question (visually impaired) walks in to meet us at the ramp (a site we've agreed on since it represents a barrier-free hospital) and immediately takes my arm. Imagine just taking the arm of a stranger? How difficult that must be... Anyway she's weraing a nice, mauve sari and matching accessories and tells me "I was wearing a brown sari and my mom told me 'what is this dull, drab sari you're wearing', so I changed." I mulled over that and later asked Marius how a blind person can talk about mauves and browns and what their perception of colour must be. We figured she must be recognising her clothes by the feel of the fabric, and a colour must be later attached by an external source only as a tag, an adjective. At one point Marius asked her to look away from the camera but the minute she heard the click of the camera she immediately turned towards it. "I'm sorry", she laughed. "It's just instinctive for us to react to the sound of something just as one may (I think she meant you may) be attracted to a visually appealing object."
I asked Marius if he had every shot a blind person before. He said he hadn't. Both of us were richer by the experience.
Day Four follows in a bit...

8 Comments:

Blogger eM said...

I don't believe it! You were totally hitting on that photographer! REALLY gsb, you're married.. be ashamed

27 October, 2004  
Blogger GSB said...

R u nuts? haven't you heard of platonic relationships, Ms Single and Reddy to mingle?

27 October, 2004  
Blogger Jabberwock said...

What happened to Day 4 with Marius? “Both of us were richer by the experience” is a suspiciously tantalising note to end a narrative like this on. A bit like David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas, breaking his story off in mid-sentence after the first 40 pages. Why the sudden prudery? Paisa vasool chahiye!

01 November, 2004  
Anonymous subgarden said...

maturity. no one will ever have enough

31 May, 2005  
Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

So, we need a fearlessly mature transcendental-but-all-inclusive understanding of what happens.

30 June, 2005  
Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

... hmmm... is that strange?

30 June, 2005  
Blogger Diamonds Center said...

Hi thanks for your blog, I liked it! I also have a blog/site about diamond grading
that covers diamond grading
related stuff. Please feel free to visit.

14 January, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, a diamond site has to glisten from many many angles, seen from many many viewpoints

16 June, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home