There was a news item in Indian newspapers that mentioned an incident in the Indian parliament. An M.P., who has been a major actress (quite a good one, among my favourites) in Hindi films, and is also the wife of perhaps the biggest Bollywood star ever. It was reported that as she was walking down the aisle or something, another M.P. brought out a camera and took photographs of her. This led to a major incident where she protested and went even further, saying something along the lines that that person will have to pay for this.
I can understand her feelings, though I was surprised at the intensity of her reaction. For she is both a long time celebrity as well as a public figure, not to mention a high level entrepreneur. One would think that being just one of these will make people used to their photos being taken.
After the Delhi gang rape case, there has been a talk of tougher laws and they are in the pipeline. Rough justice meanwhile has already been meted out to one of the accused.
One of the suggestions for tougher laws, I gather, includes stalking.
I can understand some of the suggestions, but stalking? Now that’s something I am extremely familiar with. Because I have been living with it for the last more than a decade. Continuous, relentless stalking.
I thought it had actually been made legal and was considered very patriotic behaviour, and also something that is the height of civic responsibility. The way civilized and cultured people deal with people like yours truly.
Qu’est-ce qui se passe? borrowing words from one of my innumerable stalkers. Are they all going to be put in jail?
I don’t want that.
And when did I become a celebrity?
The first time after writing the last article that I went out to the office, I was walking from the train station to the office building, which is around 2 km (not an exact figure, I have not checked on Google Map). Part of it involves climbing a hill, because the office is on the hill.
And one part of it, on the route that I usually take these days, is a very steep climb. As I was nearing the end of that steep slope, the end being a T point where the road with the steep slope meets (and ends into) another road with a less steep slope, I saw a girl with a camera.
She was taking a video. At first I thought she may be like me, someone who likes to photograph landscapes, and was photographing the road. But the camera was pointed right at me. She must have got the complete footage of my climb. Even as I neared her, she didn’t stop. Finally, only when I started looking sternly at her, she lowered the camera. The place is usually deserted, that is, you rarely come across anyone else, accept perhaps at the usual office timings (coming and going). So, again, no one else was there. As I kept staring at her, she flustered and started walking down the slope. I passed her, then I looked back. She had stopped a few steps away on the sidewalk and was making sure that she had got the footage.
I was born in 1968. It was only in 2005 that I traveled abroad. It was only then that I traveled in a plane. It was only then that I actually saw the inside of an airport. It was only then that my passport was used for the first time.
Somehow, which is a long story, in the years 2010-2011 I had to travel in local flights in India quite frequently, Frequent here being a very relative term. Frequent for a person who had first been on a plane only in 2005. Still, there were quite a few.
Several times out of these, as I would walk into the plane, one or two men sitting somewhere in the front rows (first or second) would almost stand up with a camera in hand and brazenly take a video of me. Not once, not twice. Several times. If you want an exact number, go read a book on statistics. Or watch a football or cricket match.
I looked at them, I stopped (after having experienced this the first time and not having reacted), I glared at them, but they would go on. Only after they had sufficient footage, they would stop.
Similar things happened at airports. At one airport, as I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the security check to start, there was a middle aged couple sitting right opposite to me, at a perfect distance for taking a photo or a video. It was only after some time (some time after sitting down) that I noticed something odd. The man, who was sitting directly opposite to me, had a high end mobile phone. He was holding it in a very odd fashion. But it was not at all odd for what he was doing. He had the camera of the phone directly pointed at me, which required an unnatural way of holding the phone. I say unnatural, because, unlike those men in the planes, he was pretending that he was not doing what he was doing, thought he knew that I knew what he was doing. I took some more time to make sure that he was indeed taking a video of me and then I started glaring at him. I tried my toughest glare, I did my utmost, but the man was shameless. At least 3-4 minutes (possibly more, it seemed like much more, a very long time) must have passed before he actually stopped. He brought the phone near him and pushed the button to stop the recording. He didn’t do this very discretely. All this time, his wife was looking on as if nothing unusual was happening.
But it did not start with my flying (in the) planes, which I knew can be dangerous, thanks to the great man Chomsky.
It started, or at least I first noticed it with my own eyes when I was doing my PhD. As I came out of my hostel room to go the lab, an undergraduate student, standing with his friends and girlfriends. took out the mobile phone and started taking my video. I remember this happening at least twice there.
Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I ask, borrowing words from one of my newest stalkers.
I wish I could believe that the girl found me attractive. That there was love at first sight. That she didn’t want to forget this moment and was therefore recording it for — what do they call it? I forgot the word.
If, by any chance, that is the truth, could she contact me? I would be happy to explore the possibility of starting a relationship. I am desperate for something like that to happen.
But those men certainly not were attracted to me. Or were they? May be they were? Who knows?
I had a short career as an unpaid amateur photographer. Short, partly because it was only in 2005 that I could afford to buy my own camera.
I am sorry. There is a correction. In 2005, I started with a borrowed digital camera that had 16MB memory. It was only one or two years later that I could afford to buy my own.
I mostly took photos of landscapes. Urban and rural and everything else. Not of people. Because of a simple reason.
I would not like someone in the street to stop and take my photo without permission. So, I thought, others may not like that either. And I am certainly not the kind of person who could walk up to people and ask whether they would mind being photographed. I can barely ask a shopkeeper to sell me the thing that I need most urgently right now.
I did violate this principle a few time. Mostly because certain kinds of landscapes always have people. In any case, I didn’t take any close ups or took any photos where my focus was on people.
I wish I were the person who could go up to them and ask them. For keeping people out of photography is losing more than half the battle even before you have started. But I am not, so I don’t photograph people as far as I can.
These people are not like me. They are working for a higher cause. They don’t bother with trivia and externalities like the Golden Rule. They don’t have to take my permission. Either for stalking, or for taking photographs or videos. They just do it. They have a duty to their society. To the world. To the Humanity.
I am sorry again. They are concerned about such trivia. Numerous kinds of trivia. Truckloads of trivia. Trainloads of trivia. But all that does not apply to the case of your truly.
But what do they need my photographs or videos for? Have I become a celebrity?
If so, then where are my photos in newspapers and on television? Why has no one contacted me for an interview?
A public figure?
Okay, so why has no one taken the political comments I have been making seriously?
A high level entrepreneur?
Oh well, then where is my billion dollar bailout? Where are the juicy contracts?
A public enemy?
Send me some of the folk songs composed in my honour. Are there any bounty hunters?
But I thought I was not wanted at all.
I don’t see any posters on the walls with my picture on them.
Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I wonder at this not so new mystery.
May be it is to have better briefings in the future.
I hope I will not be treated like a ‘chutiya’ the next time.
Or are we just making a movie here?
Then where is my fat paycheck? Am I insured? Who is my agent? When is the premiere scheduled? Am I invited?
Who is the fuck is the director?
And who is looking after the music? I am particularly interested in the use of music in movies.