Thoughts and other trivia...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Wired for It

Having finished almost the entire shooting for a project I'm working on, and for which we've now clocked over 3,500 kilometers by road, we were on our way back to Delhi from Varanasi yesterday. After yet another unexpected and, I daresay, undeserved setback, my cameraman turned to me and, for the second time in two days, said, "Your luck is really bad!" "Yeah," I said and smiled. "No, seriously...I don't believe in all these things but I think you're jinxed," he said sympathetically. I laughed. "Don't laugh," he said. "You should do something about it," he insisted.

On the previous day in Varanasi, however, for a fleeting few moments, I felt what I thought was pure joy. I was at the Dashaswamedh Ghat, shooting the public aarti (a ritualistic prayer) in the evening. If you haven't seen it before, the performance can be quite spectacular and, understandably, hundreds of people had gathered to watch it, among them dozens of foreigners. Like many of them, and to get a vantage point to shoot from, we hired a boat to get a good view of the spectacle. Thirty minutes into the aarti, by when we had already shot quite a lot of it and it was starting to seem repetitive, I sat down to relax and my attention shifted to those who were there to watch. Picking out people and faces from the crowd, I could see that so many of them were deeply engrossed in the proceedings, clapping and singing along. It seemed as though, even if it was briefly, they had, perhaps, made the connection with whatever or whoever it is they repose their faith in. That they must have felt enriched by the experience, I have no doubt. For some strange reason, just looking at their faces and watching them then made me smile and, I think, happy.

Living in the world we live in, I'm now never quite sure of anything, which is why, I guess, I always feel deeply moved even by little acts of kindness and by moments of simple but unquestionable purity.

I had no stake in the rituals or proceedings and, moreover, religion doesn't do anything for me at all. But, just to watch these people derive so much from the experience, it made me feel what I think was a moment of fleeting but pure joy.


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