Strolling in Ahmedabad

I set out,

With only the perceptive lens of my camera as my guide

Unravelling the mundane architecture of people’s lives,

Beginning with the static maze of streets,

Whose sagging structures conspire to form each isolated niche,

Where enigmatic sculptures are decorated, to defy their age,

Hindu demons whose weathered faces still convey their rage,

Trunkless elephants of stone, locked in combat, have newly painted eyes,

Warped door frames, elaborately carved are colourfully disguised,

The alluring forms of goddesses grace crumbling walls

Shrines are secreted between flyovers and market stalls,

Punctuating concrete with splashes of red and green.

My lens starts by picking out these elements of the scene.

Drawn in by the fractal gravity of detail, I am camera blind.

Each alleyway is a whole new universe of geometry, fixed in time.

While this narrow depth of field leaves a breadcrumb trail of clues

The blurred background of the world inevitably intrudes.

Perhaps it will be jarring rickshaw yellow and a blaring horn,

Or it may be blaring techno from a temple megaphone.

Or maybe, ghostlike and alone, the lumbering form of a placid cow

Floats like an otherworldly mirage through congested crowds,

Forcing you from its path.

But the camera has its own momentum and creates its own sense

As people see themselves reflected in its lens,

Eliciting Bollywood poses or enthusiastic smiles,

Attracting Facebook savvy school kids with western styles

All demanding selfies and lining up to shake my hand.

While excited stall holders beckon from behind their overloaded stands,

Embracing the theatrics of their trade with flair,

Counting out money and loading scales with exaggerated care.

As the camera works to frame its own stage the route of my passage unfurls,

Drawn with strangely cinematic certainty through the living fabric of successive world’s.

And the scene shifts

Relaxed, radiating the energy of his youth, he appears on cue,

He is crouched by the dusty roadside for a spontaneous tattoo.

Defying the heat in skinny jeans, presented in his trendy best,

He grins through chunky blue rimmed glasses and thrives off my passing interest.

And the scene shifts

Two shopkeepers sit, wrapped up in woollens and practicing their time pass with an easy air,

Their shop (merely a shelf on the side of their house) stocks all manner of tobacco related wares.

Yet they are more preoccupied with studying the street, reading its fluid script like scholars,

Parsing the characters they meet for gossip- be they photographers or rickshaw wallahs.

And the scene shifts

An electrician insists I photograph his work- imparting camera angles with friendly sincerity,

Sifting purposefully through his own clutter, he restlessly tinkers with practiced dexterity,

While his shop spills from a modest cupboard- a cryptic mess of boxes, all battered and rust stained.

Eclectic tools, bits of broken things. Everything in its place, systematised by the cypher of his brain.

And the scene shifts

Around him stalls sell badly photocopied tomes; countless stacks of science and engineering.

In the half light beneath the busy bridge, he is conscious of the angular arrangement of his limbs,

Selling posters, he perches before a rainbow pantheon of gods, whose every pose hold hidden omens.

He stares into the middle distance with a practiced grace, his Bollywood dreams being voicelessly spoken.

And the scene shifts

The very lens which led me blindly on my traveled path

Now digests the lived experience, leaving merely frozen moments in its aftermath.

Cast forward into the future and reaching back to shape the past

Like fossilised fragments of time, transforming memories and shaping fact.

Images which hold monopoly on truth, their vivid power once transmitted,

Denies even the thought of who, or what things, may have been omitted.

Obscuring the frayed symmetry of a cluttered city,

Offering in its place a photogenic simplicity

Which feeds the pattern hungry cravings of my mind,

Draws my photographers eye to seek out and to find

A wealth of hidden details

Within the static maze of streets.

Click here to see some of the photos which inspired this poem

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