Kannan, his assistant and I bundled into an Omni along with Kannan’s paraphernalia, looking like an ad for Omni’s spacious interiors. He had brought enough equipment to shoot the flora and fauna of The Amazon. I was feeling disgusted that all this drama was for some crappy brochure. I felt guilty. And I’d have stopped myself from feeling that way if I knew that this guilt would slowly graduate to pity.
I had spent a lot of time hating Kannan and had gotten bored, so just for variation I changed it from hatred to pity for a little while.
After all he was just a passionate guy going about his job. I had no reason to be pissed off.
The journey to Niladri amusement park was about 2 hours. I had stayed awake the previous night thinking about ‘what the fuck to talk about during the journey’ and had narrowed down on a few topics that could maybe work.
“So you like Bollywood?” I started with my favorite topic.
With this answer Kannan had straightaway knocked out the conversations I had planned for half the journey.
This left me with only two other topics. ‘How did I land up in advertising?’ or ‘How did he land up in photography?’.
I instinctively knew that he cared two hoots about the first one. And I was scared approaching the second.
So I saved them for later. And spent time looking out of the window at Shilpa Medicals and Chandu Tailors and New Modern Hair Drassars and other shop boards to keep myself occupied. Kannan kept polishing his lenses one by one throughout the journey. And Kannan’s assistant polished them again before packing them back in their cases. I wish they’d let me polish them too since they made it look so engrossing.
I waited till we hit the highway. The sign boards were fewer. And I had memorized every pattern of the seats inside the van. And Kannan had finished polishing every single spare part in his bag.
I decided to launch the topic that I had kept reserved.
“So Kannan, how did you end up being a photographer?”
Kannan’s adam’s apple moved up and down to clear the lump in his throat. And he looked like he was going to burst into tears.
“I believe that destiny chooses you. Not you choose your destiny.”
By the time I could find the connection between the answer and the question, the driver jammed his brakes for a speed breaker. Kannan gave me a look which made me feel the need to probe further to unearth the wisdom in those lines.
“So how did it all happen?”
“I thought I just told you”
“Ok…destiny chose you….how?”
I had half a mind to tell him “Fuck it man. I wish I had destiny as my companion. Instead I have you…so cock up and answer.” but “Ha ha…you are so right” is all that I could say for the sake of that shitty brochure that was on my lap waiting to transform itself into an artwork in two days.
“I hope there is someone there to guide us” Kannan spoke to the roof of the vehicle.
“Ya. I guess while destiny always chooses a different path it still expects us to be its guide.” I replied trying to sound as close to the lyrics of his favorite song.
“I’m talking about Niladri Park…is there someone out there to guide us?”
“Oh…ok…ya there is someone.”
That’s the problem of being an AE. People think you have no right to intrude into worldly wise discussions. You are not allowed to speak anything outside of your joblist.
My pity for him ended and I reverted to the initial emotion.
I hated Kannan. And I could not admit that I hated Kannan. Just like I could not admit that I hated that brochure. That client. My job. Niladri Water Park. The Omni I was travelling in. The driver who kept jamming his brakes. And Kannan’s assistant’s red ears. NO. My job was to not just conceal my hatred but also make it seem we were off bungee jumping to the alps.
“I think the shoot will be fun, don’t you think so?” It sounded like shit after I said it.
” ” kannan replied.
I spent some time remembering motivational quotes on perseverance and hard work and positive attitude and other such jazz written by people who were lucky enough to escape from it.
These self development techniques helped me kill some time before we reached the amusement park that was waiting for the jokers to arrive.
Niladri opened its gates for the first time to any visitor. It was still under completion though most of the rides were already installed.
Kannan got straight to work. He inspected the tiles in close quarters and mid quarters with some yogic poses.
And I inspected the rides in the amusement park in close quarters, mid quarters and more quarters than Kannan examined the tiles. According to me my job was over. The next job in my list was to arrange lunch. Ofcourse I had other parental tasks of calling the client periodically to assure him that his brochure was being looked after.
So while Kannan was unpacking his 967 items, out of which only 2 or 3 were needed, I took a stroll around the amusement park.
There was a water slide. And another massive roller coaster with a track that took you to a great height and then plunged into a pool of water. And a giant tora tora. And some dashing boats. And some other exciting rides.
It was empty with not a soul in sight. I returned from this little investigation back to the most boring spot in the location. The part where Kannan stood.
He looked like a killjoy amidst all these joy rides. I sat down nearby watching him assemble his camera that had more parts than a Lego toy.
Kannan’s assistant was handing him over the parts one by one. And then I suddenly remembered that I had never heard his voice. I didn’t know how it sounded. Did he have a booming voice inside that skeleton? Or was his voice squeaky?
I tried exploring this pastime and went up to him.
“Are you hungry?’
He nodded his head in a manner that could have meant a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘I hate you because my boss hates you’.
“Shall I get something to eat?”
He repeated the same action.
He had no idea how important it was for me to hear his voice. I took a special interest in him. I relied on his company for the rest of the day.
Kannan barked back ‘no we have eaten’ which sounded like ‘leave us alone’.
I walked back and took a seat in the parapet.
Kannan had finally finished assembling half of his father’s earnings. And took the aperture readings.
And he suddenly started to look gloomy.
I was worried, and then I realised that it was not him this time, but the weather.
Kannan looked above, and before he could start weeping, the skies broke open and it began to rain.
Kannan’s assistant dived and rescued the machine as Kannan and me ran for cover.
It poured and poured like mad. And the three of us stood under a nearby ledge that extended about 5 ft.
The next shelter was around 500 meters away.
We watched the rain like we were watching a movie. Kannan stood in the corner balancing himself from not getting drenched and at the same time making sure he did not brush against any part of my body.
“Oh no. What rains!” I restarted conversation.
“This is crazy”
“I mean it was so sunny and suddenly such rains. This is crazy.”
I had found a new relief with this popular topic of bonding. The weather. And still noone wanted to participate. I had never seen this topic fail so miserably before. I continued trying to save the interestingness of rains.
“I hope we will be able to complete the shoot”
“Outdoor shoots are so risky. You can never tell.”
“Wow. Such nice weather. It would be great to have some hot tea.”
“The trees look so beautiful in the rains”
I tried cutting the weather in every possible angle. But nothing seemed to work.
Kannan put a cigarette in his mouth and reached out for a matchbox. His matches were wet. And I had a lighter in my pocket. I waited for him to ask me.
Kannan kept smoking his unlit cigarette. And I took out my lighter and tried lighting it up for him. And the lighter failed. And so did the opportunity of bringing back conversation into our stupid lives.
Being cramped in that space, every minute felt like an hour. And suddenly Kannan spoke.
“Do you realize?”
“Probably even God is in disagreement. This is his way of making us realize that we are doing something wrong. And that’s why He’s stopping us from doing it.”
Approximately 6 blood vessels burst inside my head. I thought that the battle was over. But Kannan’s brain was severely damaged.
“So what do you want to shoot?’
“Nothing. I don’t think we have given this enough thought. I can promise you that I will not be able to give you a picture that I’m satisfied with.”
“Ok. So give me one that you aren’t satisfied with.”
“Listen pal, this is not just a camera. It does not take pictures. It is a machine that paints my imaginations. I worship it. And I will not misuse it.”
It was only then I realised that Kannan was not suicidal. He had a strong desire to be murdered.
“You should not have taken up this project if you weren’t convinced.”
“Yes. You are right. I should not have taken up this project.”
“So is the shoot cancelled?’
I had no idea how to respond to this philanthropic offering. It was too long a journey to go searching for my conscience. It was the first thing that had been frisked off me when I took up this job.
So I tried dealing with the situation without one.
It also sounded cool.
The rain suddenly stopped like God was in agreement with this settlement.
And Kannan got back to work. And started setting up all over again.
“Now you decide what you want me to shoot? And I’ll just shoot it.”
I think that line was meant to move me to tears and make me grovel with shame.
“Oh. So you’re ok.”
“Yes. I’m Ok with that.”
And Kannan continued setting up his imagination painting machine.
But the rain had created puddles all over. And we had to wait for it to dry up.
With silence as company.
Kannan’s assistant and me yawned at each other. Even with this, Kannan made sure to not bond by suppressing the yawns inside his elongated face.
A horrible looking frog hopped by making me notice his species after a long time. I started to fall in love with the frog.
I followed it like an inquisitive seeker to get away from the situation.
“What’s this?’ I asked the first human being I spotted in the environment after a long time.
“It’s a water slide” the human being replied. The human being was an employee of Niladri water park, whose job was to hang around till the water park declared itself open to public. He looked bored. I looked bored. And we kept giving the ‘so what do we do?’ type look to each other.
“This trolley goes up all the way, and then comes down in full speed and plunges into this pool of water” The human being explained the funda behind the contraption.
It sounded exciting. I was getting tempted. But wasn’t sure if this was the right time to indulge in any form of entertainment. Kannan had so badly infected the air with his funereal mood strongly banning any form of joy from entering the premises.
But I also got a strange joy from seeing him depressed. I had had enough. This was one of those rare moments where I could slip into joy without being noticed. I had no boss around. I had no client around. It was like ‘Joy’ was making me a limited period offer.
“Want a ride?” the human being asked me noticing the deprivation of happiness in my life.
Kannan, his assistant and the tiles surrounding him zoomed out in my vision as I sat in the trolley that took me high up above. I realized that sometimes true joy meant distancing yourself from depression more than anything else.
I sat there in a roller coaster, all by myself, with the wind blowing on my face. The world beneath me looked like a tiny speck. As an AE, I had no option but to take refuge in these momentary metaphorical delusions of life. I felt like a king.
I could faintly hear Kannan’s assistant screaming something below.
The trolley now reacted to gravity and all the weight that was weighing me down got thrown around in a blur. As I momentarily freed myself away from deadlines, clients, brochures, creativity and other such idiotic entrapments.
It was the most exhilarating feeling. I screamed loudly in a decibel that would have matched a fully loaded roller coaster. I felt happy to be probably the only man who went on a roller coaster ride all alone.
I had water all over my face and body. I was cleansed from the misery that this project brought along with it.
Suddenly I cared a fuck about anything and everything that I was responsible for.
I could hear Kannan’s assistant louder and clearer now.
He stood beside me mumbling some crap. It took a while before I could make out what he was saying.
“Sir, Boss says that if you are not there he will have to bill you for this project.”
“So, let him bill me.”
Yes. I realized that Kannan was taking me on a ride. But he had no clue how much I enjoyed it.