“So babuji, you want to take my photograph'
“Yes, I do.”
“Babuji, why would anyone with a home and car wish to be outside on such a foul day? I mean, its raining like hell and the streets are flooded. I really don’t have a choice, but you do…”.
“You see, my old friend, you are just the person I’ve been scouring the city for. I want a photo, but not just any photo. I want an award-winning photo. It’s the ticket to my future. Do you think the best things win these days? No, you have to look carefully at what’s in. And guess what’s in? I’ll tell you – what’s fashionable and hep now is for high society to coo and cluck over India’s abject poverty and the fate of the poor millions. Not just Indian high society, by the way, we’ve gone global. It’s a global village now. Why, with the internet and all, I might just publish this on some website!! There’s nothing that can make one feel better while sipping expensive wine over dinner – than say how sorry one is for the deprived. Arrey baba, its even a social statement – you can’t be really rich or cultured unless you care for the poor! Look at that lady – maybe the dam will be built, maybe it won’t, but she sure as hell will go down in the history books. What a success story! That’s precisely the kind of success I want.”
“So let me just tell you what your photo means to me – would you mind staying still? There, now you’ve ruined both the shot and my train of thought. What was I saying? Ah yes, I could win tons of awards which would catapult me into the big league faster than you could say ‘babuji’…..after the awards would come the magazine and movie offers – maybe I could become permanent staff on some bigshot firang magazine (I personally prefer National Geographic), then would follow a cushy pad in Mumbai – arrey stop wiggling willya, its not going to hurt, I’m almost done (damn, the focus isn’t quite right).”
“Babuji, could I have five rupees for a meal?”
“What’s the matter with this damn thing? Humidity or what? I’d better take at least three snaps – want the face to look as starved as possible – ‘pathetic’ is what sells and they call it ‘the reality of life’. We live in an age of political correctness.
Finally, there we go… now if only he’d look this way once more …click..click..click.. that’s it, perfect, I should think…- My god, I’m soaked! It’s back home for me…and I just know this one is it!!”
“Babuji, can you spare five rupees?”
“Babuji, just five…”