Jewellery box and other tales

This is the small Bidri jewellery box I had bought after seeing how it was made. Every bit of it's intricacies made by hand.

Before I got the D90, I was told by many elders that I shouldn't spend so much money on a camera. Some, a few of whom are at the pinnacle of their profession found my need to buy such an "expensive" camera unreasonable and silly. Of course I have known people with far lesser means buying a more advanced camera. Conversely, I know more people with much more means spending lesser on a camera, even if they really like taking pictures. "Return on investment" is what they all say. And I have to smile. Is the money spent on the camera supposed to bring in more money to justify the price? Is that our sole consideration before we decide to spend?

Someone, rather revered, also stated with a tone of unmistakable condesension, "Who looks at photos, anyway? We have loads of photographs in our house and no one bothers to pick them up. They are rotting!" Sometimes, it is the stature of people that makes one remember the words they say and so this stuck in my mind. And it reinforced to me, all the things I did not want to be. I do not want to be so immersed in pursuing professional ambition so that I have no time to sit and look, no time to take pleasure in all the little things. For, in the end, it's those joys that make everything worthwhile.

The thrill of attempting to capture an image and be able to speak through it, to be able make an image that becomes the voice of it's subjects, or to freeze a moment in time is immense. The possibility of success at such attempts begins with honesty. I feel more alive when I'm taking photos than I do in most other situations. And these are things I can never put a price tag upon.

There is something else I wanted to write about, though I know long write-ups on blip are a major turn-off. Yesterday, after we spotted the puncture and brought the car to a halt, we started to scrounge for repair shops, but without success. There were a couple of guys who spotted us inquiring, and on their own volition, came up to us, and claiming to have their own shop and sufficient expertise, offered to help. Well, they looked kind and honest, but that is not something we can go by universally. They attached the spare tyre, managed to get a spare new tube meeting our specifications to restore the punctured wheel, put everything back as it was previously, while leading us on their motorbike, as we followed them through the town. And in the end we were able to drive back the whole distance of 140 km with ease.

There was one discrepancy in their words. Initially they promised to repair the puncture in the tyre (We're not talking of tubeless tyres here). Awaiting the repairs, which would take half an hour or so, we headed off for some coffee. Some of us got a bit suspicious at their insistence that we go and have coffee, so we called them. Only to find out that they weren't repairing the punctured tube, and instead had managed to get hold of a new one! So we headed back immediately to the shop and they were not there. They returned with the new tube; we couldn't tell for sure, if it was new or not. Neither did they have a bill for it, but this being a remote town in India, one doesn't usually expect a receipt. The price they quoted, seemed to be on the high side (though not exorbitant), but we could not be sure. Perhaps they were right.

In the end, we paid just slightly more than the price of the tube. And if you ask me, they surely deserved more. On a hot sunny afternoon, in a place not known to us, where almost all shops were closed, it would have been very dificult to get help. I am grateful, that India is also a country where such an event can happen, and a random stranger can come up and lend a helping hand. It is a win-win situation and all that. Neither do I not disagree with the fact that cracks in the system lead to situations where help like this becomes a necessity. But, they were also polite. Neither did they argue about money, as almost everyone around us does. They expressed disappointment that we paid them less, but that is all. Despite being dejected, they thanked us before leaving.

And I value that. I value the politeness they showed and the diligence with which they offered to help and completed their job. They sensed our doubts, though we spoke in English and yet they did not forsake their work, as most others would. They took it through till the end and made it possible for us to return. They belong to a small lazy town, and Hyderabad to them, is a big city. In all likelihood, they are less likely to cheat than people would in Hyderabad. And repeated experience turns us inhabitants into painful cynics. We are always on a lookout against people who'll cheat us. And as I have said before, I cannot understand progess measured solely in terms of a growing GDP. What sense does it make, when we the "educated" people, cannot trust a fellow citizen? What kind of progress is that?

Another corollary of the problem is this: It just led me to wonder, what difference our decision to pay them less had made. We got away with the "force" of our words, while they remained meek. We do not have a way of knowing for sure if they were honest or not. Now what if they were? Then they surely deserved more. So, by being honest, they only stood to lose. What is the guarantee, that after a couple of such instances, will they continue to remain honest? Are we not, potentially turning "innocent" citizens to the dishonst ones we complain about? As in this situation, when it's hard to ascentain the facts, I wouldn't have minded paying more, even if it was at the risk of being cheated.

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