How to own a leopard

22 08 2010

Why do people take photographs?

I mean it. Do we know why we keep taking photographs? Everywhere we go, whatever the event or circumstance, someone will produce a camera, usually one of those tiny ones the size of a matchbox that shoots immensely high resolution images that can reproduce at hoarding sizes, and start clicking.

There is hardly any place left in the world where photography is inappropriate, except perhaps some far northern states of india where extremely photogenic tribeswomen walk around in brilliantly coloured saris – any photographer’s dream shot, especially those with visions of national geographic wallpaper floating before their eyes. These women however have stern and fixed ideas on the matter of having their picture taken by every passing tourist and you will be roundly cursed in hindi every time you point your camera at one of them.

I like this.

I like the fact that there is still a no go zone or two left in the world where cameras and photographers are not welcome. On a recent visit to a wildlife park I realized that there exists in many an amateur photographer’s mind, a sort of hierarchy of wildlife in which the leopard undoubtedly reigns supreme, closely followed by the elephant, crocodile and bear. All the other animals of the park come a poor third, while the birds hardly register at all, (unless you are one of those peculiar people who actually prefer birds to leopards and walk around with a bird book in hand trying to identify each one.) Birdwatching has its own set of rules and hierarchies, and some birds give you extra points when reported later over dinner, especially the rare or colorful ones.

So the creatures of the wild are now reduced to popular photographs with no value beyond show and tell. Observe the jeeps, vans and buses full of yelling sightseers that career over the dirt tracks of yala in pursuit of some poor animal who is then surrounded and photographed by twenty five people at once, all using high end cameras worth shitloads of money which couldn’t take a bad shot if you tried.

People take photographs to ‘capture’ a moment, a place, a face or action. These are then framed and kept as memories. Most pictures aren’t worth anything unless they are shared. This means that every picture is something we plan to show/share, even before we click. But what really happens is that you start to lose the reality of the moment, the place and the face. Everything is seen through the lens and our desire to possess the picture becomes greater than our pleasure in the subject.

The world around us is astounding. It keeps changing and no one can ever possess the smallest fraction of it. The next time you go to yala, leave your camera behind.





I need you

28 02 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxq-wCf5G8o

Anyone who’s ever been in love would have used the words ‘I love you’ at some point of their campaign of persuasion. And most people over the age of four would have heard and understood the phrase at some point of their lives.  ‘I love you’ is possibly the most emotionally moving, courageous and meaningful thing anyone can say to another person and it takes precedence over any other claim that a lover especially, might make. ‘I love you’ has the power to remove all doubt, reaffirm one’s faith and even perhaps re-create feelings which might be fading away. ‘I love you’ is magical.

The words ‘I need you’ though, are not half as exciting and are not advertised half as often as ‘I love you’ in popular music and culture – implying as they do a more selfish wanting which is not necessarily a compliment. Unless of course you are of a masochistic turn of mind. And that’s the thing.

People leave relationships for all kinds of reasons. Discoveries of sexual incompatibility, differing life-agendas, infidelity and boredom are some of the common reasons one hears. (There are lots more of course, such as violence, mental trauma and other psychological issues which are more complex). Excessive neediness by one person however, is not really seen as a valid reason for the other to leave a relationship, possibly because it is not often very obvious and can take years to manifest itself to its true maximum potential of horror. Indeed, a person ditching someone for reasons of simple boredom might be astonished by the levels of uncontrolled insecure behaviour they could be forced to witness from a previously calm and stable individual. But how could we not know this about them? Is it an entirely new development in their character? Can we simply blame them and quietly sneak off or do we too have a responsibility for their condition? Why have we spent so many years with someone whose black hole of neediness is now driving us away? Can we honestly claim that we were not attracted to and turned on by this very need? Didn’t it appear to be sweetly vulnerable and didn’t it arouse all our most protective instincts – back then? Before it turned into this monster? Neediness could be the reason so many of us are in co-dependent relationships, that weirdly work if both parties are on the same page but not if one person decides to grow or change.

We all have needs, and these are mostly made manifest in our love relationships. And while we know that the failings of our childhood relationships with our parents almost always drive the flaws within the relationships we have as adults, it is interesting to observe how neediness works across all ages to different degrees. Since many of us have huge insecurities about ourselves, we seek to find the perfect partner. That is, one who will validate our lives, boost our egos and give us unconditional love. This is not easy. Some people spend their entire lives seeking their Soul Mate and most never find them. Most other people, gay or straight, settle for the closest thing and if this means compromising on attributes such as strength of character, will-power or critical analysis skills, then we are usually willing to do it. And some of us find our partner’s failings and flaws very attractive. Their fears, phobias and little white lies might be enchanting at first. In time however, the cost may be high and distressful.

In Sri Lanka as elsewhere, many straight relationships and marriages are founded on common interests, mutual benefit, social acceptance and family values. Gay relationships are not always so clearly defined and certainly do not have the public and private support systems that straight people can access. Sexual attraction is often a primary driving force and other factors may not be considered so important when falling in love, especially in a small queer community such as ours where choices are limited anyway. And neediness manifested appropriately can be the best means by which to attract lovers, especially in lesbian relationships. Many ‘fragile’ femme women’s maternal instincts are aroused by their ‘strong’ butch women’s need for mothering (which can lead to lasting relationships). However it could be that in crisis, the butch identified woman might completely lose the plot while the fragile femme might reveal herself to be the real Schwarzenegger of the two.

It is an interesting paradox. The very characteristics that many of us claim to aspire to and celebrate – independence, strength and unwillingness towards emotional manipulation, are not our most common experiences on the route to finding companionship and love. The refusal to use the weapon of need is rare. In reality the woman whose inner strength is too apparent could be so intimidating that few women and fewer men, would dare approach.

Where lies the difference between one person’s desire for honest intimacy and the other’s desire simply to possess?