Satheesh, a news photographer friend sends in this picture. Looking at it I cringe. I zoom in and see whether it is me, a young-looking person on a new bicycle. I had forgotten all about that ride. I try to remember the day. Someone’s new bicycle; the unremoved covers on the frame heralds its newness for in the northern parts of India people do not remove the cover of newly bought vehicles for a long time. You may see cars with one-year-old polythene covers on their seats. What had been started off as an owner’s reluctance to tamper with a precious acquisition has now become a superstitious ritual!
From the baggy parallel trousers made of cheap denim bought from the Janpath market, one of the haunts of people who desperately look for things that make them appear hip, the pair of black shoes with lace, the fake Nike T-shirt and the goggles dangling from it I could sense a different me who is just unlike the present me and I wonder have I ever been so! Time changes people and the photographs fix them to those moments of unperceivable transformation. And lo, one fine morning which is an aggregate of many bad mornings, one wakes up to see his irrecoverable metamorphosis. It should send one into a panic but often it does not as all the transformations are not Kafkaesque.
The location is Rabindra Bhavan, Mandi House, New Delhi, the seat of three academies (Fine Arts, Music, and Literature). It also has a three storey gallery designed by Habib Rahman, an erstwhile PWD Engineer, and father of noted photographer and activist, Ram Rahman, where hopeful artists come from faraway places to make it big in the art scene. There is a subsidized canteen behind the building where artists, actors, and poets of the pre-internet days gathered to develop strategies to deal with the world of arts. The lawn where the cycle and a strange me on it are seen was the meeting point for the artists. Today, I do not think the authorities even allow people to hang out there. Times have really changed.