Sunday, September 16, 2012

Only a madman...

... would possibly undergo all the privations of crossing the Turnwise Ocean in order to merely look at anything. - Terry Pratchett (The Colour of Magic)

I never could understand why people would brave the traffic out of Delhi to Agra, get ripped off on almost everything from accommodation to batteries, eat food practically guaranteed to make you ill, queue up for hours outside for entry, and then once inside, fiddle with rectangular boxes, with hardly a glance at what they came for. You'd think they'd use up every second of their time soaking in the most beautiful thing they're ever likely to see; but no, focal lengths, the rule of thirds and getting their own mugs in the frame occupy their time.

Why settle for a bunch of poor two-dimensional substitutes, when you could instead be committing the real thing to memory? No matter how good they are, they're unlikely to capture even a tenth of the magic of the Taj Mahal. I'd seen numerous photos of it since I was a child, and yet, for most of my two years in Delhi, I didn't bother with the Agra trip. It was only towards the end of my stay there, and that too just to get it off my list, did I bother turning up. Once there, though, my very first view of it from the South Gate is something I'll never forget - but the point here is, it wasn't any photograph that inspired me to do go there.

So then, why bother with the cameras? Why make a nuisance of yourself along every pathway, on every vantage point? Why reduce great places to nothing more than a continuous barrage of dozens of camera clicks from hundreds of visitors every second? Why lessen your own trip and get in everyone else's way by wasting so much time on an activity that will, for most people, not add anything at all to their trips?

I suppose it comes down to the age-old question of, "If a tree goes out of the jungle on vacation, but does not make an ass and a nuisance out of itself by posing for numerous pictures, has it really gone on vacation?" It doesn't make sense if you pause to think of it, but there is humanity for you. It's neither the destination nor the road that's important, but the freezing and the bragging.

And that, my friends, is why I haven't been taking any pictures on any of my vacations the last few years, and have mostly turned to the Malabar Op to help me out with his reports. My photography skills being terrible have nothing whatsoever to do with it, and anyone who tries to tell you that is selling you unmitigated bullshit. But for this trip, I might just click a few photos that look like they're taken on a cell phone camera (which is all I'm carrying) by a partially blind dude with the shakes. I'm travelling alone, and I've maybe crammed in more than I should have, and with a picture being worth a thousand words and everything, that's a lot of time saved. Plus, just filling in the forms and gathering all the documents needed for the Schengen visa was the Oblatespheroidworld equivalent of crossing the Turnwise Ocean*. I think I'm entitled to feeling a little triumphant.

One other thing.

All information you glean from here is covered by the "if it breaks, you get to keep both halves" guarantee. I'd bought a bunch of books on Spain, but most of them have been gathering dust on my shelves. So, while stuff may very well be presented with an assurance and a lightness of touch that hints at deep knowledge and a complete mastery of the topic being presented, they will in fact be culled from the following sources:


  • The Lonely Planet guide I used to plan my trip with.
  • Complete mis-translations of the Spanish I hear around me.
  • Whispered conversations wafting through paper-thin hotel walls.
  • Advertising on milk cartons.
  • Inscriptions on the backs of toilet doors.
  • Casual conversations with total strangers while waiting in queues.
  • Half-remembered dreams provoked by the fevered imaginations of Buñuel and Dali.
  • Etc.

None of which is going to be run through even the most basic of checks before I hit "publish."

Just so you know.

*And they still managed to get the visa wrong just enough to cost me a packet in rescheduling the trip.

The Trip

1 comment:

chicu said...

are you off? Oh fun!