Brand-New Camera

At the age of ten, Fateh goes to a photography exhibition and witnesses a camera for the first time. He wishes for a portable one on that Christmas Eve. But it takes eight years for his father to finally grants that wish, in the form of a Fuji. Fateh’s father wanted his eldest son to study pharmacy, just like himself and his father before him. But Fateh has no interest in medicine, or science, or the law. He wants to be a photographer. Instead of going to the coaching classes, he prefers the long city walks, capturing what he finds extraordinary. Looking through the viewfinder, he can see stories and witness truths. And he wants the world to view them too.

Fateh’s family sends him to a costly school, where he feels miserable all the time. They then send him to an expensive college, where he feels a little less miserable. Away from the familial restrictions, Fateh finally finds the freedom to chase his passion. And inevitably, he fails four times in his pre-final year. Fearing the worst, his father visits the college only to find that instead of drugs, his son is addicted to the fervor of photography. The fifty-five-year pharmacist tries beating some sense into him, but Fateh remains adamant. Dejected, his father tells him to expect no help from the family ever and takes the next train home.

Fateh gets an internship at a local newspaper. For four years, he sleeps in a dingy room above a whorehouse, where fake moans can be heard from the floor below 24×7. The job allows him to scour the streets with his camera five days a week, clicking photos as he tries to pick the extraordinary surrounded by the mundane. He submits the bad ones to the newspaper and spends the weekend curating the remaining ones. He shares his work on social media, enters into competitions, mails portfolios to agencies. And for four years, nobody gives him a second thought. Then one day, he becomes an overnight sensation.

They see his portfolio, study his work, and recognize his passion. They decide to offer him a job, even nominate him for an award. His employers tell him to go and find stories, to capture the truth. While they will make sure that the whole world got to see it. At long last, his dreams are going to come true. He spends all his savings on buying a brand-new camera he had wanted for so long.

A week before his departure, rumors start appearing about a new disease. It spreads like wildfire and kills quick, violently, and without discrimination. Only a select few are immune to it, and they take care of the world while the rest are confined into their homes. It takes three recessions, four drought, and billions of lives lost before a vaccine is developed, ten years after patient zero was discovered. It takes five more years to distribute this vaccine to every remaining person on earth, and get the economy back in shape. All this time, travel and normal social activities remain suspended or banned.

Fateh spent the first year of lock-down cursing himself for not being immune. He spent the second year trying to survive on government rations while teaching photography on the web. At the end of the third year, he unpacked the camera his father had gifted, took it, and went out of his home to click some pictures. A policeman saw him and shouted a warning. Fateh never heard it; he was too engrossed in the skyline he was seeing after almost 3 years. Five seconds later, as dictated by the emergency protocols, the policeman shot him four times.

The camera was burned to prevent it from spreading infection. It had never captured a single photograph.

Vikram.

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