Loading up the Book of Faces

Ranjit and his father, Ravi, were visiting Ravi’s father in the village. It had been a few years since Ranjit had seen Dadaji, and he was eager to hear one of the old man’s stories.

“Dadaji, tell me about the time you captured the tiger.”

His grandfather took him into his bedroom, opened the drawer of a cluttered desk and pulled out a large book. He turned to a page with a black-and-white photo of two bare-chested young men posing with a tiger in a cage.Altes fotoalbum

“What is this book called?” Ranjit asked.

“It’s called a photo album.”

“Is it like Facebook?”

Dadaji paused for a moment, contemplating the question. “Yes, yes, it’s a book of faces. Have you seen your father’s face when he was your age?”

“Show me, show me!” Ranjit screamed.

He was thrilled to see a photo of his father as a 12-year-old, climbing a mango tree. “Daddy, come here,” he shouted. “You should scan this photo and post it on Facebook, so everyone can see what you looked like when you had hair.”

“I don’t like Facebook anymore,” Ravi said, walking into the bedroom.

“Why not, Daddy?” Ranjit asked.

“I’m tired of it. It’s always the same thing. Aunt Manjula is always posting photos of her grandchildren. Every day, a new photo. She has posted photos of the grandchildren eating ice-cream, photos of the grandchildren playing on a swing, photos of the grandchildren picking their noses.”

“How can she afford to post so many photos?” Dadaji asked. “The postage is too costly these days.”

“Posting is the same as uploading, Dadaji,” Ranjit said. “She uploads them to Facebook.”

“Is uploading the same as loading up?” Dadaji asked. “In my younger days, I worked for a shipping company and loaded up many ships.”

“Yes, it’s almost the same,” Ravi said. “Aunt Manjula is loading up Facebook with photos of her grandchildren.”

“What about space?” Dadaji asked. “If she keeps loading up, will she not run out of space?”

“Oh no,” Ravi said. “Facebook, unfortunately, has unlimited space.”

“What about the cost of film? Is it not costly to take so many photos?”

“No, not at all, Dadaji,” Ranjit said. “Digital cameras let you take unlimited photos.”

Ravi sighed deeply. “Unlimited photos, unlimited space, and unlimited grandchildren poses.”

“Why don’t you just skip over those photos, Daddy?”

“I tried that. Skipped the grandchildren photos and had to look at my niece Priya’s selfies. Every day, a new selfie.”

“What is selfie?” Dadaji asked.

“A selfie is when you take a photo of yourself,” Ranjit said.

“Why is Priya taking photos of herself when there are so many people around to take photos of her?” Dadaji asked.

“Because other people get tired of taking photos of Priya. But Priya never gets tired of taking photos of Priya.”

“Does she load them all up too?” Dadaji asked.

“Yes, she loads them up three times a day, with comments such as, ‘This is me on the bus with the conductor in the background,’ ‘This is me at the zoo with the monkey in the background,’ and ‘This is me at the bank with the robber in the background.'”

“Why don’t you skip over her photos too, Daddy?”

“I tried that, but then I had to look at my friend Jamal’s photos. He posts photos of everything he eats and drinks. Many years from now, when historians want to know what Indians ate and drank in the 21st century, they can just dig up Jamal’s Facebook account.”

“Why don’t you skip over his photos too, Daddy?”

“I tried that, but then I had to look at my friend Manish’s vacation photos. Every week, a new set of vacation photos. He posted one photo and wrote, ‘It’s so beautiful in Tahiti. Best place on earth.’ I asked him when he went to Tahiti and he said, ‘What makes you think I’ve been to Tahiti? Just because I posted a photo doesn’t mean I’ve been there.'”

As his father was talking, Ranjit spotted a pen on Dadaji’s desk and quickly scribbled something in the photo album. Dadaji slid his reading glasses on, peered through them and smiled. At the bottom of the tiger photo, on the protective plastic covering, his grandson had written a single word: “Like.”

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

Comments

  1. There is such a great divide between each generation now. Blame technology. Had a good laugh because I could relate….thanks Melvin!

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