The Photographer

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It was not my first visit to Taj Mahal. But for my husband, it was the first time.

As soon as we got out of the Taxi, we were engulfed by guides with flyers, kids selling the mementoes, beggars asking for changes…

Somehow we got out of that crowd. We were stopped by a kid, pleading us to hire a photographer who was standing few feet away from us for all the photos we would like to take. The photographer was a thin, tall and dark person. He had long hair, which never obeyed a comb. An old camera hung from one of his shoulders. It was not at all a latest model. He looked at us, but didn’t say anything… but his eyes were kind of pleading us to hire him.

Babu, my husband, moved forward ignoring the kid. I remembered the group photo I had, when I visited Taj Mahal for the first time with my College mates many many years ago. That photo looked very professional, even though not more than one minute was taken for that sitting in front of the Taj Mahal. The Photographer who clicked that photo was not that impressive either. I remembered that fact. 

The weather was very warm and humid. How much I loved to take off  my clothes and jump into some pool!

I told him, “Babu, let us hire this photographer.” 

He said, “Look at his camera! It is a very old model. Our iPhones’ camera will be better than that camera.” 

Babu just walked on…

I stopped him and pleaded again to hire that man. 

“Don’t let his look or the age of his camera deceive you. He will know exactly where we should sit to get a good background. By the time we finish our tour, we will get an Album with hard copies of our photos. Please…”

Babu was not very happy to agree with me, still he agreed. 

The photographer walked few feet ahead of us. He made us stop at few places and clicked few photos. He was very sure about what he was doing. 

It was becoming warmer and warmer. I felt like as if I am standing in front of an oven. Somehow I wanted to finish the tour and reach somewhere cool and shady as fast as we could. The photographer was very quick, not even once he did click more than once in any place he took a photo of us.

I wanted my tour to be over as soon as possible, since the weather was not cooperative at all. Onetime I felt the urge to scream as loudly as I could. It was too hot and dry.

The tour was not pleasant at all. Some how we completed it. By the time we reached the Taxi, our photographer was near it. He had an Album in his hand. It was a cheap one. Babu gave me a look. I pretended as if I didn’t see it.

Then we opened the album. Each photo we saw was better than the previous one. The photographer knew exactly where to make us sit and when to click to get the perfect photograph. There was a content look on his face, when he saw our reactions watching the photos.

Here is a sample of the photograph. It looks like as if I am sitting in the moonlight, in a romantic mood.

So when you visit Taj Mahal, hire a local photographer you see near the Taj Mahal entrance to take your pictures. It is very economical, the photos are perfect and remember that you are giving a chance to a local photographer to make a living!

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To die or not? To live or not? Or to live as dead?

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When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in early October, 2017, I was really not shocked, but I was upset with my God all that afternoon and that night.

I didn’t pray that night before I went to sleep. I was not scared, but I felt that my God didn’t care about me shattering my belief of all these years that He liked me and that I was very special to Him. My disappointment was so deep that I didn’t look at the pictures of Jesus as I spent the rest of the day in my bedroom. I felt as if He cheated on my faith and belief.

Next morning when I woke up, I tried to remember the happenings of yesterday. Then that grudge towards God came back in full swing. I couldn’t believe that I am just an ordinary person to my God. He had always given me whatever I had asked Him. He had given me stuff and positions that I had not even dreamed of. Still…….. How could he abandon me like this?

I am not up to date with the Bible verses. I don’t read Bible everyday. But somehow, this verse came to me.

I googled for the full verse which went like this:

Mathew 10:30

I count even the hair fallen of you.

Luke 12:7

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Then I knew that my God is speaking to me. Otherwise, somebody who is ignorant of Bible will not remember the verses like this.

I felt very relieved, after this. I looked at Jesus’ pictures, hung in my bedroom and even begged for his forgiveness for being upset with him.

After that it was very easy for me to accept my situation.  We always think, that bad things will happen in other people’s life, never in our life.


I asked my husband, if death is imminent due to cancer, will it be sudden like a heart attack? His answer was ‘no’. That gave me an idea what to expect if it is going to be that bad.

Thinking of death didn’t take much time. What am I going to do about it, if it is about an unknown place? I was not scared of death. Anybody who is born has to say goodbye through death. There is no other way but to say the last goodbye.

I feel, “Death is not a big deal for the person who is dying, but it is a big deal for the person or persons, close to the dying person”.

Self pity:

That’s something anybody feels in a bad situation. I felt it.

I was watching TV one day. News was about a 54 year old comedian died of cancer related illness. I am 69 years old now and lived 15 years more than him, then what am complaining about?

I have nothing to complain about my past life. God has given me a beautiful life, I never even dreamed of.

Then I saw few more news on the TV asking  donations for cancer treatments for different age group – :  3, 4, 10, 12 and so on.

It wiped out almost all of my self pity. Why or what difference do I have comparing to them, to ask for a better treatment from God, after accepting all the great blessings showered upon me for the last 69 years? That’s greed!

To live or not to live:

The scene changes!

John was in his early eighties. He had Doctorate in microbiology.  Raji and John are the best couple I came across among my relatives. They were very much in love and it showed in their interactions. They respected each other. Never I saw a fight or a shouting between them. Almost three years, John had to have dialysis once a week. It seems a normal thing after few months. It was not a big deal for anybody, any more. They even visited Kerala for two weeks, last year. I often wondered how did they manage “once a week” dialysis when they were in Kerala. They never complained about anything during their stay in Kerala. Then Raji was diagnosed with Cancer and the treatment started. John was sad that he couldn’t take care of Raji as she took care of him when he had problems with his kidneys. After one month, John had a heart attack and he was taken to the ICU. His condition was not that good. He was using a ventilator to breath. Food was given through tubes… It went on like that without a change for few weeks. Then one day, John’s Doctor suggested to Raji and children it would be better to take John off the Ventilator since there was not much improvement and there is not much hope having a miracle in future to improve John’s condition.

Raji was heartbroken after hearing this suggestion. “John can recognize my touch. He presses my hands, whenever I touch his hands. Then how can his Doctor suggest this cruel action?”

She went on… Nobody dared to say anything to her. So John was moved with the ventilator to an Assisted Nursing Home, since the days in the Hospital stay ran out in his insurance. He was taken care of by strangers in the Nursing Home, since Raji’s health prevented her to be with him 24/7. Raji visited him with children once or twice a week, during her cancer treatments.

After one month or so, they were asked to move John to another Nursing Home, due to his insurance’s clause. This time, Raji and children reconsidered whether to take off John from the ventilator. But John died one day before he should be moved to the new Nursing Home. He had his Ventilator on.

I often thought about this. What would have happened if the ventilator were taken off, when the Doctor suggested? Whether John would have died without going to the assisted nursing Home, where strangers taken care of him? Whether he would had a decent death?  We can imagine ourselves in their shoes, but it is just imagination, never reality.

Who are we to judge others?

Scene changes:

He is John’s brother, Keith. A smart guy! Very successful in his life… He had a doctorate in microbiology just like John. Once he retired, he went to Business. He sold medical instruments/equipments  like X-ray Machines, MRI Machines etc. to countries like Taiwan, Philippines etc. His business was flourishing… That’s when we visited him. His house was somewhat like a mansion in the middle of hundreds of acres. There were not any neighborhood homes nearby. I have never gone to a house as big as that.

Four years ago, Keith had a bleeding in his brain and it made him kind of paralyzed. He was treated in the best Hospitals available to bring him back to normal. After his stay in the Hospital, he was sent to an assisted nursing home, then later to a nursing home. At last he was brought to the home of his son. His right side was paralyzed, he couldn’t talk, but he could hear. He was tube fed all this time. He could breath, so there was no need for a ventilator.

Keith was a handsome man and his head was full of hair, when I saw him about 10 years ago. So when I saw him, bedridden, bald and the face all changed, it was very difficult for me to convince my eyes, that I am seeing the same Keith I know. His eyes were closed. When his wife, Asha tried to wake him up to see us, after a lot of persuasion, he opened his eyes. He saw us. But after few minutes, he closed his eyes and stayed as if he was sleeping. Asha was talking to us about his routines, he stayed as if he was sleeping. After staying for few more minutes, when we were leaving, Asha again tried to wake him up. He just opened his eyes, looked at us and then closed his eyes.

I could understand his feelings. He might be feeling so helpless,  bedridden like that in front of his close relatives. So he would have pretended to be sleeping. He could understand and hear everything. May be he didn’t like us talking about him openly like that. What can he do? Nothing!

May be he didn’t like to stay bedridden and tube fed like that, if he had a choice… But helpless. So what is the purpose of staying alive like that? Is there a choice? Is there a possibility that one day he will become normal like how he was four years ago?

No, I don’t want to prolong my life like that!

Do I have a choice?

Does anybody has a choice?

After seeing all these different scenarios, I understood that the life is not that precious to hang on to.

May be God showed me all these to make me understand, how lucky I am so far.

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I am always ready and willing to help who ever asks me for help within my limited capacity.
Sometimes even before they ask for help, I volunteer to help… That’s my nature. Then I usually end up in trouble.
So when one of my cousins told me how lonely he felt after the death of his beloved wife of more than 30 years, I suggested to him to find a partner as soon as possible to spend the rest of the life. It was more than five years, since he was living this lonely life. I told him that I will look for somebody too.
My best friend was still in India and I was sure that she will find somebody suitable for him among her friends. Somewhere there will be some widow who would be desperately lonely and wishing for a friend/partner to spend the rest of her life with.
I made a phone call to my friend, Leela. Told her the situation…

How pathetic it is for a man to end up living in a house all alone without a wife and the children grown up… all living far away from home.

She agreed to all my points and promised to keep an eye for a lonely widow who needs company and as of now, there is nobody she knows desperate like that.
I waited for more than two weeks before I called Leela again.
After the usual pleasantries, I asked her about her research.
She told me:
“You wouldn’t believe me!
World has changed!
The outlook of the women in our country has changed.
There was one lady suitable for your cousin.
Her children are all grown up, well educated, married…
They are living in places convenient for their jobs, far away from home. She is all alone at home.
But when I proposed, she told me.
“Leela, you know, Thomachen was kind of bedridden for sometime before he took off finally. I was the one taking care of him 24/7 for the last three months. I am happy & content that I got a chance to take care of him all by myself. But you see, I am not young any more! I was two years younger than Thomachen.
He left me two years ago.
Yes, I am lonely… I am alone. But I am not bored!
World has changed a lot!
There is TV, there is Facebook, there is Skype, there is Whatsapp…
For sure, who wants me as a partner will be older than me, right?
That means he needs a helper, not a partner!
Leela, I need a break!
I am not young any more! I need somebody to take care of me too…”

So what do you think ?”

It took sometime for me to understand what Leela was trying to convey me.

It hit me!
I didn’t know what to say!
I tried to be in that widow’s position.
It makes sense!
I am very compassionate…
I am very romantic…
I am very honest… But who doesn’t need a break at that age?
I have never seen that point of view!!! I was living in the past.
Think about it…

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