Anbu's Grandpa loves his place so much that he had never left it for many years then. Not even to visit Anbu's place. Though it pretty much isolated Anbu from any cricket-playing population of his liking, his Grandpa’s is a nice, little farmhouse; somewhere in between the coffee plantations and the wide green meadows, on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, in Kodagu district. His Grandpa is a photographer, by passion, if not by profession. At his age, he still goes on those lonely hikes across Nagarhole, to capture wild animals. In his photographs, that is. And, he never really finds those lonely hikes, lonely. Apart from clicking amazing photographs, his Grandpa does all the work at his place by himself – cooking, cleaning, gardening, and what not. But, on that occasion, his grandson wanted him to play cricket.
Anbu was at his Grandpa’s place, to spend a good part of his summer vacations. He was dropped there, by his parents, as they had their own plans; and, who cares, really, for those of the little one? He was missing all the cricket that had been going on back at his place. What’s worse, he feared he'd be out of form when he returned. Yes, Anbu takes his cricket seriously. As seriously as the best cricketer in the world would take his, or even more. So, then, he had pledged to somehow make his Grandpa play cricket with him. He contemplated for a while, as to how to approach him. But then, he couldn't give it much thought for the kind of mood he was in. He had decided to take him head on.
“You just keep clicking these photographs all the time. Don’t you get bored? Come, let’s go and play cricket“, said Anbu, in a loud and stern tone.
His Grandpa turned to look at him, observed him for a second, got back to looking through the lens, and said - “I shall join, sometime. But, I don’t get bored of this”, without even looking at him anymore.
“Really? It should be quite boring, when compared to playing cricket”, stated Anbu., in haste, and then bit his tongue, realizing he spoke too loose.
“What makes you say so? Amazing, don’t you think, are photographs?”, asked his Grandpa, now looking at him.
“They sure are. But, I think I like the movies more. You should make movies atleast, instead”, Anbu replied, looking right back at him.
“I see. May be, you should tell me why you like the movies more“, his Grandpa enquired.
“Because, there’s some action in the movies. Fights, dances and all”, said Anbu, and he meant it, as well.
“True. But, I don’t know. Photographs have something quite unique, something mystic, about their beauty“, said his Grandpa, placing the camera on the rock beside him, to tie his shoe lace.
“What is it, Grandpa? Don’t tell me you don’t know! You have been clicking photographs since I don’t know when! “, enquired Anbu, drifting from disregard, to indifference, to curiosity, within no time. He’s a kid, after all.
His Grandpa laughed out, and, as he shook quite a bit while laughing, he couldn’t finish tying the lace properly. He just moved onto answering the curious kid. What, other than a curious kid asking him about something he is most passionate about, could excite an old man more? “Well, I really don’t know. But, if you insist, it’s probably about, umm, you know, freezing a moment”, he said, and paused. “Forever”, he added, looking into Anbu's eyes, with a twinkle in his.
“Motion pictures, as you say, are more encompassing when it comes to mirroring the world, as they have the dimension of time. But, photographs are snapshots of brief, little moments. May be the beauty is in that brevity”, he said, and paused to gather his thoughts. “Much like life in real, motion pictures have a beginning and an end. Whereas, photographs are little moments eternalized. And yet, each such little moment is, you know, complete in itself”, he explained, all animatedly.
“I don’t get what you are saying!” interrupted Anbu, with a puzzled look.
His Grandpa pondered for a while, as to how to explain all that to the kid. And, he did find a way. “Alright. Let’s talk cricket. Every ball bowled has a result, right? Be it a six, a dot or a wicket”, he asked.
“Yes”, Anbu said, and nodded slowly wondering where he was getting at.
“So, every ball is complete in itself, though it’s just a brief part of the match. And, do you run out of balls in your test matches? No. You run out of time. Similarly, I don’t think I will ever run out of moments, worth capturing. Yes, eventually, I will run out of time”, said his Grandpa, as his gaze got fixed, on nothing in specific.
Anbu vaguely understood what he meant. “Please don’t say all that Grandpa. Ok, forget all that. I’m beginning to like this. Can you teach me how to click good photographs? “, asked Anbu, more out of the urge to distract his Grandpa’s thoughts from where they were heading to.
That worked, as well. “You should start by asking, yourself, what are your “good photographs”. For me, photographs that excite you, surprise you, the ones that make you smile, ones that make you cry, or bring about some such genuine emotions, are all good photographs. And, how do you click such good photographs? Such photographs are more about the moments that are captured, right? So, we can become good photographers only by chance, when we get to be at the right place for the right moments? Not really. We become good photographers by exhibiting patience and readiness, I feel. We should wait patiently for those right moments, and when they come by, we should be ready to capture them in the most enchanting of ways. That's what I feel”, said his Grandpa, and smiled; running his wrinkled fingers through Anbu's dark, silky hair.
“That could be tough – waiting patiently, being ready and all“, Anbu reflected.
“That’s the challenge, right? That’s the game. It’s very much like your batting, and, may be, slip-fielding, isn’t it? “, his Grandpa remarked, and started walking away.
Anbu sat with his legs folded, thighs drawn to his chest and his chin resting on his knees, on the footsteps at the entrance of the farmhouse. He re-ran the whole conversation in his head, as the cuckoos' calls echoed around him. After a while, he ran in the direction his Grandpa walked. “Grandpa!”, he shouted across, as he spotted him. His Grandpa stopped and turned. Anbu walked up to him, bent down, tied his lace, looked up into his eyes, and asked - “Can I come with you?”, his eyes agleam with fresh and genuine enthusiasm. His Grandpa acted quickly enough, to eternalize that expression.
Anbu accompanied his Grandpa in many of his photography-hikes, thenceforth, during the time he spent there. And, he returned to his place, as a better cricketer.
That next summer, to his parents' surprise, his Grandpa visited Anbu's place. Soon after he came, he unpacked a new cricket bat, and showed it to Anbu. "Wow! Is this for me?", asked Anbu, holding the gorgeous piece of willow in his hands, being more excited than he had ever been. "No", replied his Grandpa. "It's for me".