Friday 5 October 2018

Short Story 2018 Longlist, Sudeepto Mishra

The Lazy Photographer

It is the story of a photographer, a lazy so called photographer who never got a chance to get into real photography business. In fact, he never bothered to try getting his hands in to the professional flows maybe because of stiff competitions and clumsiness. It might be due to his extra ordinary talent of being uniquely lazy or maybe the burdens of social pressure to queue in the regular streams or may even the zeal to abide with the forced rules by the peers. No one knew what it was and what he would become until…

The story starts with our photographer’s background or the basic introduction. His name was Tathagat Chatopadhya A.K.A Tipu who belongs to an orthodox Bengali family. His father was a junior Engineer in Kolkata Metro Corporation Limited and has inherited a good position in the localities. His mom along with the household management was brilliant at cooking fish curries. While on the other hand Tipu was a regular smooth running fellow with unobtrusive average marks. Specs on, messed up hair and untrimmed beard made him a promising candidate to be rejected by the opposite genders. Their family income was also not that impactful to live an aristocratic life. So, like every typical Indian family he was sent to do b-tech after his 12th boards in a private university to fulfil the dreams of his parents. And very unluckily or luckily maybe he grabbed a passion for photography by gathering inspiration from his seniors. However, the real intension was not solely photography but also being regarded cool in the campus and subsequently to get a girl was the main aim behind such a drama.

Gradually his name got cooler to ‘Tathagat Chatterjee’ and his style got similar to ‘Dabu Ratnani’. He bunked classes to get perfect Dps in the Facebook profile. The photos of his crossed legs, courtesies from handsome friends in angled poses, flowers from random pots made him a little famous. And boasted by his friends, he opened a Facebook page called ‘The Lazy Photographer’. He ran after likes and shares. The numbers of followers were going up but his grades went down semester by semester. And like every b-tech student’s life, 4 years flew away fast but Tipu was not able to get any placements. Multiple break downs in interviews made him lazier. With a superfluous college degree and a squared imbecile cap, he returned home after the end semester with lots of posters and photographs which later were found hung in the store room of his over decorated home. Still following his passion or may be due to over annoying words of his creators, he went out to stay in the smartest city of the developing country.

His routine for every day was chai, sutta and chronicles with the beetle shop guy and then he used to return home with lots of absurdness in his intriguingly fickle mind. There was no such word like breakfast in his dictionary. The lunch hours were mostly spent in fast food counters and his dinner occupied most of the pages of his dictionary. At night he used to get hunger drives, so even after a full plate or a couple of plates of dinner, he used to have snacks and dry fruits. The dry fruits he got were gifts from his uncle who lived in The US. He had a flat in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar and many a times he told Tipu to shift there to watch and look after it. He even sent the keys to his home with more dry fruits and nuts to lure him. But this guy wanted privacy. He wanted privacy because he was fed of the annoying relatives who would constantly bang his doors and interfere to piss him off and go away with pride. He wanted something flashy to happen and waited patiently.

Days passed and the likes went down. The page stats were degrading with time. The same crossed legs were there but there was no one to appreciate it. His fame was vanishing. Everybody was busy in their hectic lives. Friends were becoming unknown and laziness was eating almost half of his days. Then suddenly one day while going through an advertisement of an app, he got an idea. The idea was to post a selfie in an exotic destination. But his wallet was not that heavy to make him board a plane and go for a foreign trip or something. His crave to become famous made him to think and lastly to come up with a trick. The trick was to Photoshop the selfie by replacing the back ground with a famous foreign landmark which would escalade the stats again.

First of all he had to plan very precisely that none of the people related to him should even get a hint of his infamous lying. For that he had to find a place where he could go for a few days and stay house arrested until he returns back from the imaginary trip. And very sadly the fluorescent blue papers of 50s in his wallet were not enough to get him even to a low priced hotel which forced him to worry a little. At last dropping the idea was all he could afford. But suddenly while roaming in his nest, he got a glance at the keys of his uncle’s flat moving to and fro, hanged on a rusted nail due to a soothing breeze of hope coming from the windows.
Alas he said! And made a “to do list”. Buckled up his tech gears and rolled up his wrinkled clothes in the trolley, got some cigarettes and went to the flat where the next phase of the plan was waiting to be executed. This phase included the destination where he had to land and stay for 10 days to 20 days.

So, after few searches and researches he decided to alter the background with The Eiffel Tower of Paris. Still, it was lacking the efforts of getting umpteen likes, so to break the normal barriers he decided to go for something adventurously challenging and something out of the box. He went for multiple options and the one he finally posted was him holding a metal truss while hanging freely at the third floor of the tower. And hence, the post was published on the FB walls. The location tagged was Paris and an emoji of excitement added tints to it.

The first minute was full of suspense, but no one pressed any buttons. Then suddenly one like popped up, and a couple more followed, then a dozen more and in no time the likes went sky rocketing, crossed the mark of a thousand. The comments read, “Awesome Bro”, “Looking Fab dude”, “You look handsome” and so on led his excitement to the par and then a question emerged, the whole excitement broke down to nervousness.
The question was, “when did you go there?” It was easy to lie; He answered with utmost confidence, “this 21st only”.

Then the next question, “Where are you staying there?” followed by another one, “What more are you doing there?” This is where he realized that he should have done his homework before posting it. And in no time, he searched google about all other tourist spots and mentioned some of them. Later he realized this answer begged more work for him. He was asked to share more photos of his fictitious tour. It took him a few more hours but he did posts a couple more.

Within a few days of his arrival from the fake trip, changes started occurring in his boring life. People started adding him to their contact lists and few even to their favorites. Everyone was inviting him to parties and celebrations. Girls were getting more interested to break the ice with him. He became the center of attraction in every gossip rooms. His parents who were raining harsh utters, all of a sudden threw flowers of appreciation. His far cousins who taunted him of his retarded fashion were following his trendy tips. Moreover, the crushes whom he proposed but badly got rejected were sending paragraphs of sorry notes and tokens of love. His life was sliding smooth in the buttery roads full of surprises. To make it more realistic he even got active in twitter and Instagram. Eventually his researches made him a travel blogger too.

This worked quite well for few months unless the interest of the people altered. The flaw in this idea was it didn’t last longer. He had to get few more photos to his timeline again. And this time he went for an historical destination, the land where the biggest river band flows: Egypt. The prehistoric pyramids were very appealing to get him to the business again. And all of it started again. The loop drew even more likes than the previous ones. His lies were keeping him in the news and most importantly he was happy again.

One fine day, while he was out to have a cigarette, a terrible accident occurred. A distant friend spotted him. He was a frequent follower of his posts and as a basic instinct, was envy of his rising fame. First he was surprised to see him flicker the ashes and having deep puffs because Tipu always said him that he doesn’t smoke. And then later he realized Tipu was also lying about his trip to Egypt. Tipu’s secret dish to become famous got rotten. The jealous friend took out his smart phone and clicked few crystal clear pictures of him.

To make a more dramatic yet deep impression, he posted the clearest picture to his time line with a paragraph full of trolling words about him and his lies. This was the end of Tipu’s imaginary throne and the crown of fame rolled down to the grounds with a lot bitter consequences. His followers sent him long passages of discouragement. Memes were posted, spoofs went viral. Places he visited were all poking jokes at him. The most annoying thing happened when this story was covered by a prime time show.

Gradually, he became the victim of depression. He was not found on the roads. His doors were mostly locked but not from the outside. Loneliness made him weak and broken. He had only one way to dive into and that was to go for a suicide. He was standing on roof top boundaries and then suddenly an idea popped up in his mind. He backed down and was thrilled again. The idea was to change all his lies into facts, to change all his wrongs into rights and to do that he needed money. Desperation to stand again made him to apply for a travel loan, a loan for which he had to run to bank doors a multiple times. It was not that easy but not impossible too. Finally, a private bank gave him the loan to repair his life.

The next calm breathe was on the lands of Paris. He exactly took the photos how it was in his imaginary ones. He replaced all the fake posts with the real pixels. A goose bump of relief was making his body hairs to stand. When he was on the third floor of the Eiffel tower looking down, he felt the moment of his life.

Interestingly life had a couple more surprises for him. A fine morning while he was boarding his flight to Egypt for the next trip, he saw someone from his older days. It was his first crush whom he admired in his school. Her name was Romal. She was a bubbly kind of girl and always lived life to the fullest. She was brilliant in extra-curricular subjects and her frankness attracted Tipu the most. Although he liked her but he never got guts to confront her back then. 

The first surprise was yet to come. It unfolded in such a way, he would never ever have imagined. Magically she was sitting right next to him and even recognized him in her first look. The girl had soft corners for him since school days and was also an admirer of his innocence and charm. They started off instantly while flying over the city of love. It would have doubled the magic if her destination would have been the same. But things are going quite real in his life from now on. She had to change a flight from Cairo to Dubai. But interestingly they exchanged phone numbers and the conversations had vibes of Paris all over again.

The Egypt tour was very successful and finally came to an end. Now he had to do something of his own not from his fictitious diaries but from the real experiences. While he was sitting on the terrace of a resort in Egypt and was trying hard to have an accidental popup of an idea, the next surprise called to his cell phone. He picked up and it was from the world renowned channel “Discovery”.

A lady with a professional voice told, “Is this Mr. Tathagat Chatterjee?”
He replied with awkwardness, “Yes”.

She introduced herself as the associate director of the Discovery Travel, Dubai. She told him that she got very fascinated by his work and was interested to have a full-fledged travel show featuring him as the lead explorer in an upcoming show. His story, his blogs, his adventurous selfies made Tipu a look-up-to candidate for the job. At last the director said him to thank his friend Romal and also said that because of her silly yet inestimable mistake she found his work and that ultimately grabbed him the job.

As a coincidence, Romal was working in the Discovery Channel as a content writer. That day when she landed in Dubai after a brief talk with Tipu, she got quite tantalized about his work. She started looking at some of his writings and accidentally got a print of one of his blog page which ultimately landed in the desk of her Boss. Luckily the director’s eyes got hold to the colorful page of Tipu and that led to change the life of Tipu forever.

So, when Tipu heard all this he got goose bumps again. He felt a lucky mascot has entered into his life. His dormant feelings were in the verge of eruption. He was just going to call her but suddenly an idea popped up. As his nerves now days craved for adventures and surprises, he again planned something out of the box. The idea was to post a picture of him and her at the mega-tall sky kissing Burj Khalifa in Dubai. And then was to surprise her by publishing it in the social media walls which he did after few hesitations but with lots of edits. And the rest became history. Now you people are free to guess what all could have happened until…

—–The movie is still rolling —–

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