The reel and the real

"What is the point of capturing someone on reel when you can see him for real?"

It being the season of annual functions at schools, the air is thick with discussions around the same. In one such conversation, I heard a parent talk about schools’ policy of 'No photography or videography by parents '. While everybody was discussing the merits and demerits, I got reminded of an incident which made me agree with the schools’ stand.

My husband and I were visiting Italy. The day we landed in Vatican, happened to be an auspicious day in the Catholic calendar. We were thrilled to know that Pope was scheduled to address a gathering in St Peter's Square. Incidentally, it was my first outing with a new camcorder.

Those were the days when handy cams were new to the world. No doubt, I was excited by the prospect of capturing Pope on my handy cam. My husband was equally cynical: “What is the point of capturing him on reel when you can see him for real? Why see him through a lens given the opportunity to see him face to face?” His logic was impeccable but being an eager novice, I did not want to let go the golden opportunity. I needed a proof to show my folks back home!

We had reached the Square quite in time and found strategic positions to stand. It was drizzling but the crowd was huge. Soon enough, we saw a cavalcade of cars and horses. The Pope came in his famous Popemobile. Though frail, he was standing and waving at the cheering crowd. I, in my nervous excitement, pointed the camcorder towards him. Torn between the wish to capture him in my mind's eye and the camera's eye, I tried to do both.

After I got a glimpse of him, I tried to position the video camera. But in that nanosecond, his cavalcade turned to proceed to the dais. Cameras clicked and camcorders buzzed while my husband savoured the moment unencumbered with technology. We felt very lucky to be in Pope's presence albeit for a few moments. It was some divine guidance that had led us to Vatican City on that particular day and we thanked our stars for that.

Though I claimed to have seen the Pope, my husband teased me about fiddling with camcorder when the pontiff was right in front of me. I defended myself saying that I had captured the moment for eternity. You can imagine my shock when upon playing the cassette, all I could see was the overcast sky, tops of people's heads and a few failed attempts to focus on the Pope! That hazy memory and the still hazier film became fond mementos of my brief tryst with the Pope.

The incident was a lesson for me to be more judicious with technology. Theoretically, a performance should be watched without worrying about capturing it. However, this learning will be put to real test when I attend my daughter’s first ever annual function next week!

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