The Not-so-Perfect PICTURE

The Not-so-Perfect PICTURE

‘And here’s the young man who’ll take over from me,’ Chotu’s uncle bellowed  unnecessarily, since the journalist interviewing him stood barely 2 feet away.  

The ‘young man’ he was referring to was 12 year old Chotu himself, who had NO intentions of stepping into his uncle’s shoes. Never! True, he had wanted to be a wildlife photographer like his famous uncle. Yes, he had spent endless holidays trailing this well-known relation of his through forests, wiping lenses for him and carrying his tripod. Till only last month, his most prized possession was the old camera his uncle had handed down to him…one that had a detachable flash bigger than the camera itself and made the most satisfying noises. 

But all that changed last month when he watched his uncle click the picture that now hung, blown up in the gallery, the winning entry in an international photography contest.
It was a stunning shot of a nest of baby birds frantically chirruping as the mother, a green barbet, ferociously tried to fend off some approaching danger that was out of the frame. 

The picture had all the ingredients of a winner. It had action…the mother had been caught wings spread out in mid-air, squacking angrily at the not-visible intruder.

The picture definitely told a story of a mother protecting her young at all costs.
Unfortunately, Chotu happened to know how the picture was taken and was hideously ashamed of the role he’d played in it.

They’d waited all morning that day, after his uncle noticed the nest of barbets in their friend’s garden. Sure of getting a good picture, he called for Chotu and they both hid in some shrubbery, quietly setting up the tripod and camera, focussed on the nest.

An hour passed, and the mother didn’t return to the nest. Looking around, Chotu’s uncle realised that the parent birds had spotted them close to the nest. And typical of birds, they avoided approaching the nest, so as not to draw attention to the vulnerable young ones. 

Chotu’s uncle soon got impatient. It was well past his lunch time, and the sun was getting hotter. Turning to Chotu, he handed him a long rod, saying, “Now this is where the picture needs a little help…”

Chotu looked confused, as uncle continued, “Walk close to the nest, and start waving the stick gently above the chicks…that should get the parents over here in no time…and then I’ll shoot a few quick ones.”

Chotu couldn’t quite understand what was going to happen, but he followed his uncle’s instructions. Realising that he was too short to swing the stick over the chicks’ heads, he had to do so while leaping in the air. Sure enough, that brought the frantic parents swooping down over him, shrilly protesting. He stopped and turned towards his uncle. He didn’t like frightening these beautiful birds, but his uncle hissed at him, “Go on! What, you’re tired already?”

So Chotu, feeling increasingly uncomfortable, continued jumping high and sweeping his stick in the air, above the nest. Just when he began to fully grasp what his uncle was doing, the old man shouted., “Got it! Great….you can stop your prancing around.” But poor Chotu seemed to lose his balance on that last leap, and while making a clumsy landing, his long stick hit the nest!

For a long horrible moment, he thought that he’d knocked the nest out of the tree and sent all the chicks to their death. But luckily the nest was firmly in place, though the chicks screeched in fright.

Already feeling rotten, Chotu was made to feel worse by his uncle…who thumped him on his back and congratulated him, “Hey, young man…you set up a great shot for me!”
That rotten feeling stayed with him that whole month and seemed to grow even bigger inside him at the gallery that day, after the prize was announced. Which is why when the journalist turned to him and sweetly asked if he really was going to be a wildlife photographer, he squared his shoulders, and to the utter surprise of his uncle, replied, “ No! I’m going to be a dentist.”      


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