For my thirteenth birthday, my father surprised me with an unexpected gift; a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Granted that it used to belong to him before he gave it to me but it used to be included in the list of things that I wasn’t allowed to handle. Previously, he had never even trusted me to hold it for a minute and now he was actually giving it to me. Even my mother had warned me not to mess around with it because if I broke it there was no way she would be able to replace it. Hence, I was astounded and deeply touched by his gesture. It was as though I had crossed over the bridge to manhood; a place where I and my voiced opinions were taken seriously.
I gradually learnt that taking photographs is an art; it requires more than just the click of a button. It requires patience and understanding of a camera’s mechanics and more often than not the ability to capture moments as perceived from one’s eyes. I never let any opportunity pass by to use my camera. I took pictures of our old house when we moved away, our cat before he died and my newborn cousin in his tiny blue cap. I loved the idea of being able to capture an image the way I wanted to, so I could save it forever as a memory.
I began carrying my camera with me everywhere I went. Who knew when there would be a beautiful scene waiting for me to capture it. For the first time in my life I felt as though I was eyeing everything more observantly. Buildings that had appeared to be just brick walls before began to take the form of artistic architecture in my mind. Beggars that loitered around the local bazaar began to have expressions of vulnerability in their eyes that I had never noticed before. Colours began to develop vibrancy and hues making me wait for the right time before I took a picture of a sunset over the beach.
My father says that he has noticed a change in me since my thirteenth birthday; that I am more at ease with myself. He thinks that I have become more confident, surer of myself. Perhaps he knows that it gives me immense pleasure to look at my work, framed and hung in our living room. One of my father’s friends commented that I have an uncanny ability to find beauty where others least expect it to be. I smile at his compliment and then include my father in my smile for without his meaningful gift I would’ve never discovered myself.