Beauty doesn’t lie in the camera of the beholder

Staring is India’s creepiest pastime. It is either a reflex action or a defense mechanism. We are like frightened and / or frustrated deer caught in the headlights of shrinking geographies and fading belief systems. It isn’t a problem exclusive to women either. Victims include people from other countries and young couples.

A theory is that our conservatism has made us meta-judgmental. Buzzwords like tradition and culture have stitched xenophobia into the fabric of our communities. It is so woven intricately into our mindsets that hyper-sexual gazing is a permissible social activity. Another theory is that we are sociopaths. Sort of like Lionel Richie in that music video in which he stalks a blind girl. And insinuates sexual tension before asking her “hello is it me you are looking for?”.

I don’t think so, creep.

Spotted Owlets, Vedanthangal

Staring is a terrible thing to do. In relation to birds though, I seem to be fine with it. I am at peace with stalking and chasing them with frothing eyes and a camera strapped over my shoulder. I don’t know if there is a difference. Other than the fact that birds can’t describe, using a common language, just how intrusive we can be. Maybe they are trying to explain it to us through their respective calls. And we stand there, twiddling our thumbs, thinking “oh look, the birdie loves me, I love you too birdie!”

While the reality might be that birds are asking us to stop staring at them so much.

Peacocks have always given me the impression that they want to be left alone. As the national bird of India, it is one of the most widely sought-after birds. People aren’t very polite about it either. In many wildlife sanctuaries, the peacock is the object of everybody’s obsession.

Every child / tourist / photographer hopes that a male peacock spread his wings in front of them.  When he does so – in hope of thwarting trespassers or wooing his lovers – they clap their hands and cheer him on, thinking he is putting on a private show just for them.

It’s been two years since I have photographed the peacock. I still spot them in the foothills of every hill-station I go to in southern India. Only my camera doesn’t respond to them anymore. Every other part of me quakes in their presence. Not just in admiration, but with guilt too.

(Photographs – Mudumalai, Masinagudi and Coimbatore)

69 thoughts on “Beauty doesn’t lie in the camera of the beholder

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  1. don’t get angry but i laughed my way through this post…i dids….especially is it me you are looking for 🙂 🙂 i has to say…you needs to find the birds or i needs to dial timbuktutu for youus 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Hello, is it me you’re looking for” hahahha.. i once had this creepy guy at work sing that to me on the phone when I answered his call and said hello!

    Really enjoyed your post and looking forward to reading more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha amusing read. And staring, as you said, everyone does that. :O I have noticed, when I board buses, some ladies sitting on the seats just keep staring from top to toe. And that is super weird!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ‘Staring is India’s favourite pastime. We have been staring holes through people’s egos, privacy and pants for centuries.’
    So witty, and so true. I sometimes feel like people forget to blink while staring. Being a girl in an almost exclusively-male engineering college, I bear the brunt of tasteless glazed-eye stares (or perhaps glares) every day.

    And the latest anti-conversion laws are just ridiculously despotic. Even though I’m not yet 30, I still share your complaints. (And the swears! Especially the vernacular swears. They’re sometimes so over-the-top that I end up laughing.) Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I relinquish my “stared at” crown comrade. Being frowned upon must feel less annoying than being leeched at. Male engineering college? Gasp (offers hard candies to ease the pain).

      I almost wish you didn’t share these sentiments because it is my hope that people below 30 don’t realize how screwed up the world really is. I fear that the next generation might realize things are hopeless and stop dreaming.

      But you come over to our side. You are one of us and clearly too much fun to give up to the millennial groups

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha. I take the staring in my stride now. I barely even notice anymore.

        Oh, you shouldn’t worry…I’m a relentless optimist. And I don’t think you’re middle aged in your 30’s!

        True that. High five! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. good for you, comrade, for taking strides and breathing in the cool air of optimism.

        I don’t have to be middle-aged but can I be please? I just want to start saying “back in the day” and end it in ridiculously untrue ways. Like if someone asked me to pass the last piece of bread on the dining table, I’d say “back in the day, we would have had to thumb wrestle to death for it”

        High fives.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Wonderful! Feel free to email me to help with the identification. Or if your interests in them has bloomed, do get yourself a copy of Grimmit-Inskipp’s Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. The illustrations are absolutely stunning!


  5. Another feather in the cap !. Great Article.
    Many Indians think ‘Staring’ is their ‘Birth Right’ May be one day they will change their mindset. Quoting Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ really takes the Cake more so his imagination about the Blind Girl and how things are taken for granted most of the times.Thanks for this lovely post ,both informative and hilarious ( about male/female Psyche )

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There’s an arts centre in this area of Wales that has a peacock sort of ‘attached’ to it. I haven’t yet sussed out if it adopted the current owner or if it was the other way around, but it is often seen very close to humans. My husband and I encountered it a couple of years ago when we were trying to get out of our car – it seemed to be guarding its area. Its tail feathers weren’t spread out, but then there was no peahen there, so that’s not surprising. You can see it here in the lower pic on this page, just about to help itself to the left overs of someone’s tea, by the look of it! I’m wary of being around peacocks (and I’ve encountered others in the past, too) because, for all their finery, they can be quite agressive birds. Ditto swans. I wonder why it’s always the big and beautiful ones that are like that?
    As for birds and staring… most of the ones we have here are very good at staring back! As an example:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The bigger they are – the louder they squawk and generally muck about more perhaps? Hehe you are right about them being noisy. Not a very pleasant tune either if one can’t see the love in the source. I have never seen swans before, but I do hear how aggressive they are. Also, how they are ugly as children. Literary fiction is mean (smile)

      Lovely photograph you have there. He looks quite ready for evening tea!

      Thank you for your wonderful insights on my posts. It’s humbling and beautifully-engaging to hear your perspectives and experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Enjoyed reading this post Christy. One thing is staring and the second thing we do is hum a sexy, romantic song when a guy sees a girl. There’ve been times when I have noticed that a guy would begin to hum a tune or whistle, even on mornings after I have had a rough night, and when I look my best in my zombie-avatar. Lately, I have started asking these guys, ‘do you also sing for men or for old ladies, may be they’d like it too’. They smile and walk away.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You read my mind! There is nothing in the world I hate more than people who stare (except maybe for….well, ok here are many things I hate, don’t get me started). Infact, I pick a fight with such people. I’m especially embarrassed for my country, when people stare at foreigners who’ve come to visit…yeughh…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angered minds get enraged alike, I suppose! It is embarrassing no matter who they stare at. It’s like deafening silence. I get stared at, on a milder level, because of facial hair. Some have even outright pointed at my sideburns and giggled. I can’t even imagine how women and the rest feel.


  9. We call that hyper-sexual staring ‘ogling.’ In Mexico, not only do men ogle, but they whistle and verbally taunt which can be nerve-wracking to a young woman walking alone. A man does that in Texas, not only will he get an earful, he might have a gun pulled on him as well.

    As far as staring is concerned, we saw a conjoined twin (one body, two heads) in the store the other day. Such an anomaly that it’s hard not to stare! We are wired for curiosity; they were more like rock stars than a couple of teens trying on clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh, that sounds terrible, Shannon. Well, about the guns, at least we don’t have them. What we have are decent families finding it perfectly alright that they are raising monsters. I guess, it’s an universal problem. Sigh.

      “We are wired for curiosity” – Agreed, dear friend. Cats are better at it though hehehe

      Liked by 1 person

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