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.
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)