It was the party got up to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of Suresh and Asha. Not a big affair, just half a dozen close friends and their spouses. One was Asha’s classmate, two were colleagues of Suresh, one was a cousin of Asha’s. Suresh was a master raconteur and often the butt of his good-natured banter was his better half. All of us looked forward to a fun-filled evening.
Soon, the topic shifted to the early days of marriage. Suresh was only 24, but was in a hurry to get married to Asha, whom he had been wooing for over three years. The only thing that stood between the lovebirds was that he was still looking for a good job. Not that he did not have a job: he was teaching in the college nearby, but the job was not much up his alley.
He was elated that he could clear the Civil Service preliminaries at the first attempt. The finals and the interview followed. He did not make it to the IAS, but was selected for entry into one of the allied services and was very happy about it.
Soon after his training in Mussoorie, the engagement took place. He got a regular posting in Kozhikode where Suresh hired a house and had it done up: elegant furniture, good curtains, well-equipped kitchen, tasteful furnishings, the works. The wedding was celebrated in a traditional manner.
This was in the seventies when colour photographs were rare and videographers had not started hijacking weddings. There were, of course, a couple of photographers at the function who took a few snaps which went into an album.
During the evening strolls to the beach in Kozhikode, the young couple would pass a photo studio. On display were the close-ups of some film actors and actresses, the photographs of children and young couples, group photographs of families, photographs taken on the occasion of farewells etc. Passers-by could see them all through the glass-panes.
Suresh and Asha decided that they would also have a picture taken. She dressed up in her finery, and he decided to wear a suit. They went to the studio for taking a cabinet-sized photograph. With Asha to his left, Suresh stood at the designated spot, with a huge painting featuring an ornate pillar and a large flower vase as the backdrop. The camera was in place on the tripod, the lights were switched on, the white umbrellas for diffusing the light positioned in such a way that the spectacles of Suresh would not reflect the light.
The photographer, well into his sixties, was known to be a thorough professional. He went behind the camera, put the black cloth over his head, viewed the couple through the lens, stepped out, came to Suresh, held his jaw lightly, turned the face a little to his left, tilted it a trifle upwards and was finally satisfied. Then he turned to Asha. He asked her to move a little closer to Suresh so that her right shoulder and arm would mask his left arm and shoulder a bit. The lensman stepped back and had a look. Apparently satisfied that all was well, he went back to the camera and took position again.
All these adjustments and the glare of the floodlights were making Asha tense. Beads of perspiration spotted her brows. The cameraman, a perfectionist, noticed this, asked Asha to take care of this which she did, but the stress was showing on her face. The lensman asked her to relax and smile. She was fidgeting, not knowing what to do with her hands.
‘There’s no need to be tense. Just relax, smile,’ exhorted the cameraman. This too did not help, for she was still edgy. He said, ‘Forget about your hands, just be yourself. Be natural. Just keep your hands where they belong.’ Whereupon Asha’s right hand went into the left pocket of Suresh’s trousers where his wallet nestled. And, Suresh added with a wink, ‘Where it has stayed ever since.’