LET ME NOT DIE WHILE I’M STILL ALIVE

Last evening, I spent long hours circling a sacred Banyan tree. I walked barefoot upon the soft bed of wild grass beneath the canopy of its tall, truncated roots. Looking up, I saw LIFE surging through its dark, oily crevices. Its hollows were nests to a wide range of birds. A young bee-hive hung like an ornament from one of its graceful, extended branches. Squirrels sprinted above, busily biting off barks, gathering wild fruit and seeds. An orchestra of parrots could be heard, but I could see none! Their camouflage was impenetrable. Or so it seemed. Slowly my eyes softened their eager search, and my neck gently lowered to observe the hues of colours, strewn upon the rich earth, beneath my naked feet. In a distance, there lay a pair of pale, ash-grey-green, dried leaves, with a deep brown, central divide. As I picked up these leaves to observe their detail, I was surprised to feel their velvety softness. Closing my eyes, the tips of my fingers caressing the delicate veins of a leaf, I began to sense its textures, and those of the sea of fallen leaves. Most of them dry, yet having a peculiar, fine fur.

In the late hours of this morning, a friend brought me two, perfectly dried-up insects, found near the crevice of a window. He had a feeling that it may inspire me to paint, or, to write. I was delighted, and grateful for an opportunity, to observe the beauty of this furry haired insect with translucent wings, hard shells, and bulging eyes! I felt fear, caution, and hesitation, to receive it in my palms. The dark, black beetle, with exquisite electric blue metallic wings and not an appendage out of place, continued to look so alive! I was drawn to photograph it. I remembered the ash-grey-green, dead leaf of the Banyan tree, and brought it out. I observed that its colour had paled some more. Bringing it to my studio, I began to take pictures. Sometimes, these candid photographs work as free flowing sketches, for my larger canvases. In the humid outdoors, I took a series of photographs of the beetle, and the leaf. A sentence kept ringing through my head: ‘Still-life of Death.’ Or, was it ‘Life, still, in Death’?

Unable to select one image from the seven shots I had taken, I went into the coolness of our editing studio. I asked my friend to pick one, which spoke to him. Without hesitation, he picked one where the beetle appeared to be alive, as it brooded over the dead leaf. The image left me musing over this world of appearances, where we may indeed mistake the dead, for the living. And sometimes, the living, for the dead.