What’s with all these photographs?


So what have I been up to recently?

As unexciting as it sounds, I’ve been feverishly collating and backing up our personal photographs. Ever since the unfortunate computer crash some weeks back which threatened to wipe out all my photographs and writings, I’ve been on a mission to recover as much as I can.

I had never really bothered with organizing our personal data, but I am a changed person overnight. Did my research on the appropriate online platform to store pictures. Zeroed in on Google photos or Flickr.. was agonizing endlessly over it, debating the pros and cons over and over till my dear husband eventually suggested, “Why don’t you try both?”

“Ooooh yes!” my neurotic, compulsive self was elated. And then began the days and nights of digging out data from all possible sources- external drives, old laptops, email archives, phone memories, this blog etc etc. and the tedious process of uploading and backing them up online.

When we met friends, I thought, “Let me benchmark best practices.”

I asked them how they stored their photographs. The friend, obviously an organized person, replied, “We have our data in external hard drives in three different geographical locations.”

“And how many of these locations are earthquake prone?” I asked.

My husband chuckled softly. That usually means I’ve gone overboard. I wondered if I had.

Yes, I have been wondering. What is this compulsion for recording and storing memories?

Is it the same reason that kings and queens built their statues and commissioned artworks about themselves?

Not really. 99% of the photos/ writings are intended to remain private.

Or is it the same as why a dog pees to mark its territory?

No, no that’s just disgusting!

Is it simply narcissism?

For a long time I thought this has to be it. But there was more- I could not get myself to delete photos which apparently had no close association with me or my family, but reminded me of a time and context, whether good or bad.

I remembered that photos are not the only thing I hoard. There have been stray sticks, and stones, and used movie tickets.. restaurant receipts, tooth-picks, newspaper cut-outs.. old T-shirts worn on significant occasions… messages scribbled on corners of newspapers… pebbles gathered from river-beds during a family holiday that stayed for years and years in my clothes cupboard..

“It’s simply about memories,” I realize. Wasn’t that the most common-sensical answer to begin with?!

The past is not something we can see and touch anymore. If something gets erased from memory, isn’t it like it never existed? Maybe I am afraid that I will become old and senile, and not remember anything anymore.

I think even today, it is easy to get spun into a whirlwind of activity, or be bombarded with stimuli and get blown in different directions, given the pace of life, pace of change, and sheer quantum of information bombardment.

Isn’t it important to be able to stretch one’s hand amid this whirlwind, and grab the thread running through one’s own life? This threading together of moments that define who we are and where we are coming from.. that help remember how far we have come.. and help make sense of where we are going.

I can’t count my wealth in coins

They change hands so quick

They belong to none;

I count my wealth in memories

That’s all I create

and that I own;

They pull my hand

and show me

the path that I have come;

Perhaps they’ll gift me

my final smile and tear

before I am gone.

~ SK


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