The Family Photo (Short Story)

a short story by praveen singhmar

They all had come in for the birthday party and were waiting in the lawns for the lunch to open when he asked them to gather around the fountain for a group picture. A few of them complied with him, especially the children. The elders did not really bother to move. So he requested again and so a few more moved and settled down at the stairs near the fountain.

The camera did not have a tripod to support itself and because he also wanted to be a part of the picture, he used an abandoned cot to place the camera on. But he figured out that the cot was too low for the height of the stairs and so he needed to pile up the cot with some books and other articles before he can put the camera over it. While he was tirelessly piling up the cot, the objects of the picture grew impatient and a few started scattering around. So now he had to talk to the group to keep them from moving while also trying to adjust the camera on the piled up cot. He had achieved a little success in his ordeal when a gentle wind blew down the pile of old books and empty chocolate boxes. He somehow managed to save the camera.

Suddenly it occurred to him that if he turned the cot horizontally up, it would allow him the perfect height for the picture. He hastened into turning it up but it was heavy. Meanwhile, the impatient crew had already started to depart from the stairs chattering among themselves. He panicked and lost hold of the cot, an iron leg of which fell directly over his left foot. It was painful. Yet he concealed the pain in order to not let go of the task at hand. His voice squealed as he again requested the family members to sit down for the picture. They could hardly hear him.

Finally, he managed to turn up the cot and placed his camera over it. But by this time, most of the people had left for the lunch and a few were blocking the frame. He asked the unruly blockers to settle down in the stairs for the shoot, but they were so engrossed in their discussion that they did not take notice of him. He felt awful. So he walked up to them and directed them to the stairs. They reluctantly moved away without looking at him.

Half of the family members were eating lunch by now and half of the other half was not interested in the picture. The rest had settled down in the stairs with the fountain running behind them. It was a beautiful view for the greenery of the lawns in the serene climate of sweet November. But when he looked it through the camera, he found that the frame had more trees than humans. He now had to move the cot closer to the stairs so that the image could be focused more upon its objects. So he slowly dragged the heavy cot with a lot of care.

By this time, a few more had moved out of the frame and so the bushes had grown in size again. So he moved further and reached almost at the feet of the stairs. Now, he could frame the members fully and focally. There were eight of them left, including him.

He tried to switch on the camera’s timer so that he could then sit on the stairs and be a part of the picture. But he could not find a timer. He realized that the camera was an old one and did not have a timer. In sheer frustration he swore loudly at the sky and decided that he would not be a part of the family photo. He turned around to take the photo of the remaining members only to find that nobody was there.

He sat down at the stairs and took a selfie.


this place is intimidating

no. i’m not talking about my house. it’s cozy here (luckily for me). i’m talking about this world. this earth on which we live. this tiny minuscule of an unending universe. this place is intimidating as there is so so much here for a man to know it all. and yet if you see keenly, there is almost nothing, for everything is just dust in the wind (remember the song?).

when i attempt to uncoil these numberless layers of knowledge in this world, i reach a state of what derrida calls “aporia”. you cannot really understand it. yeah, you may try to study the high patterns of these complex structures that work together to put us in a mode of wonder. but such an endeavor wouldn’t really yield to any tangible consequence. in most respects, you would find yourself deserted in a vast ocean of captivating whirlpools, without a sign of hope towards land.

so, shall i take this state of “aporia” as the natural state of being for the human lot? or can there be a higher order to this state to which we may subject ourselves too? jove knows, perhaps, or even he doesn’t.

we came out of nothing and we are sure of disappearing into oblivion. still, all that matters is here and now in this very life, because you may not get another. and so when i see people behaving eerily in anticipation of a nymph-full of an afterlife, i raise both my eyebrows and sigh.  it’s like not having the cake you got for a candy that waits you. i mean not one single soul has survived death, and nobody has the video footage of a glimpse into the paradise. so why waste time pondering over the state of afterlife? that knowledge is forbidden to mankind.

every man has two arenas to face all his life. one, which is under his control and acting on which shall yield him results. the other is that which is beyond his control and on which he has no authority to alter — death is one such area; what your neighbor thinks about you is another. yet in most cases, the poor mortal is intimidated by the stuff that exceeds his capacity of control, and does very little about the things that he can reign over — starting with the man himself.

it is believed that all one needs to know is oneself.

“knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — aristotle

now, wisdom might have a beginning, as per aristotle, but it certainly does not seem to have an end, for the vast amount of knowledge out there. but once you allow yourself into the whirlpool of learning, you activate your wisdom-wheel and the world appears to be a less intimidating entity, because then you free yourself of the dark shadows of ignorance. your inquisition will somehow turn on the lights.

this quest is all that humanity has. and this hope of achieving omniscience someday is what keeps us going.


how to fight mediocrity?

a massive 95% of the population of this world is living a mediocre existence. is it because they think it is not easy to come out of their slumber and sit among the elite 5%? or is the mere thought of being out their at the top puts them under a spell of discomfort? it really shouldn’t be that difficult to be successful in life and live at your optimum best. yes, to sustain the levels of success could certainly take its toll on you.

the opposite of mediocrity is excellence. and although it is not really possible to achieve excellence in everything simultaneously (unless you are leonardo da vinci), it is definitely possible to excel in few chosen things at a time. and therefore, it is important to first know what is it that you want. until you know what you truly desire, it is impossible to commit yourself to the work needed to get there. vague visions lead to vague results. and so, your vision has to be crystal clear.

most of the people do not have a vision at all. they live life in present and take on each moment as it comes to them. they have no plans for the future and they don’t anticipate anything. they simply get the basic education, graduate, take up any job, and spend their life working the same shift everyday. they succeed in life to some limited extent, are moderately satisfied, and stay mediocre for the rest of their lives. they stop growing.

following maybe the reasons why people are satisfied with mediocrity?
1. most of their time is consumed in the daily household chores and they do not actually take time out for thinking about their life and business.
2. they think that they lack the proper resources or contacts or education required to bring in change, and they believe that they don’t have the required set skills to succeed and that they are not good enough.

but the truth is startling. 99% of households in the united states have a tv set and families spent an average of 5 hours per day watching the television. i believe that to be the root of mediocrity: the idiot box. if the time we spend on the tv is spent on ourselves to become better everyday, everyone can come out a star.

it is all about what habits you inculcate in your daily routine. small daily activities lead to great long term results, be it positive or negative. e.g. if you walk daily for an hour at a brisk pace, you will have a slim body in 2 years, and if you eat a hamburger everyday for 2 years, you will have a pot belly in 2 years. the way you get out of mediocrity is by engaging in regular habits and processes that push you out of mediocre habits.

the only way you can improve your life is by improving your own self in all fronts: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and so forth. you cannot expect life to yield you good results if you are not working on yourself. you will see a drastic change in your life the day you start putting effort toward developing yourself. you will see how quickly you attract positive results when you are working on yourself. you will think better and feel better about yourself.

thus, to fight mediocrity you must:

  • get out of your bed early morning and start moving (exercise).
  • take a shower and meditate for at least 10 minutes (with gratitude, you may include your prayers here).
  • prepare a time table and prioritize tasks for each day in the morning itself (*productivity journal* include your dreams/long terms goals here and review them everyday).
  • go to work with a wide smile on your face and give your 100% in whatever you do (a job done well is a fulfilling experience). take adequate breaks between work.
  • in the evening, go back to your journal and evaluate your day (check out the tasks done, note the best things that happened during the day, record your thoughts on the day).
  • go to bed early but before you sleep, tell yourself that you are becoming better everyday, that you are moving out of mediocrity and heading toward excellence (visualize your dreams coming true).

go, live your dreams!


quentin tarantino – the creative motor

after his 8th blockbuster in a row: ‘the hateful eight’, which came out in 2015, mr. tarantino is taking all the time in the world to come up with his next stroke of brilliance, keeping us all wait for it. but we know for sure that the wait shall be worth it, because whatever tarantino does turns into gold. the next movie is likely to be based upon ‘the manson family murders in the 60s, and would probably cast brad pitt and jennifer lawrence in lead roles. this is the first time that tarantino is covering a real event.

tarantino is a creative motor that produces cult cinema, something that is rarely found elsewhere. here are a few charismatic features of his sublime creativity:

  1. style: all tarantino movies are highly stylistic and full of glamour. this one feature stands out if you place tarantino with other great directors of cinema. tarantino has a style that is entirely unique and fascinating and he may be termed as the most stylist filmmaker of cinematic history. right from reservoir dogs till the hateful eight, tarantino has maintained his own stylistic way of depicting life, something we keep craving for. and if we must believe him, tarantino has plans to leave us craving as he says that he shall make only 10 films in his entire film career.
  2. violence: it has to be there in a tarantino flick. it is the violence that makes all his films so powerful and thrilling. tarantino made his entry in filmmaking with the super-violent reservoir dogs and the streak has continued till the hateful eight where we have a bloody climax resulting in the death of all (sorry for the spoiler). by being so drastically violent, tarantino reminds us of shakespeare in a way, all whose tragic plays resulted into death of all the major characters. death being the primary event in the hateful eight, tarantino uses the 60s song: there won’t be many coming home, a ballad that talks about soldiers dying in war. what else violence does in tarantino movies is that it provides excellent thrill to the audience as we are never sure as to when somebody is about to die and so the audience is always on the edge of their seats.

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  3. dialogues: now, this one area is where tarantino is a genius and comes out as one of the best of all times. you simply can’t beat him at this. tarantino deliberately stretches his characters’ conversations longer than the usual so as to present them as more realistic and fun. he has the ability to mold the most plain and random daily conversations of random people into highly entertaining and interesting ones. tarantino’s dialogues exhibit certain inquisition that is very intriguing to the audience, and that slowly uncovers the plot of the film, thereby making the suspense expand to its maximum limits. the dialogues are full of humor and at the same time are lyrical in a modern sense that attracts complete engagement of the spectators.
  4. entertainment: well, the above points and some other factors including excellent performances, realistic action sequences, editing, direction, screenplay, background score, etc together make a tarantino movie incredibly entertaining as a whole. so much so that one always leaves the cinema hall wanting for more. and that is exactly what mr. tarantino’s plan is: to retire from the film arena leaving his fans wanting for more of him, as he says that he shall make only 10 films in his entire film career. guys, 8 have already been made. so if we must believe his words, there are only 2 more films that are going to come out of tarantino’s creative pen.

the most crucial aspect that sets tarantino apart from his contemporaries is his supreme vision. this man creates cinema not for the audience today, but for a upcoming generations. he wants to be known as the greatest filmmaker for decades to come. he wants his films to be viewed after 50-60 years from now by people not yet born. well, that seems possible, as after almost 25 years of its release, i can still watch pulp fiction as many times as you tell me to.

quentin tarantino is a true artist, a creative machine that will stop at will. if today we do not place him along the likes of shakespeare, pablo picasso and michelangelo, the future generation certainly will.







why i don’t use uppercase in my blog

it is a marginalized world that we live in today. it was not so always. there were times when england ruled over most of the world, and it had the upper hand. and then america came into power during the two world wars. but now, the focus is shifting further to the countries that we never heard of for centuries. and it is a good sign. what it suggests is that it doesn’t make sense to capitalize certain letters and not capitalize certain others.

people have come to realize that the centre of the world is not england or america. it is us — the people, no matter in which country we live or which language we speak. we are the centre of the universe, every single soul. and that is why i don’t use uppercase in my blog. to me, all the words have equal power; all the alphabets are equally important to me.

freedom is the most important value to me. i think there is no higher purpose or goal than freedom. times have burdened us with rules and regulations, customs and practices. but we should nevertheless strive to be utterly free. any form of restriction is nothing but suffering and we must, in all circumstances, help ourselves and others to come out of suffering. as buddha said:

“when we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.”

and so i don’t bound my words with rules. i simply let them flow carefree. here are a few reasons behind my not using uppercase letters:

  1. i’m a lazy ass. yes, that’s true. although i try to fight out this trait of mine but mostly i lose the battle.
  2. most of the time, i am writing through a stream of consciousness. so caring about the form gets less significant than the communication of ideas.
  3. reaching out to the shift key breaks off the flow of words. so i consider it not worthy to let go of my thoughts while i’m out there looking for a damn shift key.
  4. i don’t believe in the perfect state of things. man is an irrational animal and has been so for thousands of years now. so trying to perfectize everything doesn’t always end up a success. hence, i let it be.
  5. this is the most crucial reason. e. e. cummings used capital letters only irregularly in his poetry and i love his style. his name is often styled “e.e. cummings” in the belief that the poet legally changed his name to lowercase letters only. he did not object when publishers began lowercasing his name. being a poet myself, i enjoy writing poetry in lowercase and find it attractive.
  6. talking of attractiveness, the lowercase looks more beautiful to eyes. ever noticed fully capitalized letters? all alphabets of all the words in caps? that look ugly to me. calligraphy is best viewed in its lowercase form, handwritten beautifully flowering the alphabets in design.
  7. beauty is a form of art and artistic beauty lies not in the perfect but in the imperfect and the raw. and so, i believe writing in lowercase justifies this artistic purpose.
  8. the final and the most obvious reason is that it’s my freaking blog. i’m the boss here and the boss like it this way. so, screw it, yeah. that’s how it will be. 😀

Imagining positivity- Victor Frankl

often times we find ourselves pondering over whether we are good enough. we drown ourselves deep into the darkness questioning our self-worth. and it mostly happens when we witness other people doing better than us. it is an ugly thought as it leaves us cursing ourselves for not being something that we are not.

imperfection is seen as a trait of guilt. we feel shameful at our imperfection. we forget that we are merely humans, not angels or idealistic utopian characters of some fictional world. reality is absurd and things are not perfect all the time. and so it becomes important that we remind ourselves that we are enough, no matter how imperfect we may appear to ourselves. and that is how we can remain ourselves in all situations.

authenticity is superior to perfection. it is all about how authentic you are despite being imperfect. it is important to be vulnerable because vulnerability lets your imperfections be seen and allows you to connect with other authentic beings. being yourself may just be the best thing you can do to yourself. it removes all stress and doubts when we find ourselves comfortable in our own skin.

each and every individual on this planet earth is a unique being and has an identity of his/her own. where we tend to fall is when we start comparing ourselves with others, and it becomes a reason of our misery. we must understand that everyone is running their own race and is struggling in one way or the other, and therefore, comparison does not make any sense. instead, if one at all costs wants to compare oneself with others, one must do so with those who are leading troublesome, difficult lives. this way, you would consider yourself luckier to have a better life.

viktor frankl, in his book “man’s search for meaning”, speaks about such perspective way of thinking, as he shares his experience in the nazi concentration camp. he describes it as his psycho-therapeutic method that involves identification of a new purpose in your life to think positive about, and then imagining that positive outcome. one may call it as a dream sequence that lacks reality, but such an identification really helps in most distressing times. in the book, frankl describes an incident when while in the concentration camp, he witnessed a prisoner being taken away to the cells, and how frankl wished himself to be that prisoner, a life that seemed better to a nazi occupation victim. (get the book here.)

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so, you see, whenever in doubt or not at your best, you must look at the positive perspectives to your life. you must find something that can uplift you instantly, some future goal or hope. you must believe that something different can happen, and you must never lose such hope. you must continue to think high in the most discouraging circumstances. and most important of all, you must simply be yourself and believe that you’re enough in this entire cosmos of amazement.