The Naked and the Mad

The Naked and the Mad

“You can think clearly only with your clothes on.”
~Margaret Atwood

Somewhere down the evolutionary hill, or up the vertigo inducing precipice if you rather have that, we lost the ability of thinking clearly in our birthday panoply. The moments are fraught with some latent reflex the instant we unsheathe our limbs. A yearning, a crush, a cleansing or a fear, untamed and untouched by worldly airs, surge in the veins and seep from the pores. A release is usually imminent estoppel of which simmers down to toxic accretions within.

My estranged passion of photography has beckoned a billion aspersions upon me, ranging from expression of disbelief in my capabilities of wielding a camera to sinking the meagre family fortunes in little black boxes and glass tubes. It has been a recipe for perfect disaster forebodings of which were writ large by fungi imperfecti on my favourite lens a short while back. But like the proverbial ostrich I’ve had my head buried in the wasteland of pretensions. Nikon is still making equipment, all’s right with photography.

On a fateful morning then in the middle of scrapping my stubble I have this urge of changing the cartridge of blades although I can swear the one I am using is none too old. The bolted door of the bedroom is the only shield to my modesty and I have this undefined anticipation at the tips of my fingers and toes. I have already dumped the dead blade in the bin but none is to be found in the shaving kit. I am sure I have an emergency unit somewhere, the break-glass-in-case-of-fire thing, and I sit on the edge of the bed, naked and fervent, trying to remember where on Orion’s belt is the Galaxy. And that is where I walk into the cardinal trap.

I remember the Gillette razor I had stuffed in a pouch of my camera bag six years ago for reasons long forgotten but the removal of which was contemplated time and again yet never undertaken. Like a child avoiding the darkness, I’ve been shying away from the musty pockets. There is so much stress waiting for me there —a zillion unprocessed images, dying batteries, soiled filters, brushes and lens wipes. I rise like a werewolf in full moon, my form is throbbing and purposeful. I spill the lenses on a table and carry them under the sharp light over the basin, one by one. A drop of sweat crawls down my spine, another one follows; insides of my thighs feel damp. There is no mistaking the cobwebs of fungus, the Ebola of photographic lens. It’s inside the camera too.

I’m still undressed and aching, calling my credit card company. Gods of small things as they are, they agree to inflate my pride. I cavort in the room like a man-eater brought unto the zoo. A revelation occurs to me, the frontal lobe of my brain glistens with newfound wisdom. It was a blunder to have cloistered the photographic gear in dark, moist bags. Next time, it is best to stow them in transparent, air-tight containers, somewhat like breadboxes of plastic, unglamorous though that might be. The amygdala agrees violently.

And I hit the Amazon of debts by ordering a brand new platoon of Nikon over my smartphone. My family has been beating a fierce music at the door. It doesn’t matter in the least, the nuclear button has been pressed and the devastation will not be undone. I get dressed in my favourite shades and insert the fake collar bones. As I put on the cologne bought in an online clearing sale, I am more concerned with the battles of paybacks in the years ahead than the racket awaiting me at the breakfast table.


  1. A wonderful “snapshot”. You don’t need a camera when you can capture things in words like that!

  2. Two great things here, uma: the exuberance of your writing and the spontaneity of your actions. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp/Or what’s a heaven for?”

    1. That’s right, Marty. I’ve been dancing on the crest of impulses a tad too long. Time to return to the trough. Many thanks for the ceaseless encouragement.

  3. I have just finished reading this post & once again would have to repeat that have no words to praise your talent. Your pen and camera are serving treat to thousands. Thank you for your terrific writing …… the sentences ….. the cobwebs of fungus, the Ebola of photographic lens and ……. nuclear button is pressed ……. are far beyond imagination, you have outdone yourself. This is how you make the difference buddy, am really proud of you 🙂

  4. Trust you to paint such a poetic picture of an occurrence which most ordinary mortals would have been able to say two lines at the most. That is the power of a writer ! Waiting for the pictures of your new camera !

    1. I am grateful for the richness of your compliment, Ash. But I am just a bubble in the sea. There is a madness in the way I’m attached to my passions so those words are straight from the pits. I am glad they appealed to you.

  5. It feels like I’ve just heard some real good news. USP, I’ve been eagerly waiting for you to pick up all that gear and go shooting again.

    I’m sure you are excited about the package that is on the way. I’m excited to see the magic you are going to do with all of that.

    Now about the post — Wow! what piece you put together, again. That’s magic with words — all those images you created, of a part of your home, the stowed away camera bag and it contents and the noise at your door. Great!

    1. You are right, Divya. It is now or never for me! I look forward to shooting for a long, long time. Many thanks for boosting my confidence yet again.

  6. What a fun post on the passion of loving photography and the joy of spontaneity. Umashankar, your picturesque description of being “naked and mad” was like a brilliant snapshot from the best Nikon camera. Priceless! Love the Margaret Atwood quote too.

    1. Madilyn, I am happy I transferred the brief fit of madness to paper and that it humoured you so. Tons of thanks for boosting my faltering pen.

  7. I am SO glad you treated yourself to that camera, Uma. I totally comprehend the passion of which you speak and with which you write. Your writing is a richly jeweled patchwork of well-chosen words.

    1. Kris, the second wave of fungi was the tipping point. I have armed myself with a pair of new, long-coveted full-frame lenses and although it is nowhere near my dream set, I am feeling content. Thanks for the lovely compliment.

    1. There is a pun there in the phrase — thank you for taking note. As for the pictures, be it known that I have the potential as well as the capability. 🙂

  8. Umashankar, your writing is absolutely fantastic, I regret not reading you in so long.

    I would love to see some of your photographs, have you shared some here before? If not when can I see some?

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