The Purpose Of Life
After swinging my axe for many years, I’ve come to one conclusion; purpose of life is fulfilment. There’s an ocean of things which could have been or should have been, yet I’ve experienced so many moments when I thought this is it, this is life. Having a great time consummates my relationship with this world. It doesn’t matter whether I’m listening to Buddha Bar with my four year old son, having my face licked by my beagle, or sipping champagne on a cold sunny afternoon.
Let me tell you about how I enjoyed the daylight of 20th January.
After a few moments of misty indecision, its morning opened into a shining crystal. I was invited by the generous Sam Shahani to photograph an event which involved vintage cars, co-hosted by him and his dear friend Puneet Kocchar. Sam exports heavy machinery and earth moving equipment, but he and his father are big time vintage car lovers. Puneet has a mens fashion business called Studio one. The event was held at the Blue Frog restaurant. It is famous for promoting contemporary music and launching young musicians. Blue Frog is at the Kila complex opposite the Qutub Minar. It is a pretty large area with an ample forecourt and a beautiful Peepul tree in its inner cloister. So the theater was set for a great occasion.
I reached there well on time to see cars roll in elegantly. A red Mustang, maroon Plymouth, a 1932 Ford, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Mercedes, and a green Triumph soon found themselves in each others company. I will not hazard the details of these beauties as I was not jotting what their owners were proudly piping about.
I have photographed a few vintage car gatherings before. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by their form and grace. When the light is good, colours so vibrant, it is natural for a photographer to miss the most important point of it all and get caught in the angles. You see, it is not just about cars. It is about changing times. It is about priorities, aesthetics and the verve of existence. Focus of most products now is functional reliability, and so, lack a spirit. I saw Bentleys, Audis, Porches drop people off ; none of these super cars looked as appealing as the ones which were 50 years older. I am talking looks here, not technology. Sure we have evolved and made objects that are more comfortable and predictable in every way, but have in our doing, compromised on design.
I concentrated on relationships. A moment of quiet reflection peeled to the real fruit. Tree trunks and their shadows. Shoes, legs, clothes, handbags, a shawl, a watch, hats, eyes and eyebrows, leaves, tiles on the ground, foliage at the background, bouncers, children, ladies, glass, stickers and the building; all conversed with the cars. It was as chirpy as an evening tree full of sparrows. The cars were no less. Their bright paint, voluptuous bosoms and extrovert nature interacted freely with the great gathering.
Can you imagine a tree looking so good on a Honda City or a Santro?
Nature of cars have changed. They appeal to insulation, alienation rather than participation. All the vintage cars at this gathering, though in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, were at peace with their surroundings.
It was a courtyard of joy and I’m sure the Qutub Minar must be peering over and eavesdropping to dip in to the atmosphere. Fortunately I had a camera which excelled in taking macro shots. So there I was, almost kissing metal, finding so many details which I had missed before; design of the font and its spacing, dimensions and cuts of talismans on their bonnets and bows, shapes of their sterns, tail lights and much more.
You see the cars demand attention. One cannot cursorily ‘go through’ them. They are an exhibition of love and craftsmanship. Years have made many of their organs brittle, especially rubber and beads, but metal and chrome has stood up to time with resilience.
I was touched by scotch tape plaster on one of the ante brachial part of a Ford’s greyhound. It is so small that perhaps even the most delicate of argon welds can spoil the show. The Ford will not be same without its leaping greyhound or its forearm.
Even the most weathered of accessories looked cool. Designs elements are organic, faunal, combined with architectural. It is as if each piece is in an odeon created by Rafael. Just that the elements are not that grotesque.
The main issue is how we interact with the world. Whatever we create reflects our attitude towards our surroundings. Looking at the Jaguar on the road, it is not just a machine; it is flair and style gliding in an urban jungle. Even in an environment alien to its specie, she is radiating dignity. Look around her, you see everything completed in a hurry and she, like the Merovingian, is relishing olives with Château Haut-Brion 1959 and wiping her lips with pink satin at leisure.
And the little triumph is slightly more substantial than a pekinese in a living room but it has lit up a sullen road lined with pre-stressed concrete and screaming property dealers.
The Buick seems to lack lower lip, but her grill exudes fearsome appearance of a tiger-fish. Or some might comment it looks like Darth Vader.
Where are we heading? How will things be designed in the future? Is it evolution? Can not cars be made which go beyond perfecting function?
What will be the purpose of life ten years from now? Overcoming competition or enjoying great sensations? Where will be Bacchus banished?
A short drive followed when the gathering had conversed, ogled, admired in the vicinity. At the risk of being repetitive, in any party, if children are happy their mothers are happy and only then can the men be happy. Women, please believe me that we don’t wish to rile you. Our lives are much sweeter when you are happy. Unfortunately you find it hard to believe.
Here is Sam driving his 1932 ford. His expression and the joyous children reflect the mood of the event.
I hopped in the back seat of Rajeev’s red Chevy. This car was used extensively to follow horses in a race. It was a great rig for me to take photos of other cars. On the road people admired these glorious chariots.
Growing up I often saw the Chevy Impala in Hindi movies and lived amongst Premier Padminis and Ambassadors. Maruti brought minimalistic and functional forms which excited me for a while. Now it looks so boring. The flair of the past is way behind us. Who has the time to make such vehicles anymore? It is the spirit of collectors who appreciate value of good design which educates and titillates people like me.
I don’t know the name of this car but apparently it is a replica of a classic. It is made in Malaysia and sports a modern engine and drive train. I am perfectly fine with such concepts. At least the form is graceful and engulfs its owner in style. With a modern fuel injected motor, appropriate suspension, gearbox, brakes and safety features, why can’t a beauty like this be produced in larger numbers?
After enjoying the cars, I sat down with food and champagne to reflect. Co-incidentally I did not see a child busy on a cell phone. Most were running about, enjoying the milieu, unmindful of the steps and other circumstances obstructing their way.
Live and piped music filled spaces spared by laughter and conversations. I wondered whether this is what we live for? After two glasses of champagne I was less confused and more convinced that fulfillment of the self is the purpose of life. Fulfilment is not only about pleasure and good times, it is about the realisation of being alive. This is how I felt after relishing great food and champagne in the company of lovely hosts and their wonderful vintage cars.
My heart beat like a psychedelic frog… with snowflakes, doilies, hobby horses tattooed in white.
Dear reader, here I will digress and take you on a different journey to visit a bunch of crazy people. They have come to India from Australia to build a boat. Yes! a boat to sail in the Ganges at Allahabad during the Kumbh.
I stumbled into them at the Kanchan Villa lodge at Allahabad. Meet Andrew Turner and his family from Comboyne. Comboyne is a village of around 800 inhabitants in Australia. It is some 400 km from Sydney. I was looking at some images of the place and wondered what madness had befallen Andrew and his family to fly so far into a place where there are more than 800 people in a school! I guess it is human nature to seek what it hasn’t experienced. During the Kumbh, a place which is about 32 square km will host a population of more than that of Australia.
Andrew, his wife Virginia, ten year old twins Jenna and Elle, sons Rye and Finn along with a friend Dylan landed in Mumbai on Oct 4th. There, one day, they found Jeff from Houston, America, standing at their doorstep. He had heard from someone that this team intends to build a boat at Allahabad, so wanted to tag along. “You are welcome,” they said. And since then, Jeff has worked with them to saw, shave, bend and punch wood into a boat.
The first question I asked Andrew was “Why??????”
Andrew has been to the Kumbh at Allahabad twice before, so thirty six years later he wanted to share the event with his family. This time he wanted to contribute something in return. What will be a better gift than to donate the people of Allahabad a boat?
Crazy Andrew and his boat.
Elder son Rye.
Friend Jeff. Jeff is a national skateboarding champion from Houston Texas.
I asked Virginia how and why she supported her husband on this off-the-rails venture. She told me that she wants to educate her children by traveling and exposing them to the real world. She doesn’t send them to school and teaches them at home, but the real learning according to her, would come by visiting different places and countries. I sighed. Yes! it is true, how I wish I could do that.
My hosts, the wonderful Ivan and Purnima Lamech narrated me their experience with the family. With virtually no help, no understanding of the language they had sourced the wood, tools and everything else on their own. Everyone washes their meal plates and does not create a fuss about anything. They embarrass all by their courtesy. The only thing they have brought from Australia is ten kilos of copper nails. Some tricks they learned here; for example, the paste local boat-builders use to waterproof the spaces in the joints–a mixture of cow dung and akutra.
Wood for the boat is Malaysian Saku. It is available in Allahabad. For the ribs they have used white oak, which they bend in a steaming contraption.
They started building the boat on Nov 7 in the garage of Kanchan Villa. The hosts are very welcoming of the venture. They provided all the help they could so the family was not inconvenienced at any time. So often have they remarked how these people are a source of inspiration for them. Difficulties are surmounted with dogged calmness. Eye for detail and cleanliness is exemplary, and never was there any doubt in their mind that this could not be done.
Wood is bent and installed in a particular manner. It is called lap shake. Nails are not just hammered into the wood; a fine hole is drilled then it is punched through to be split into a rivet at the pointy end. All nails are copper. Some nuts and bolts used are in stainless steel.
This is how the boat is going to be when finished with a sail. Oh yes! the sail material is from Australia. The boat is called a ‘Double Ender’. It is eighteen feet long.
Andrew is primarily a home builder. His son Rye makes guitars. They have a blog called sustainabletimberframes.com.
Their journey and endeavor is inspirational. I hope to catch up with them at the Kumbh. They are here in India till the 7th of March.
This brings us back in the loop of purpose of life. Andrew and his family has spent its time and money on a project which will perhaps make them no profit. The boat is already donated to an organization in Allahabad. There is honesty in their temperament and purity in purpose. They resolved to do something which fulfilled them.
This blog entry might appear to cover two different purposes of existence, but a little contemplation shall reveal that it is essentially the same. To restore and maintain a vintage car is time and money consuming. Having a party as a ruse to show off the cars is a moment of celebration, much like the moment which Andrew and his family will have when they weigh anchor at the Ganges.
Cheers to all who chose to live…