At 7:30 in the evening I sat in a cushy booth seat, chilled from the monsoon’s blanket of dampness and depressed from that day’s events. Across from me sat my husband, whom I hadn’t spoken more than a few sentences to all day. Around me, at Mama Ji’s North Indian style restaurant were a kaleidoscope of colors. The walls were painted sunflower yellow, plastic chairs of vibrant apple reds, oranges, grass greens and yellows. Posters on the walls displayed rather inelegantly captured photographs of some of the most famous of North Indian dishes and sweets, Jalebi, my favorite fattening sweet among them. In the background played a variety of ethnic music, elaborately sung Hindu chants mostly, meant to sooth and inspire. The atmosphere around me attested to the true colorful world of India, its vibrancy and celebration of life. But tonight the colors only brought me further into my depression, reminding me of the memories I had lost earlier that day.
On Monday morning, I had sat down at my haphazard desk to work on two computers: a PC I have, for all intents and purposes, been forced to work with, and my Macintosh laptop – the touchstone of my life. Neatly organized within its mechanical layers – my art, my writing, and my connection to the world, otherwise essentially known as my existence. Although outdated and technically obsolete according to this world of consumption where nothing is meant to last for more than a year, my Mac, at its impressive five years of age, has become an extension of myself, a love of mine that I never wanted to part from. That day however, she crashed, leaving me crippled without her constant presence in my life.
As I stared at the screen attempting to get my Mac to respond to my requests, to do anything, I began to have an ominous feeling come over me – that my life within that computer may never be retrievable again. Despite that I have an external hard drive carefully stored in my closet drawer, I cannot remember the last time that I used it. The longer I thought about, the more I realized how careless with my precious documents I have been. It has been three complete years since I have backed up my photographs. My life since the summer of 2010, all of my memories, the documentation of the places I have been, and the experiences I had undergone were locked inside my computer, hanging onto to reality by a thread.
My system had gone corrupt and the only way to revive my computer was to completely replace the running system, effectively rendering my Mac in the state of its early life, when her and I were not so closely connected.
Like a family member anxiously awaiting news of a surgery, I paced the rooms of my apartment all day. The next day I received the results, that my computer had survived her transition, all hardware intact and running efficiently, but she was no longer my own. My photographs, the art I had slowly and painstakingly created, compiled, sorted, and edited over the last three and most exciting years of my life – were gone.
Later, lying in my bed staring at the ceiling, I began to slowly recall everything that I had just lost in vivid snapshots of memories. I remembered, most recently, the photos I took of my dad on the one warm day we had during my May visit home, when we took the Harley out for a lazy cruise, and stopped at the park in Rogers City to see the river. My visit to New York City, Times Square at night, the buildings and lights. The Brooklyn Zoo and the hundreds upon hundreds of photos of animals that just didn’t make the cut to my photography website. The two weeks in October that Kristie and I spent at home in Michigan, the last remnants of the glorious fall colors that I hadn’t been able to shoot in years. The pictures of my Grandpa and my dad together that I hastily took during our goodbye visit. The photographs of Little Pup when I first brought him home, so fragile and tiny. The photos of all the animals in my life, pictures of my cat Weshe outside for the first time, of my precious dog Bubby and his many photo shoots, Boo Boo and Tyra, Meeko, and Kody. But what really hurt the most was the loss of my the documentation of my experiences and travels in India for the past three years. My time in Delhi, sightseeing like a real tourist. The two-week long train trip to the south, my visit to the Arabian Sea and travels in the rural areas through Goa and Maharashtra. The jungle videos and mountain-scapes. The last year of my life living as an expat here in Bangalore. The hundreds of faces I thought I forever captured with my lens. The links to my many memories in India that I never wanted to forget.
As I sat at the table waiting for the massive plate of food that would be my only meal of the day, I attempted not to think of my loss, of the death of my memories. Just as the sadness began to swallow me up again, a cook came from the kitchen sporting a hair net and a blue shirt with something written on it. Struggling to read the stark white writing as he quickly passed me by, I realized that it may just be a message for me. It read:
“Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just FRUIT.”
Like the mass majority of workers in India, this cook undoubtedly makes barely enough to feed and shelter himself. He could never could afford the advanced gadgets that now make our lives so complex and superficial in the Western world and increasingly so in the East. Despite this, his cheap t-shirt remains to be an essential reminder for all of us so dependent on electronic materialism – that life could be much simpler if we’d only let go of that obsession.
Shortly thereafter, my surplus plate of food came. As I ate, I remained depressed, but a little more conscious and aware of my present experience – taking in the variety of smells, tastes and textures of my food, the beat of the music, the vivid colors, the feeling of being alive at that moment. It may be after all, the only documentation I can ever really rely on.