Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life through a camera lens

They say that school days are great memories for everyone. Well, they probably didn't do their research properly because it wasn't so for me.

I remember my mother used to call me a "problem" child. Of course, every mother finds her kid troublesome, spoilt and problematic at some point. However, I think my mom really meant it and in retrospect, I actually do feel sorry for her. Anyone would if one had to manage a  hyper-sensitive, super-moody, irritable kid who blew off steam on the slightest pretext and pulled tantrums multiple times a day. If I remember right, not only did I make life miserable for everyone around, I was not too happy or satisfied myself most of the time.

Grades mattered more than life to me. If I did not get a rank, I would be depressed for prolonged periods of time. If a teacher did not send me to fetch her marker, I would get ridiculously pissed off and cry for hours at home. I would spend sleepless nights trying to conjure up a comeback on the girl who called my dress ugly.

Not that every child should be jumping around with glee 24/7 but it didn't require elaborate psychoanalysis to notice that I had better change or things were going to get worse with time. Looking back, I can't attribute any specific reason why I acted the way I did. It was not that my dad was a drunkard who hit us every night. It was not that I witnessed a gruesome murder and had repressed memories of abuse. None of it. 

Comfortable home. Normal middle class lifestyle. Home maker mom. Engineer dad. Good school. Sorry Freud, I really had little to complain about. Yet, it was simply the way I was - ambitious, attention-seeking and competitive to an extent that was not needed or healthy for a girl that age. For me, the class was a game in itself - a world where there were the 'victorious' ones and 'failed' ones and I had to be the best all the time. Every one was a threat and every missed opportunity was a liability. It was me against them. It was as though if I did not prove my worth to others, and perhaps to myself through the process, I was doomed.

As I write these things, an exercise that started off by reminiscing and pondering about that little kid of the past, I suddenly realize that while the blatant traits have fortunately not carried over  to today, perhaps their trigger motivation has.

So why is it that some are so anxious and insecure about their surroundings? In groups? I would think the answer is lacking a clear estimate of the proportion of the relative worth or magnitude of people, events and situations. Sizing up others. Sizing down the self. Thinking that everything else is perfect. Fearing that one's own imperfections is in open display for all the other perfect people to see. 

For a small exercise, let us think of it in terms of camera angles. There are wide shots, medium shots, long shots, eagle's eye shots and so on.

Let us say, you are conversing with a person X. So, you and X are in conversation. If you mind were a camera in perspective, a close shot would be
It is not necessarily the actual distance X has from you. It is just the way your mind looks at X. As a look at the shot tells us, there is a lot of emphasis given to X, importance placed, worth magnified in this shot. In videos too, this shot is employed for the same purpose. 

When you are viewing someone in this frame in your mind, your emphasis is totally on the other person and probably, you are suddebly not so sure of your grounded worth or simply do not feel it. 

Contrast that with a mid-shot

You have zoomed out a bit from the person. The person is not your sole focus. You are taking in a bit of the background too - sign of diminishing importance compared to the close up perspective. However, there is still room for improvement.

What could be an ideal perspective? An eagle's eye shot perhaps?

This shot  puts the audience in a godlike position, looking down on the action. People can be made to look insignificant, ant-like, part of a wider scheme of things.The object or character often gets swallowed up by their setting - they become part of a wider picture. 

And as we assume this perspective for a brief fleeting second in the mind, it becomes clear - it becomes clear that X is not god. And in the grand scheme of things, we are all equal.And that X has flaws too and that this conversation is just one of the trivial passing moments of the grand scheme of the world. And that every one has problems, insecurities, adventures, anxieties etc. 

Had I employed this shot years back, I would have probably understood that the class was just one among the dozens of other classes in school. The school was just one among the hundreds of others in the city; that students had lives beyond the institution; that teachers had problems; that everyone wished for a rank, that anyone would love being the teacher's pet; that if I did not get a rank, no one was going to spend hours thinking low of me, because they were not perfect either. There was always someone better somewhere else and everyone's life was an unique adventure.

In fact, thinking about it, every thing that could ever bother us assumes nothingness when we take a second and see life through the bird's eye view. As they say, "This will pass too".


siddharth said...

Superb post! The use of camera angles to explain lucidly a concept that would've otherwise been very difficult to explain and digest. More importantly, it makes me wonder about the remarkable journey of a once 'tantrum throwing' kid who goes on to be a gracious teacher/friend of mine today. Must have been ardous and yet truly fascinating :)

PS: Loved the 'Sorry Freud, I had little to complain about' part!

Srinidhi said...

"Sizing up others. Sizing down the self. Thinking that everything else is perfect. Fearing that one's own imperfections is in open display for all the other perfect people to see."

Profound. Really. So often we over analyse our selves. This is the apt way to break that. :) I love this post. :) :)

CHIBI said...

You definitely deserve your own Column in a Newspaper or magazine, the content has got it's class..!

I also used to be this ridiculously competitive kid till my 10th, it got me thinking..
going from someone who wanted to be the first in everything, competitive enough to even finish exams first and run home first..
To someone who doesn't care about being first, meeting deadlines or any competition, for that matter..!
because you've seen the eagle's eye picture of the 'actual' truth, that none of it really matters..??

Is it good or bad ?

given a chance, i really want to revisit that kid again..

Indumathy Sukanya said...

Great post :)
My childhood was just as miserable, if not more for reasons in my own head!N growing up was the only cure...thank god, i left that pest of a kid behind!

n ofcourse, the big picture theory! :)

btw,'ve been giving TV classes a lot of extra thought! :P

Sindu said...

@Siddharth: :) Thank you Sid. The journey has come to where it is now only due to people like you.

@Srinidhi: Thank you Srinidhi. Encouraging as always! :)

@Chibi: As usual, you get me pondering. Hmmm. I think the answer would depend on what motivates us to be competitive - is it the need to prove ourselves or do we simply enjoy excelling at whatever we do? Do we take failure too painfully or merely learn from it? Transcending competitive nature shouldn't be a form of escapism or withdrawal.

@Indu: Yes. Growing up was a welcome cure but sometimes I wish there was no need for a cure in the first place. As for taking TV classes to the next level, didn't realize it till I was mid way with the post! :D

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective on life. :) Going by the comments, it looks like everyone shares similar views.

Well written, focused post with a central theme! *bows*

(Actually 2 points came across - one was knowing about a totally different Sindu! The other being 'Perspective to life')

I was reminded of the last scene from Men in Black-II (locker room analogy for the earth). It is quite comforting to know that in a larger perspective, our own troubles matter little.


Anonymous said...

Got a youtube link to last scene of MIB-II

Sindu said...

@V : Thank you so much for the video link! I don't think I could have understood without that. Its great, the way you could connect that scene with this post and glad you liked it!Too formal, ain't I? :)

harishsram said...

dividing the topic into two parts (one about the competitive attitude, other about the hopelessness on failing) i think one should monitor the 'recuperation' part. on the contrary bird eye view, i feel, makes one becomes complacent of the present condition by saying its a big world - there is bound to be some1 better than me. I understand that it is not wat u meant - but it can be taken that way too ;-)

a good example for ur pt shld be the film 'the one' especially the zoom out shot at the end. it would summarise the angst & future of the childhood better.

Btw i see a lot of bad films being used as references 'mibII & now 'the one'. maybe these movies arent bad after all :P

Abhishek said...

Perception's the key ;)

Anonymous said...

@Abhishaek - As usual - you hit the nail on the head. :)

Arumugam said...

Great post! Completely loved the use of camera angles to elucidate..

On a similar vein,I have read of astronauts coming back totally changed,more concerned about the environment,completely freed from jingoism and such.Maybe we should blast off religious fundamentalists into space:D

I am sharing another youtube link,the mother of all eagle eye perspectives,the opening scene of the jodie foster starrer Contact

Sindu said...

@Arumugam: Loved your suggestion of the new genre of space visitors! :D Thanks for the link. Do keep visiting.