Steve McCurry’s photographs were a like a balm to my tired and bored eyes. The intense and saturated portraits of mainly South Asian faces formed a wonderful contrast to the grey and gloomy Parisian streets outside the gallery. He has this amazing ability to capture the wondrous beauty of the eyes of the people in his portraits. Bright blue eyes big enough to fit the world, intense green eyes that arrest you in mid stride and deep dark eyes that you can disappear into on a journey into their souls. There were perhaps twenty portraits there but ah what a pleasure it was to stare at each one of them to my heart’s content! From the very famous ‘Afghan Girl’ to the lesser known but equally captivating photo of a flower seller on the way to the market in a boat on the weed covered waters of Dal Lake, I stared transfixed at slices of human emotion hung up in front of my eyes.
I was therefore grateful that I saw the price list before I embarrassed myself by going ahead with my original intention to enquire about buying one of the prints. The ‘cheapest’ price for a print on sale was 4000 Euros! With a sigh and a last wistful glance around I wandered back out into the now raining streets of the art gallery neighborhood of Paris.
I was lost among graves of people unknown to me. The cemetery was divided into divisions but without a map I was hopelessly lost. I could have asked someone. But even those with maps seemed lost. More than that though, I wanted to find his grave on my own. Call it my own little musical pilgrimage if you are being generous or a foolishly romantic notion if you are just being charitable. So I walked on past grand graves over which angels in stone kept watch, past graves neglected and now conquered by kingdoms of moss, past newer graves that were adorned with small photographs of the dead, past graves that were enclosed within small Gothic chambers that seemed to be designed to keep the dead away from the reach of the living.
And then I found his final resting place, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, made of unremarkable grey stone blocks and topped by the same grey tombstone in which his name was inscribed. The grave was covered by fresh bouquets and flowers and seemed well taken care of in spite of its notoriety as also suggested by the steel barriers which fenced off the grave proper.
I stood for a moment in silence and tried to think of something appropriate. But nothing came. My mind was blank until certain words drifted lazily past. Lizard King, you did break on through to the other side. R.I.P.
I’ve seen the famous iron beauty a hundred million times in a hundred different ways. I thought my eyes were jaded and would not find the moment special. But my senses proved me wrong. As I stood at the foot of four immense feet rising gracefully in unison far up into the clouds I felt a certain thrill erupt in my eyes and travel through my spine. The twisting arcs, the flowing metal joints and the arching girders all combined to form a metallic poem that seemed to bridge the gap between heaven and earth. My eyes got lost in a million angles and shapes. The simplicity of form, the intricate design, the delicate beauty from afar, it is indeed worth all the fuss that is made in its name. Thank you Mr. Eiffel.
Paris oh Paris! Pourquoi Paris? Pourquoi avez-vous détruit un tres grand rêve?