That Starry Night Memory

I stood at the edge of the lake, about 50 yards from the campsite, and focused my eyes at the limitless night sky. It seemed like the glitter-laden party top that my niece had worn for her birthday had come alive above me.

I had a faint, uncompelled smile — you know, one that makes you nod, let out a slight gush of breath up from your belly, pushes the lips at the edges only a little and forms lines of happiness on your forehead. It happens when you introspect and a happy memory flashes past. It’s the best kind of smile.

It would seem from a distance that I’d become the human embodiment of an owl. My head was constantly moving, trying to trace as many constellations as I could, and fist-pumping the chilly air every time I got one right. Just then, a tap on my shoulder alarmed the wits out of me. I gasped, hauled myself to the side, and got ready to kick whatever or whoever it was. Manas, who’d left the cozy comfort (yeah, right!) of his sleeping bag and gathered the courage to crawl out of his tent to join me in stargazing, vaulted over in fright, too. Unmentionable words were exchanged followed by reassuring taps on the shoulder, hugs and laughter. And some more unmentionable words.

Manas started his career as a photographer before climbing up the leadership ladder of communications and brand strategy, so his love affair with making visuals had never died. But, it’d been dormant for a while. This setting — the sparkling endlessness above, the biting cold weirdly made beautiful by the zephyr of freshness and the unsaid bond of friendship — made happen what hadn’t in years. He took out his trusty, rusty-ol’ Canon, set the tripod, changed the lens, played with the settings till his springing head suggested that he was ready.

The most important role to play was mine — or, that’s how I think of it. As he tried a couple of clicks, the sound of the shutter was the only alien sonic play in the most naturally brilliant surrounding that we were enwrapped by. I was then told to — hold your breath — shine the torch light into the sky. “You can even make a pattern,” Manas said. I did. It wasn’t my best work, I’ll admit, but the long exposure image that resulted was worth every second of the ‘why the heck on earth are we doing this?’ moment that we spent out in the numbingly cold environment.

A story of chasing the stars that I read recently made me have that same faint, reflective smile. I hope Manas would be smiling, too, when he reads this. I’m sure a lot of you would’ve had similar experiences and it’ll be fabulous if you shared them with me. 

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