She turned to the camera and looked right into its eye. She seemed to be a walking reminder that everything has an eye or a point of vulnerability, you only need to know where to look. She smiled and began talking.
“I’ve always been a bit of an observer. I’ve spent my entire life looking at the people around me. Taking little mental notes of their various idiosyncrasies. I giggle a little every time they make that particular hand gesture because I know it means that they’re angry. It feels like a secret, between me and the universe. It’s a reward for keeping quiet and letting the world happen around me.”
“What do you mean by the world just happening around you?” The voice behind the camera asks her.
“It’s about control, or the lack of it. It’s about recognizing the role you play or don’t play in the world. I think human beings do play a role in the world, I think we do have the power to make things happen. I just think I don’t play a role in the world. I do a much better job of just watching the world go by and noticing people who are in it.”
“Why do you like to notice people? Do you want to understand people?” The voice behind the camera belonged to a middle aged man who didn’t quite understand why he was recording this strange woman in the first place. Luckily for her, his confusion felt a lot like intrigue and he wasn’t good at distinguishing between them.
She paused, for a brief moment, before she went on a bit of a rant. “The aim is not even to understand them, the aim is to peep into their world even if it’s just for a moment. I feel like I know them in a way that no one else does and they are unlikely to know themselves. It isn’t intrusion, though. Because all I’m doing is notice what they themselves are showing me. I’m just waking up from the self-absorbed dream that is my mind and looking around. I’m only admitting that the world is miraculous. I’m putting out there the fact that things are moving fast and that moments such as these need to be taken in. Taken in to the safety of my memory. I, then, introduce this moment to the other moments I think they’d like. I let them form a web of memories that I can come back to time and time again. It’s just how I think.”
Taken aback by her fast-paced and surprisingly emphatic response, the camera man asked her the question that was on his mind from the get-go. “Why am I here? Why did you call me and ask me to make a movie about you? As a documentarian, I’m in the habit of finding my own subjects.”
She smiled a mysterious half-smile that she seemed to have perfected years ago. “Ah, here it comes. I realized something. I realized something very important and very terrifying.”
“Don’t stop there.” He prodded.
“If I have spent my entire life observing people, at some point, I must have been observed as well. I, too, must be a part of someone’s web of memories. Someone might have taken note of my eye rolls or my posture. There is a feeling of empowering invisibility that comes with being the observer. But, I guess you forget just what you set out to learn- everyone is special. It turns out, that I’m a part of everyone too. I guess that realization triggered this idea.”
“What do you mean?” he seemed genuinely interested.
“There are two broad kinds of people. I’m automatically wary of any situation that requires us to divide people into neat categories because the complexity of a human being is beyond categorization. But, this is largely the truth. Either, you observe or you participate. I observe. Even when I am doing something, it isn’t really participation. I can almost feel myself bifurcate into two halves, one is doing something and the other is just watching the former participate and is observing.
I called you because I want to learn how to participate. I want to learn how to just leap into doing something without thinking too much about it. I guess I called you here because I don’t know why I called you here. I wanted this to be filmed. I wanted this journey to be documented. I didn’t want to think about this too much, I just wanted to do it. Now, you’re observing me. I don’t have to bifurcate into two anymore. I can just ask someone to do my observing for me. It’s kind of your job description to observe, isn’t it? For the first time in my life, I can experience what it is to exist without thinking extensively about my existence.
There are two kinds of people and I want to have lived my life having been both.”
– Ketaki Desai