In an attempt to bring back more....uh...what's that technical term they use... ah, zing into my life, I finally bit the bullet, made that trip to Bombay and purchased the Canon EOS 66, the SLR camera for the poor bloke. Right, then - camera, cpl filter, hood, uv filter (this one was for free), bag (this, too), film loaded - I'm all set. Now all I need is some talent. Not the ancient egyptian currency, ha, ha... I often crack these jokes to myself - not many people, I noticed, appreciate my jokes, and one needs to keep the self happy - and was probably smirking visibly at this one when a fellow passing through the shop looked down at the clunky unit (I'm not being over-critical here, just that I had gone to the place with this chap who bought a camera which looked - and weighed - like the strip of chewing gum I was carrying) and paused.
"Hey, how many MegaPixels?"
This threw me for a bit. It was one of those questions people ask without thinking, and suddenly your whole life flashes before you... sorry, hang on - I was going to use that part in a post about my road accidents. No, your whole life hits the "pause" button, and you suddenly realize that you belong to the previous generation.
Back in my time, when people saw other people buy cameras, they asked intelligent and mechanically-oriented technical questions like, "Why don't you use a camera obscura like everybody else?", or "Hey, are you sure this isn't broken? The lens came right off!", or, for the really technically-minded, "Huh? SLR camera? What be that?" and so on. In fact, back in my childhood, when I was young and dumb and used to read Reader's Digest (okay, it wasn't all that bad then), I once came upon this article on "Doc" Edgerton, who, among other things, drank a lot of coffee, and photographed drops of milk falling on it (the coffee).
No, seriously, this chap was a bit into photography and invented stuff like the strobe light, which apparently caused a lot of scientists to exclaim "Eureka!" and run off naked into their labs. Okay, okay. The strobe light freed up the camera from the mechanical limitations of the shutter by eliminating it altogether. So by using a dark room and illuminating it with flashes of light from these strobes, scientists could find answers to such questions like "Is your aim spoiled by the recoil from the gun you just fired?", "Exactly in what way does a soap bubble collapse?", and "Who has been taking that last tub of ice cream from the back of the freezer?"
But I digress. So as I was saying, I had come upon this article a little early in life, and when I asked this uncle of mine who is a zoologist and an enthusiastic photographer - a combination which all the bats in the temples of Madurai strongly resent - about this strobe light thingie, he looked at me with something close to shock in his eyes. No, sorry, that was the uncle standing next to him, who had just wrestled my last toffee out of my hands, and was in the process of popping it into his mouth. My zoologist uncle, no doubt out of years of observing animals in the wild, instantly saw through my ploy.
"Very nice. Okay, I'll let you hold my camera. But be verrry careful."
And that was that. Hold on. How did I get here? I was talking about the - oh, blast! Sorry, folks, there I go again. So what I was saying was that in my time, people knew about convex lenses. We watched solar eclipses by looking at the image on the wall through a pinhole. We blew soap bubbles. I even tried to make my own soap bubble mix, and caused a minor setback in my mum's laundry routine. In short, we were all children of the earth, with no more sophistication than the summer sessions of "Super Mario", something that strangely baffled my dad for some reason. He had some preposterous idea about going out in the sun and playing. Ha.
And after all that, this young whippersnapper looks up at me and asks, "How many megapixels?"
I drew myself up to my full height. Tact and finesse, I thought to myself. Handle it with your usual tact and finesse. He's just a young kid - he knoweth not what he sayeth and all that sort of thing.
"Er, ah... it's, er... you know... the film SLR... 35mm and all that... "
I thought I heard him snort, I definitely saw him raise an eyebrow, and then he passed out of the shop, into the sun.
We followed, after a brief search for my friend's shiny new tiny digital camera. It was hiding behind its charger.