Photography

Venus of Southeast Asia: A Photographic Reflection

©Zaynab Syed

I have not found my greatest purpose in life yet, but I believe I am almost there. Yesterday, my purpose was sleeping. Two days back, it was more sleeping. I can’t really speak on behalf of what I will have for tomorrow, but I believe that today, my purpose is reminiscing. I wish to leave carvings of what I am on peoples’ hearts, not on my gravestone. A legacy of our stories salted away within them. A piece of me. That is all.

Last year in December, however, my purpose was something different — something more beautiful. I went on a short journey to Thailand with my family for my cousin’s wedding.

I took with me a small journal, where I jotted down short entries about almost every picture I took of my surrounding then. I knew we would only going to be there for a dumpy amount of time, say a week at most, so I wanted to have an everlasting recollection of my pictures by the stories they originally lived in.

©Zaynab Syed

We are about to reach Phuket, Thailand, and my legs have finally given up on me. I have been sitting in the same position for the last past six hours without making myself get up for anything whatsoever, and I am just about finished in every last bit of sense of the word. From Pakistan to Dubai, my luck did not crack its miracles, and I had to sit sandwiched between my brother and sister. But this time, I have been tossed to the window-side, and there is a lovely old lady from Greece seated down next to me with her husband by the aisle. I don’t like many old ladies, but I guess I will pick her over my siblings any time of the day. She tells me her name is Elpida, but her husband calls her Elpi and that she is from Grevena, a not-so-big town in Northern Greece. She does not know much English like her sleepy husband does, who is translating bits and pieces to me, but we are somehow making it work. I think her enthusiasm is what’s making everything work. She asks me where I am from, and I tell her a bit about my country and our culture. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, her husband goes to sleep. She starts telling me about how they met when they were young and fell in love, but my knees are aching too much and the dull arms of fatigue has finally taken a grasp of my head, and I do not want to be rude. I nod along and smile at her story-telling, but I know I have lost her somewhere at “grandmother’s cane.” The airhostess comes around, and fortunately, it turns out that that girl is also from Greece. I turn away from their kick off of discussion and try to go to sleep with my dead insides.

©Zaynab Syed

The car is messing up my pattern here a lot, but I am somehow making it work. We are on our way to the Bauman Hotel, where we will be staying for the time being. They say it is located somewhere near the Patong Beach, Phuket, so I am hoping for a somewhat nice view from our bedroom. To the extent that the topic goes for the weather conditions, it is not as bad as I had initially thought it would be. It is not stifling even in the least, and anyone can see how tightly the grey clouds are clinging onto the blanket of the once-clear blue sky.

Our almost second night in, and we have ultimately turned up on the grand beach of Patong. I reckon it is the perfect time for having an eyeful of the sunrise-induced sea. The sky looks like an artist’s pallet after painting a magnum opus right now – a colorful mess, simply breath-taking. And as I am writing this, my brother is making fun of me for taking my journal out yet again. He deems I don’t even study my courses as much as I study my diary. I don’t take offense. I let him blabber as much as he wants, because when he isn’t wallowing in his supposed verbal wits, he is annoying me with something else. I think I have sea-foam in my veins that, perhaps, makes me immune to his provocation, but who knows. Maybe, underneath these summer stars and in the arms of this sea, I am invincible.

©Zaynab Syed

©Zaynab Syed

©Zaynab Syed

I am watching as my sister gets ready for her parasailing. They say I am next, but I highly doubt that. It is almost nightfall, and they do not take any punters in after the sun has gone down, so we have very little time before that happens. I also didn’t want to go first. To begin with, I am admittedly a scaredy-cat. Secondly, my sister is exasperating, so perhaps, if she is suspended more than 3,000 feet above the ground, I cannot hear her constant kvetching. Even if it is for 10 minutes at most.

©Zaynab Syed 

©Zaynab Syed 

It is windy and a little chilly here; the wraithlike chorus in my ears is chilling the breeze, as if it is made up of haunting souls and hailing a rise of goosebumps on my skin. Maybe, it is the magnificence of the view that is fetching that reaction from within me. Maybe not. It is like I am standing on the pathway that leads straight to the gates of heaven. It feels fresh, and I feel at peace. I can’t stay standing for long here though, because almost everyone has boarded the ship, and they might leave me on the level if I don’t hurry back.

©Zaynab Syed

We are on a boat-trip around the small islands, if you will, and our near destination is the James Bond Island. I am sitting by the edge, subconsciously listening to the distinct talks and laughter of my cousin’s friends, my family and everyone’s families from places like Azerbaijan, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Poland and all. I have never been on any type of a ship before, but I figured I would not like the dizzying swaying motion of it floating upon an ocean as big as it is, and I was somewhat right. I never took myself for a member of the seasick party, but the rip-tiding flow of the waves beneath and the whistles of the wind in my ears makes me a little woozy on the say, but I guess it is not that bad. I can cope. However, the hoary clouds are back to swarming the clear skies. The captain says that there are chances of heavy rain. It does not look like it would rain, to be honest, though. Admittedly, the solemn clouds can speak for itself, but it has been like this from the starting week we have been here, and it only as much as drizzled. So, I highly doubt it would come to a point of the skies bathing us that heavily. But who knows? And who is complaining? I certainly would not mind myself a little relieving cry of the firmaments.

©Zaynab Syed

©Zaynab Syed

©Zaynab Syed

If you look closely, you can see an elephant.

©Zaynab Syed                                                                                        The James Bond Island

©Zaynab Syed

The sun is sweltering in the sky, and it is currently breathing down my neck like a fire-puffing dragon. I cannot clearly see what I am writing, as my brother just recently scared the wits out of me with a faux near-push that resulted in me dropping my glasses in a small but greenish, unmaintained rundown river and breaking them. The Khao Phra Thaeo rainforest is enormous and is effectively the only noteworthy virgin tropical rainforest left on the grounds of Phuket. However beautiful it may be, there are a vast number of mosquitoes running after everywhere I go. I think I also just freshly swatted a mother of one to the far-right corner of hell. There is a whole heap of walking involved and rummaging through the breadth of the saplings and rocks, and I don’t think I will be able to find contented places to sit down and write. Everyone just keeps on moving and moving without even so much of an eyeful of every corner, every little pebble or every big waterfall and shrub, but I am still in awe of its backwoods and the soft caroling of the hummingbirds and cascades in sync. I have never been to a forest ever before in my life. I have always loved the idea of going camping with my friends or family and spending the moment underneath the twinkling stars and in the bolstering arms of the night and its cricketing silence. Though, this is nowhere near what you would call camping or at night, I still think this will do just okay.

©Zaynab Syed

©Zaynab Syed

©Zaynab Syed                                                                           The Khao Phra Taew Rainforest

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