When A Picture Isn’t About The Picture

Musings / Friday, January 27th, 2023

When a picture tells nothing…

This is a picture of me with the founder of Reebok, Joe Foster. If I were wise and in my early 20s, masquerading as a freelance writer with a dreamy number of followers on LinkedIn, I might make this the main story. But since I am neither wise nor a freelance writer and definitely not in my 20s, this isn’t the story at all.

I was invited to speak on Wednesday at Business World’s Non-Fiction Literature Fest in Bangalore. No, that’s not the story, either.

Those who know me, know that I am an introvert. I am never comfortable speaking on stage. But over the years, I have trained myself to meet that discomfort and recognize it as an opportunity. And here’s what happened:

I walk out of my apartment at 2 pm and find myself face-to-face with a stray cat digging into its lunch. A pigeon, which had seen better days, clearly, but was now a mangled mess. I choke and step aside, feathers flying in my wake.

I drive out, but those ripped intestines, bloody and murky, are lingering in my head. I bang into the curb just outside the gate, shredding my tires and leaving myself with the flattest flat you will ever see.

Our mistakes are stories.

I find a local puncture repair shop nearby where this lad, Shabeer, looks at me, a mess of anxiety, and calmly says, “Madam, it’s ok. Don’t worry about anything. I will get you there.” He repairs the flat in 15 minutes. He doesn’t take money, waving me off.

People are our stories.

I drive in a daze to the venue, where I meet a LinkedIn contact.

Billa is a walking memoir. A person who doesn’t drink water, doesn’t own a car and hasn’t taken a paycheck since 1997.

Our lives are stories.

And when my turn comes to speak, I remember all the stories of my life, pages strewn on the potholed trails of memory – stories of hope, despair, joy, and so much beauty, and I realize that THIS is the story.

Being an introvert isn’t the story either. Showing up is.

We are here. This is our life. These are our stories. We are most alive in the connections we make. We can create meaning from our flaws. We can weave of this fabric a storied quilt, colored with all our mistakes and lined with the aged threads of our many successes.

Believe me when I tell you, this picture isn’t the story.

smitha murthy

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