It was the first time they were both together in front of the camera. The camera, placed on the parapet that separated Montefioralle from the lush Tuscan landscape, stared at them motionlessly, while they sat on a wooden bench and gazed at the unending countryside that the camera couldn’t see. There was nobody else in sight.
They remained silent for a long time. The camera heard the peaceful sound of birds and occasionally, the church bells toll. A light rain fell and the cobbled streets and ancient stone walls glistened. Tiny droplets fell on their shirts, darkening the colour where they fell and then spread, lightened and became undetectable. The glow of their cigarettes reddened when they drew in smoke.
“I wonder how they capture that sound of paper and tobacco burning when people smoke in films.” Kaushik said aloud.
“I don’t know. I think they use unfiltered cigarettes.” Ritankar said.
Kaushik nodded and stole a glance at the camera, then looked away again. The church bells chimed again.
“How about we describe what we see in front of us, the magnificence that lies there unseen to those watching through the camera?” Kaushik said.
Ritankar did not respond and continued to stare into the distance. They heard the fleeting sound of a car passing by on the highway behind them, hidden by the walls of the church.
“Look at them hills yonder,” Kaushik began, “green, wonderful. Oh bliss.” He sighed. “Those clouds brooding over them, perhaps drawn to their beauty as much as we. Those tiny houses with red roofs down in Greve clustered together like in a dream. Oh, that smoke rising from the chimney over there, snow white against the green grey.” He paused, shook his head thoughtfully and looked straight at the camera. “I wish you could see what I can see.” He clucked his tongue, “Oh nature, why art thou so cruel!”
Ritankar smiled but did not comment.
“This must be right up there with the best of our trip”, he said after long minutes had passed.
“Yes. With Cinque Terre and the Père Lachaise.”
“I hope the Aeolian Islands turn out alright. That should cap everything off nicely. And Rome, obviously.”
“I think this is going to be the best scene of our travelogue,” Kaushik mused, “if we do manage to compile one.” He added.
Ritankar stood up and strolled around for a bit, moving out of sight of the camera. Kaushik took a sip of water from the bottle he’d carried and settled back into the bench again.
“Must be twenty minutes since the camera started rolling,” Ritankar called out from where he stood, a few metres away, staring up at a streetlamp.
“Yes, must be. Why?”
“No. I guess we beat Hunger. That was seventeen minutes, wasn’t it?”
Kaushik laughed. “Yes, thereabouts. We weren’t that intense though, were we?”
Two years hence, Kaushik’s hard drive would crash and take with it everything they’d shot. In that time, they would’ve watched the videos once and never have worked on them.
“What time is it?” Ritankar asked.
“One. You want to leave? We’ve got to get back to Greve by three.”
“Lets walk through the village one more time. Then we can leave.”
Kaushik walked away from the line of sight of the camera and then detoured to it from its blind side. He switched it off and picked it up. “This should be fun to watch.” He said.
On their way down to Greve, they walked by the cemetery compound again – a small space enclosed by a thick wall that rose up to their chests. On the other side, over the wall, Tuscany rose and fell in all its glory. Stone plaques, some with faded photographs on them, stood in a four uniform columns. They read out some of the names under their breath, fearful that a raised voice might disturb the exquisite equilibrium of the place. They mulled over the paradox of what they felt – extreme calm and a warm melancholia.
It was only when they’d descended to Greve and sat in what appeared to be the only café in town, sipping warm steaming cups of cappuccino, that Kaushik finally spoke aloud.
“Not a bad place to die.”He said.