Existential Experiments: The Salinger Girl

To begin with, we must trace back to the years when I wanted to become a scientist only so that I could do experiments in the lab. That seemed like a fun thing to do back when iPhones, iPads and fancy gadgets did not exist. All you must know is that while growing up, I went through a phase where I wanted to experiment with a lot of things. First, the chemicals and fancy acids; But then in middle school the truth dawned on me, that I was not cut out for science. Giving up on that was easy because by then I’d figured I loved Literature more and that, experiments could go beyond the boundaries of science.

So, thirty years of existence and here I am, submerged in fiction, brain-washed with existentialism and disappointed with reality. This is all fun and games when you have a crew who’ll help you sail in whichever direction you choose and become a part of your pretty much pointless but ardent art project.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger (Pic source: Google)

For those of you who haven’t read the book, it’s a story about a 15 year old boy called Holden Caulfield who has been expelled from a boarding school and is on his way home around Christmas in New York circa 1940’s. Holden decides to spend some time in the city, doing things that no other 15 year olds would do (or even think of doing.) Holden is not your ordinary 15 year old. Holden is exhausted with the vanity of the world; the phoniness of his school friends and Holden is enveloped in an existential state of ennui.

Trivia: Marc Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon was obsessed with the character of Holden Caulfield. After he killed Lennon, he remained in the crime scene reading Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” until the police arrived.

The Experiment: Transforming Holden to a girl sans amplifying feminism but also completely doing away with the male characteristics of the protagonist. Now this was a balance that was really gruelling, both mentally and physically. But luckily, I got my crew and some really awesome people who helped me transport the images in my head into frames that will now tell a story.


The model and the photographer (literally) rolling in the deep!

The Salinger Girl: Rohini Rai. My darling niece who has always been eager and anxious to be a part of all my projects and who plays every role with such perfection. She’s the model, the sister, the niece, the friend, the make up artist, the costume designer. She’s all in one and she’s my perfect Holden Caulfield.


My Salinger Girl: Rohini Rai

The Photographer: Tshultrim Norbu Wangdi aka TNW aka my homeboy! This one spent the last two years doing some fancy photography course and even more fancy commercial photoshoots in and around Pune. So he came home after two years and fell right into my project trap. Some claim I bullied him into it but if you see it the way I do, It all came together on its own. Its destiny!


TNW: The hipster photographer who hates being called a hipster

The Scene: Chapter 14

Holden has met a certain Maurice at the hotel elevator who’s arranged to send a hooker (Sunny) to his room. So the hooker arrives but Holden is in no mood to be sexy and lies that he’s had a clavichord operation recently. The hooker is pissed off because Holden hands her a five dollar bill and asks her to leave. She demands a ten but Holden manages to get her out of the room and after she’s gone, he sits there, remembering, recalling and falling into a state of desolate nostalgia.

NOTE: Allie is Holden’s younger brother who dies of leukaemia when he is 11 and Holden, 13. 


“After old Sunny was gone, I sat in the chair for a while and smoked a couple of cigarettes. It was getting daylight outside. Boy, I felt miserable. I felt so depressed, you can’t imagine. What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed.”



“I felt like praying or something, but I couldn’t do it. I can’t always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I am sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. I like almost everybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard.”



“Finally, I sat up in bed and smoked another cigarette. It tasted lousy.”


You can see our PROFESSIONALISM oozing out in every pixel of this photo. Me: The creative head, making some important calls. TNW: The photographer fixing his gaze upon a probable perfect spot/lighting. Rohini: The model, never forgetting to pose and getting us all in the zone!

So yeah, that is what we managed to do one Tuesday afternoon. There will be more girls portraying existential men and I’ll be back then with stories, narration and creepy trivias (may be) or just the fun ones! We’ll see.

A very big THANK YOU to Sneha Rai for letting us use her space at the Sunder Spa and Resort, Majhitar. And of course, thank you to Mrs. and Mr. BookMan of Cafe Fiction for allowing us to sprawl all over your place, discussing this (in my mother’s words) “bichakko project”


And Jigme Seden Bhutia, your absence will not be tolerated for the next shoot. A show cause notice will be sent.