Friday, October 8, 2010


There are certain things that can never fail to tug at your heart. Going through old photos is one of them.

I spent the better part of one of my evenings this week rummaging through stacks of dog-eared photos and dusty albums for a photo montage my parents wanted to put together. I had expected to stumble upon the embarrassing and the amusing - photos of my mother in bell-bottoms, photos of my father taken during his (mercifully) short experiment with a beard, photos of my aunt in shoulder pads, photos of a gap-toothed, boyish self. 

But something else happened. It was as if memory, long stoppered, had suddenly been set free in all its bittersweetness. Over the course of a few hours, I saw my grandparents as newlyweds, as first-time parents, young, ebullient, full of ambitions and hopes. I saw my parents, aunts and uncles as wide-eyed and wild-haired children and awkward adolescents. I saw my family as it had once been - closer in both joy and sorrow - before disputes over property, business, and insults real and imagined bred resentment and fractured relationships. Looking at those smiling faces made me long to reach back into the past, to warn them of the untimely deaths, debilitating diseases and bitter arguments that lay ahead. 

It would be wrong to say that all I felt was sorrow and nostalgia. Because those stacks also captured moments of unalloyed joy - celebrations to mark a birthday or the purchase of a first home and a first car, weddings, graduations, holidays. I realized that many of those familiar faces had in fact formed the unvarying, unchanging nucleus of my 'family life.' And there was ample fodder for jokes - photos providing unassailable evidence of questionable sartorial choices and hair styles gone awry. 

Later that night, I wondered what my grandmother, one of the focal points in the small universe of our extended family, made of these memories. Did she mourn the passing of her once striking beauty, now faded into a quiet dignity? Did she often think of those who were no longer present?  

I can't pretend to know the answers. But I do know that when I get to be her age, I want to look back on a life filled with photo-opportunities, captured in decades and generations worth of dusty albums and dog-eared photos. What's a life without pictures? 


Gauri said...

beautiful toru. I was transmitted to a time when my parents and grandparents were younger...

pictures stop time. imagination brings people alive :)

TJ said...

Thanks GJ.

And it's taken me this long to figure out that you're blogging as well! Why so discreet?

Creative Commons License
This work by ToruJ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.