I have always believed that every photograph has a story to tell – something so compelling that one doesn`t really want to share it. Perhaps that is why it took me 26 years to tell you this story.The three children caught in this 26-year old photograph are Jamshed V Rajan (a self-proclaimed Internet guru), Sumathy (the most artistic person in the family, who has plans of leaving her teaching career behind and joining the ITES-BPO sector) and Deepa (a house wife and the most affectionate of us all).
Those were the innocent days. Children didn`t demand play stations and parents didn`t buy costly toys because they were never guilty of not spending enough time with their kids.
I still remember when my father – the more playful of the two parents because he could afford the time and money – called us all and announced that we were going out to take a family photograph. We hadn`t taken one since the youngest member of the family (the one with chubby cheeks) had arrived.
“Pick out your best clothes and be ready. I will be home by 4.30 p.m. and we will leave in half an hour,” he said.
It wasn`t a difficult task for me. I had only two good shorts and the zipper in the second didn`t work. I decided to wear the red short and the only shirt (out of the four I had) that would go well with it. Being an Army man`s son I couldn`t afford to be photographed without a belt and a pair of shoes. Kendriya Vidhyala`s red belt and white shoes, which was reserved for Saturdays, completed my attire.
Back then, it wasn`t fashionable to wear one`s socks around one`s ankles. I had to borrow two pink colored rubber bands from my mother to hold my socks in the right position. I have a feeling, by using the rubber bands I had cut the blood supply to my feet by half …but I wasn`t complaining.
I don`t know if Deepa (the one in salwar) had trouble choosing her best – I wasn`t into girls` clothes then. Sumathy, being the second girl in the family had a host of clothes to choose from. Besides, being a small kid, she could afford to be seen wearing woolens in April.
There was immense camaraderie while we ironed the clothes. In fact there was so much camaraderie that Deepa offered to iron Sumathy`s best woolens and burnt them.
As promised, my father came home early and we left for the studio at 5 p.m..
I heard my father ask my mother, “Shall we go to the studio we went to two years back?”
Today, I shudder to think how much we have progressed in terms of photography. My daughter is all of 80-odd days old and I already have 100s of pictures.
My mother nodded in agreement.
Half way through our walk, my mother asked Deepa, “Where is your dupatta?”
Apparently, in all the excitement, my sister had left her dupatta at home.
Mother (turning towards daddy): “Is it ok to take a picture without a dupatta?
Father: “No way. What is the point in taking a picture if we can`t show it to others?”
Mother: “You are right. Let us buy one on the way.”
We entered a small shop and in ten minutes had with us a red dupatta – something that would go well with Deepa`s pink salwar.
Soon enough we were in the studio – a very small, smelly place. In one corner stood a wall-mounted mirror and on a stool nearby I could see a few dirty combs and a tin of Ponds talcum powder. My parents applied a dash of the talcum powder (remember, we had walked two kilometers and were now sweating). They then took turns combing our hair and powdering us.
Before we were to take our respective positions, my father spotted that my white canvas shoes were not actually white. The studio man suggested we try applying some talcum powder, which he assured had worked for the previous client.
After my shoes were white enough to be photographed, the studio man guided us to our respective positions. I remember him telling our parents, “After I arrange the kids, you both can occupy positions just behind them.”
After 10 minutes of struggle, the studio man managed to place us at the right spot. By then, my father had had different ideas. I didn`t hear what he told my mom, but I did see her nodding her approval.
My father turned towards the studio man and said: “Why don`t you take a photograph of these three first? We will join them later.”
It all happened in a flash. Pun intended.
The studio man looked towards my father and said, “Come on now…it is your turn.”
“How much will it be for this snap if I want three copies – one for each of them?” asked my father.
I didn`t get the exact amount, but I did see my father`s eyebrows knit. He looked at my mom and didn`t say a word…but I did see her nod in approval. My parents didn`t stand with us that day for the second photograph. And it was three years before we went out again for a family photograph.
Today…26 years hence…we three have a copy of this photograph. We miss our father, though.
Warning: This is a pretty long post.