The Man in the Photograph


I look around my house and realize how long it had been since I looked at every corner, every wall.
So long since I looked closely at every piece that made it a home.
That big door, that key hole, the medicine shelf, a feng shui drop, those white lamps in the corner I hardly touch, the dining table that seated so many happy times. Those old photos in new frames, each having their own story to tell. A peculiar shell which seemed like a priced possession at ten, goes unnoticed now. The old books were my sister’s pillow late in the night, the green shawl that she loved became her second skin. The slippers worn by my father when at home lie in the corner like a wet cat. Scissors, staplers and tape are the things he can’t do without. The tongs and mittens accurately aligned in the kitchen that belongs ONLY to my mother. They all have their most favourite part at home. Parts that left a contented smile on their faces. I wondered for the first time what my favourite part at home was. My father always thought it was the bathroom as I spend hours in there. So today, I decided to find that one thing I cherished and loved more than everything.
Ah…Is it my easel that houses unfinished paintings for months together? Is it my study table which was always purely decorative and an undisputed competitor to the untouched white lamps in the corner. My “crazy” posters on the closets, the overflowing bangles that hide the stand they rest on. No. none of these I’m sure. There must be something I’ve always loved. Maybe I have never been aware of how much I love it.

I ramble from room to room in search of it. I see an old photograph hung on a plain white wall as if enhancing the beauty of the wall. Eureka! How could I not see?! This has always been dear to me. I contemplated that it could be a pencil sketch. Still haven’t figured out what it actually is. It captured someone I have always admired. It captured that strong form, a beige coat on proud shoulders and an unshakable gaze that looked into my soul. My peers always said I don’t resemble any of my family members. My sadistic sister derived a new thrill in this and often said I was found outside a supermarket near home. Those words made me weep for hours as a child, albeit said in only good humour. How could I not resemble anybody? A third cousin, maybe fourth or even a distant old aunt? Not even a little resemblance. Gregor Mendel must be turning in his grave. A friend then told me that I looked like the man in the photograph. My face round like his and nostrils flared JUST LIKE HIS! That was the best compliment I have received. That day it struck me, I look like my oldest gene.

There was something very captivating about him. I could look at his photo in awe for hours. He is the only person I’ve admired so much without having met.
I never questioned about him at home. About how he walked, talked or wrote. It hurt too much to do so. I quietly listened to my father when he told me about his fondest days with him. Of how dignified, patient and magnetic he was. His presence sending chills down the spine and voice marking a territory around. The few times my father mentioned him were precious and I eagerly waited for them but the conversation always ended in tears. In my father’s eyes I could see the great loss he felt for not having him around.
It hurts to know he never knew of my existence. I often wondered, could I ever grow up to be like him? Could I ever have a persona like that? If he was alive, would he be proud of me? Would he be happy knowing how much I’ve admired him? What would it be like to just sit beside him? Sigh!

This photograph is all I’ve had since I understood who he was to me. It will always be my favourite part of home. Sorrow clouds me for I was unfortunate to have never experienced the relation we would share. I’m happy being a tiny piece of someone like him.
But there will always be a part of me that says,
”Grandpa, I wish we had met”.

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8 thoughts on “The Man in the Photograph

  1. Brilliant assimilation of thoughts so delicate that they could put a marshmallow to shame. Had the privilege of being the first to listen to the lines when they were still on paper. Great going! Keep em coming Preeti.

  2. Dear Preeti,
    Your feelings of expression about your longing to have known & lived with Grandpa brought tears to my eyes.
    The terrible loss of a father in a very young age is something nobody should experience. But that has not kept me from putting efforts in my studies n work.But the guidance at a young age can make a world of a difference to a person in his life. Probably GOD willed it that way.
    You should try & achieve recognition in your chosen field despite the odds & hurdles, which will be a silent homage you can pay to a person you admire, resemble, but not met, unfortunately.
    May GOD bless you. [Keep blogging-I loved it!!]

  3. Very touching and heartfelt! Brought tears to the eyes, not just because I understand the feeling, but, the way it was expressed! Very subtly it moves from the outer world to the inner depths! Loved the way you developed it. Hone your talent, keep writing!

    Love.

    Atya

  4. Brilliant…Those kids who can live with their grandparents at least until their teens are very lucky since they can learn from the experience shared. I have been lucky to have studied with some talented individuals/ writers but you just seem to write/blog at a different level. As Naina Atya says keep writing.. 🙂 Nothing better than making your parents and family proud…

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