All That I Have Are These
Editor's note from September 2018
Often on lazy Sunday afternoons, we would spread out on my mother’s bed, awash in the winter sun, with books and old photo albums. Snuggling against her, I would look at each picture, and ask, “Who’s this?” or, “What is this place?” at every turn of a page. I now realize how patient Ma was responding to me, immersed in her book, or trying to get that precious shut-eye at the end of a week.
Old photos are time frozen in an album, moments in which the person or place was caught, remaining alive forever. There are so many stories behind each. Stories of love and loss, of people from god knows when, family picnics and vacations. Then there’s that photograph—a young woman or man looking awkwardly at the camera—to be sent out to the arranged-marriage market. Or at the time of their graduation, looking encumbered in their robes, but proudly holding up a certificate, looking nothing like the uncle or aunt they turned into later.
There is a photo of my parents that is precious to me. It’s from a holiday in Darjeeling, right after they were married, where they look like matinee idols—windblown hair, sunglasses and all. Another sepia-tinted one always embarrassed Ma. The love in my father’s eyes looking down at her, reminiscent of a Guru Dutt–Waheeda Rahman romance.
It’s been years since we moved out of our old house. My parents are no more. I have built my own life away from home in a big city that has its way of wearing you down. Every time I go back, I take screenshots of old photos on my mobile phone that let me time travel, until I return, open Ma’s old wardrobe and take out her albums again.
Sumana Roy, a writer of extraordinary empathy, writes ‘Photographs & Memories’, which reminded us of the famous Jim Croce song, a bitter-sweet vignette from her own life. All of us at Reader’s Digest had a lump in our throats reading it.