I think all of us, despite our diverse backgrounds, nationalities, upbringing and life journeys, would agree on this one thing - Grandparents are the greatest and the best-est blessings in the world! I think of my sweet Dadi (my paternal Grandma), and I’m instantly reminded of her indulgence of getting me Parle G biscuits from the corner grocer in the middle of the night. I think of my Dada (my paternal Grandpa), and I think of all the political and spiritual discussions I had with him. The pride in his eyes when I moved to America to purse my PhD is something I will always hold close to my heart. But…the portrait below is not about that and it doesn’t capture that emotion in me.
This is a portrait taken when I wasn’t even around. This is a portrait that is a story in itself, it’s a peek into their lives of their youthful days, that I know so little about.
I have this treasured portrait of my Grandparents from their days well before I knew them at this age, and now my children do too.
I know from this above portrait that my Grandma loved diamonds, she wore a big diamond nose ring. She loved side-slit embroidered saree blouses (a style statement that is so in vogue right now!). She wore pearl broaches. From this portrait I can tell that she loved dressing up, and she perhaps even enjoyed being photographed. I know from her confident gaze that she was not camera shy at all and she must have been such a beautiful, confident young woman. I know that until she passed away at the age of 67, she dressed up twice a day in beautiful sarees, one in the morning and one in the afternoon when she visited her Ladies Club. The pallu neatly pinned, talcum powder on her face and checking herself out in the teak armoire with green glass handle that still exists in my ancestral home.
My sweet Grandpa, I can tell from this portrait, that he liked his hair neatly oiled and combed back and he liked wearing crisply ironed white clothes. I can also now see a reflection of him in my son today. My Grandpa was a very spiritual man. He had his daily puja practice and loved listening to religious hymns, particularly by Bhimsen Joshi, on his double deck cassette players. He was a progressive thinker of his time. With strong political views, I would hear him debate passionately with my Dad and uncle for hours on end. As traditional as he was, he was more progressive than we believed. When we announced to our families that I have found a guy on my own (a way of saying I was not marrying the traditional arranged match way), one of my uncles asked about matching mine and my husband’s horoscopes. My Grandpa’s answer to that was: “She has made a decision, there is not need to match the horoscopes. It is a match.”
This portrait is of my Dada (the same person from the above portrait) as I remember him, when he was in his 80’s. It was my first trip back home from America and I had my brand new Kodak camera and I took this portrait of him. Of all the portraits I have taken to date, this ranks top in my list.
These are the precious prints of my Great Grandparents that hang in my ancestral home. They obviously need restoration but I’m looking to find a good restorer, locally in India. These prints look like a pencil sketches because they may have been the old Daguerreotype prints.
This Grandparents day, celebrate not just the people Grandparents are - whether yours or your children’s. Celebrate them for the people they were, dig up their stories, share it with your children, your siblings, capture your parents portraits for your children. But most importantly, frame those precious prints into beautiful wall arts. Believe in the power of print. Recognize it’s reach into history, into creating a legacy for your family and invest in them.