Photographs


I was burrowing through my closet the other day. Buried beneath the long-forgotten scarves and shawls and tee-shirts, I found an album.

Just before he left for his first trip back home to Delhi, he asked me,

What shall I get you from there?

And I said.

Yourself. Lots of yourself.

‘Lots’??

Yes. You with your family. Your school. College. Friends. Festive occasions. Baby memories. Photographs. I want to see what the rest of your life is like.

He looked at me like I was crazy. (Those were early days after all..in the months that followed, he got used to my weird requests). But he brought back photographs. An album full of them.

Perhaps because I hid it away as securely as I could, the album did not make it to the ‘discard’ pile. Hmm. In the tempest that follows the pain of goodbye I can usually summon up enough energy to burn away every memory, every conversation and every aspect of the relationship that I want to forget. This one escaped the burning fires of my hell.

I flipped through it, mingled curiosity. How odd, considering all the time we spent together, I only have one vague memory of his face.

I first found a few ‘kiddie’ snaps. Playing chess with his cousin, arm-around-shoulders with a classmate, a birthday party, sports day. Furthur in, mum and dad entered the picture, with other family members, holidays, vacations, family occasions. One photograph shot with his mother on the terrace when an extra floor was added to their house. Another of him bent over the drafting board. Kicking around with friends in Connaught Place. A ‘good kids’ shot with his first girlfriend, daughter of a close family friend.

I remember piecing together his life from these pictures, fitting images onto the vivid descriptions he gave. So much that I didn’t know, so many memories! A person is a culmination of experiences and a new chapter starts in both your lives when you meet. But what of the past? Those who’ve loved and been a part of their life before you…have left their imprints on it and it would do well to be acquainted with them.

I didn’t need to ask him to describe his friends and the life he had left back in Delhi. He loved talking about them anyway. And soon I knew the names, the faces, the conversations and the associations well. The life that I wasn’t a part of.

The last photograph in that album used to be my favorite one. An overhead shot of him sitting on the steps of a building under construction, dressed in a  cotton shirt with tiny blue-and-white checks and jeans. When I told him I liked that shirt, he took to wearing chequered shirts all the time. 🙂 I carried that photo on my person when I travelled out of the city and smiled at it often. Which is why it was slipped into the album cover at the back, for easy access. It had been put back into a proper holder. I must have done that sometime when I decided that I didn’t want to see him anymore.

I turned the leaf over, thinking how little I felt over the things I’d taken so seriously and treasured so much. Just about to shut it and toss it back in, too indifferent to even trash it.

And then, I found a few more photographs. An impromptu party the day he got placed. I took that pic of him smiling and in the mirror behind him, my reflection, camera-poised was visible. A shot of him cutting a cake that I got with a funny, secret message….which is why he was grinning so sheepishly.

And the last one that wasn’t as firmly entrenched in my mind. In the brief nanosecond I spotted it, I wondered about the gorgeous girl next to him. And then I realised…the girl was me. Damn. I never thought I was attractive then, he never let me believe it. But there I was, all aglow. And it was the very last photograph that we ever took together. The final picture in the album.

Somewhere, somehow, seamlessly, I had become a part of that breathing, pulsating world that was his life. I was in the album with the others and an irrevocable part of his life.

I amputated him and the relationship from my life a long time ago. And I only thought about the pain I felt in letting go, all that I had lost in the bargain because he had been a part of my life. But it never occured to me that I had been a part of his life too. A real, living, breathing person who would have become another unerasable memory.

An album of memories that started with a story of a life I hadn’t been a part of…ended with me as its central character. Ah.

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12 thoughts on “Photographs

  1. Poonam July 9, 2008 at 10:00 Reply

    You write quite fluidly. I too went through journey of your ex’s life. 🙂

    Poonams last blog post..Flickr Mosiac Tag

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  2. Sumit July 9, 2008 at 11:35 Reply

    I did wonder whether you broke up your relationships so that you’d have something to write about…but then I realized that your blog is the only one that updates twice in a day on my reader. So either that’s a lot of guys or a lot of ideas. 😉 Hope all’s well, it’s been a while since I caught up with you guys.

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  3. 'nonnymous July 9, 2008 at 12:05 Reply

    Very touching… and very beautifully wriiten.

    ‘nonnymouss last blog post..This Shitty City

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  4. Cynic in Wonderland July 11, 2008 at 06:09 Reply

    feelthat too, looking back, the memories are so fluid sometimes are they not?

    Cynic in Wonderlands last blog post..Vegetose!

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  5. Ashwin July 11, 2008 at 06:31 Reply

    If you knew that both of you would be hurt and unhappy, why did you let go?

    Ashwins last blog post..The "Super"Jet

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  6. K July 11, 2008 at 11:09 Reply

    so were you able to burn the photos…good for you then

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  7. Pragni July 12, 2008 at 06:09 Reply

    I always ask for childhood pictures.. I love to imagine how he looked then.. how boyishly innocent his face was.. how trusting his eyes, and how naive his actions. And then I love to have it confirmed. But I can never keep the pics with me. I always see them when I can, but under his possession.

    Because somewhere it scares me.. getting too personal maybe? And somewhere I dont want him to let go of himself so much.. weird isn’t it.

    Pragnis last blog post..The spoils of a conquest

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  8. Jeeves July 13, 2008 at 10:32 Reply

    Have been reading for a while. Really nice blog. There is a sense of connection to what you write. Going to blogroll you 🙂

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  9. Australopithecus July 14, 2008 at 09:47 Reply

    and its very nice for people like me who looked very nice when young and would crack several mirrors now. (i myself have a face that would sink a thousand ships )

    Australopithecuss last blog post..

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  10. anu August 8, 2008 at 07:54 Reply

    @ the album did not make it to the ‘discard’ pile

    glad that it could not make to that unwanted pile as it made for some excellent thought that you have ended this post with. in any relationship that ends, there isnt just one who suffers! nice thought for me to chew upon..

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  11. sway June 29, 2009 at 18:44 Reply

    no matter how much we discard…whatever we try..things have a way of staying in our memories..latent and reticent..but existent.

    The mind is a funny place 🙂
    .-= sway´s last blog ..26 Lines…. =-.

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  12. IdeaSmith July 2, 2009 at 14:24 Reply

    @Sway: That’s what makes being human such a beautiful (and painful) experience, doesn’t it?

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