My grandfather was the eldest in his family. We were his youngest grandchildren. The age difference between us is almost nine decades!
My grandfather’s life was very eventful. It could be said, that he lead a full life. He was a professor in the Burmese University, joined the Army during the world war, served in the foreign service thereafter. Then he helped establish one of the leading heart institutes of the country, where he worked till his last breath.
He had several hobbies. He occasionally undertook carpentry, and even tried his hand at bee-keeping. But the one hobby that lasted the longest, was photography.
None of his photographs prior to the second world war survived – the family had to leave Burma (modern Myanmar), and several possessions were lost.
All his photographs from 1945 onwards, however, were carefully pasted in a book – thick black pages bound together, with beautiful photographs chronicling the life of his children, and even some important people of the times . He developed most of his photographs himself. And he took great pains arranging them in the album, and putting captions for them. He had the foresight to know that other people will one day look at the album with no clue as to who’s in the pictures! The album is showing signs of ageing, and rarely comes out of the cupboard. But when it does, it takes us back in time, to another world.
My grandfather’s love for photography was inherited by my father, who bought a range-finder – spending almost a month’s salary on it. Point-and-shoot or compact cameras never entered our house. From our father, that passion passed onto us. Like our father and grandfather, my brother’s love for photography is serious.
Digital photography had begun entering the market by the time I was old enough to be trusted with the film camera. And my father’s old range-finder was the only one I ever used before my brother’s DSLR entered our lives.
“Extend your palm,” said my aunt to my brother during one of our visits. “I’ve been wanting to give this to you for a long time. It might be useful to you. It belonged to your grandfather,” she said.
She placed a cylindrical leather pouch in his outstretched palm. Like a child unwrapping his gift, my brother’s face lit up with excitement, when he realised, what it was, that he had inherited.
It was my grandfather’s tripod.
“It looks absolutely new!”
No one knows how old the tripod is, but it is, at the very least, seventy years old! And we know that only because the tripod features in one of the pictures my grandfather took of his youngest son – our father.
I have no living memory of my grandfather, and I often wish I had been born earlier – or he had lived longer – so that I may have been able to converse with him. But every time I take a picture, or look at that tripod, I can’t help but think he’s around us – always encouraging us to continue documenting life.