I’ve been looking for art to hang alongside the two Indian miniature paintings that Marlon and I bought on our honeymoon in Rajasthan. We’ve already put up most of our art, and none of them seemed to go with those two paintings in particular, either in style or in theme.
Then I realized I had just the thing to go with the Indian miniatures: a family album of vintage photographs from India in the 1950s and 1960s. I first discovered this album in my mom’s drawer back in high school. It was packed with some things of my dad’s, like old passports. I’m guessing either he owned it or my Dima, his mother, kept it for him as a chronicle of his school days.
A little bit about my dad: he was named Amitabha, but known to family and friends as Gandhi because he was born on the date of Gandhi’s death. (Nicknames are a big thing in Bengali culture.) At the age of 5, he won a huge regional quiz contest where the prize was a coveted scholarship to a British-run boarding school in the Himalayas, where India’s elite sent their children to study.
This was a major deal. It made him something of a golden boy among his clan, the best and brightest, the family’s pride. This sort of hero status surrounded him his whole life and extended to my mom, sister and me. I really feel it whenever I go to Calcutta; as Gandhi’s daughter, I get the star treatment. My dad’s boarding school education led to a scholarship at AIM, and eventually to a career in trading, banking and finance in Hong Kong and Manila, then the financial capitals of Asia.
Not bad for a young boy from a simple family from Calcutta. Dima was always so proud of him. Here is Dima in her younger days. Something about this photo reminds me of my sister.
Out of all the photos in the album, it was the glimpses of my dad’s boarding school life in 1950s India that really captivated me.
I think my dad’s the one on the top left, in the singlet and sailor hat.
Second row, second from left. I’ve had that same expression in class pictures.
Military training. We had that too.
School dance. Already happening in India in the 1950s,
but forbidden in my high school in the 1990s. WTF.
Sometime close to graduation, I’m guessing. My dad is seated, on the right.
There are also some beautiful vignettes of India. These pictures are so small and delicate—some are just half the size of my iPhone. This is one of the larger, sharper ones.
I’ve decided that my new project will be to hunt for vintage frames for my favorite photos from this album. It will be hard to choose just a few… I might end up filling an entire wall!