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In memory of a vacation

The memory of the holiday from which we had returned four months ago has lost its vividness, and the pictures brought back to all of us not merely the physical environs of that fortnight, but also the thrilling, blessed nature of the period. Soumya Bhattacharya writes.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2010 00:50 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya
Soumya Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times

She spent all of Sunday morning on the floor of The Room In Which Anarchy Reigns. All around her, in spectacular disarray, were our holiday pictures, scissors, board pins and glue. She snipped some of the photos into cutouts, chose the ones she loved most, wrote captions for them, and finally put the whole lot up on the felt board.

The memory of the holiday from which we had returned four months ago has lost its vividness, and the pictures brought back to all of us not merely the physical environs of that fortnight, but also the thrilling, blessed nature of the period.

That's something I love about photographs. They freeze the ongoing moment in a way home videos or DVDs can't. Looking at them brings into play the imagination in a manner looking at home videos or DVDs doesn't. In a way, it's a bit like listening to cricket on the radio compared to watching it on TV.

Among the photos she chose, there was a picture of my wife and I hamming it up for Oishi's camera, drinking sangria from the same tumbler through two straws. There was one of Oishi, caught in the middle of racing out of the water, her foot raised, the gleaming, foam-tipped ocean behind her, the sunlight refracted through the droplets of water that clung to her.

That's what the pictures show. What they don't is all the stuff around and beyond the pictures, all the stuff that comes back to someone who was there at the time the photograph was taken.

So looking at the one of my wife and I, we smelt the anchovies in vinegar that was on the table in front of us, heard the hissing sea that was so close to that particular beachfront bar, saw the extravagant architecture of the clouds in the blinding blue dome of the Mediterranean sky, and felt again the rhythm of the day, of its long, lazy afternoon wandering towards evening.

The picture of Oishi emerging from the sea like a mermaid without a tail recalled the beach umbrellas, the ludicrously expensive sun loungers, the gritty sand that got between our toes and turned so hot that our feet burned moments after we had trod it after coming out of the water, and the beer that got warm no sooner had we bought them.

When she was smaller, Oishi would much more enjoy watching the home videos or DVDs of holidays. Photographs seemed to be too static, too exclusionist for her taste. Now, at nine, she has come to learn the true inclusiveness of pictures. She knows that what they leave out is just as important as what they portray. She is aware of how, therefore, recollection and imagination are central to appreciating them.

She does not, as she used to when she was smaller, any longer look at them and ask us: "Remember when…?" Now she cocks her head, holds our eyes, and says not much. It is something that hangs between us, enjoyable, acknowledged and unspoken.

First Published: Sep 05, 2010 00:47 IST