For Dad, for Mum, for the life they made
People looked better. They carried it with style, but without preening.
Theirs were busy lives, often centred around work, as is generally the case with immigrants. So there is little room in these snapshots for frivolity, or at any rate the type of ‘arrested development’ that nowadays sees so many grown men (and women) acting like teenagers in a Hoxtonite slur on social living. But there is laughter and occasional languor, whether on a trip to Blackpool, and the rare treat of the seaside, or enjoying an ice cream down the park. Or what seems to be the genuine delight at getting a driving license at the first time of asking.
And they were movie-star handsome, though you wouldn’t know it from the official record which, let’s face it, barely even noticed their sweat, let alone their style.
An elegant, sari-clad young woman, lighting up Blackpool pier with an ‘In the Mood for Love‘ sway. Shy but determined, beautiful without ever knowing it. And always there, stepping up without fuss, holding all the strands together – family, work, home. Largely unheralded too, but no matter, there’s little bitterness in these frames, no time for that. Instead the whispered encouragement to a child, or the lending of grace to even the humble privy.
There’s a hint too, in the privy’s customised exterior, of the other half of this equation. He’s there at both ends of his life in Britain, at repose in the garden and around the flowers he loved so much, in the sweetness of hands held at their 50th, and as a young man, repairing fences and walls at home. A proud newly wed, flexing in his vest, or looking playful in the back garden. Holding his first-born in big, strong arms, and yes, movie-star handsome without dwelling on it.
In those other threads – monkeys, a beloved elder sibling, the haunting, faded beauty of Calcutta – there seems to be a hint of what might have been. Some sort of landscape of the sublime partially restored in the fragments of everyday life. But whether it’s the young men inhabiting the ruins or mum’s elder sister reading the paper on the bed, something in the light or in the posture suggests the passing of time; the toll it exacts from buildings or people. And then no sooner than the analogue draft is complete, we’re back, and there are ashes to scatter and respects to be paid.