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Voicing Silence 7

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Photo Life

Looking at the photo, even now I can feel the trickle of summer sweat down my back, remember the hastily downed meals which always seemed to interrupt endless play times and the afternoons spent being combed for headlice. With so many visiting us that summer, our large and bustling household seemed to have somehow expanded to accommodate even more.

When I look back on these years, I can see how much these experiences shaped who I am today. Given that it was my house that always played host, I was expected to share everything. Skirts, pillows, sheets and my parents' attention to a large degree. It has made me less fastidious about possessions but more particular about swarms of people. After any large gathering, I find myself craving a quiet place to retreat and to recover. A sanctuary from the roar of other humans.

In the photo, we seem to have been hastily assembled. Someone must have called out for those who were nearby to gather around for a photo and we must have obliged. Taller ones to the back and smaller ones up front, they must have said. No one seems sure about smiling and we appear rather tentative about it. The sole adult in the photo seems to be wishing he were somewhere else.

I recall the dress I am wearing rather vividly. I had had it sewn a few months earlier and on the
tailor's recommendation, added a Magyar sleeve which was all the rage back then. Wearing it, I felt terribly on point with the fashion world back then. Regrettably, the girl on the left wearing a white top and partially hidden by the boy in shorts passed away from encephalitis when we were sixteen. Once as children, when we were out in public, I demanded that she return my skirt that she was wearing immediately. I was rather horrible with her and she kept her nerve. It was not one of my finest moments and I never properly apologised to her for my behaviour.

Childhood photos can evoke deep nostalgia but this one does none of that for me. It was a captured at a time when I was ten years old and barring one, stars people with whom I have no contact. It was as if, like in the photo, in life too we were thrown together for a short while before heading our separate ways. 

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