The Saga of the Family Photos – Part 1
Our visit to India was long overdue. We had met sections of the family over the past few years, but we had yet to gather in one place together for over half a decade, during which time children had been added to the family tree as well. The occasion, we agreed, demanded a family picture. You see one of these specimens in most houses – all of the children are looking divine and innocent, the adults are looking calm, relaxed and are smiling into the camera, the grandparents are sitting regally in a sofa like object or two wooden chairs depending on the studio, while their brood clusters around them. The women are decked up in heavy sarees or ornate ethnic wear, the men in kurtas or sharp, freshly pressed trousers and shirts, and the children are clothed in themes that can go with the grand settee from which the grandparents rule.
Every time we see pictures like that in other people’s homes, the husband pipes up that it would be nice to have a family picture of both sides of the family taken, and I guardedly agree. It is not that I have anything against family photographs, it is just a tricky business.
You see, I have attempted to take a family picture of mia familia during my brother’s wedding. It was not a success, although the harried photographer would disagree. The father, social dinosaur that he is, feels compelled to holler at those near and dear to him to join in on every photograph. In fact, with the father, it takes a level of willpower to not be included in a photograph if you happen to be in the vicinity. One time, we took a picture of him in front of Lake Tahoe, and were hard put to find the 72 mile circumference lake in the picture. This sort of behavior at an Indian wedding results in photographs that look like Victoria Terminus Railway Station at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening.
Most pictures had a lot of people jostling together in them, but they certainly had no theme.
Could this be one with us and the father’s friends? No – my father’s sister is in there, and so is my mother’s student.
How about this one? This could be one of everyone on the father’s side of the family, except this couple – they belong to both the paternal and maternal sides of the family (Second cousins got married. When the couple joined in the picture, so did their parents and it looks like avial and kootu were mixed together in the fridge during archival time – sigh!)
Is that the guy who sold balloons outside the function hall?
And so it went with my side of the family.
With the husband’s side of the family, the problem took on unexpected dimensions. It turns out that the father-in-law is fond of photographs. In a bid to appease him, the photographer was instructed to spare no moment, big or small. He didn’t. Every time, anybody gave somebody a Tamboolam (or haldi-kumkum : basically a plate with betel leaves & nuts, vermilion & turmeric) , the pesky photographer took a photograph.
Anyone who attends any South Indian function worth its name knows where that sort of thing leads to. Pretty soon, we had 1200 photographs of the mother-in-law giving haldi–kumkum to maamis and maamas in varying degrees of exhaustion. The point is: not one of the thousand odd pictures are fit to go up on a wall for posterity and bored guests.
However, this time was to be different, I was assured by one and all. We cart only the relevant people off to a studio and flash the lights on their face. So unless the father calls for the photographer’s assistant to join in, we are safe, and the father-in-law shall have his pick of photographic combinations: passport size photos if need be, along with the family photos.
We just dress up and get there. Dress and Dazzle. It is all you need to do.
Part 2: The Family Photo.