I was editing this- a newer picture in the ‘1978‘ series of photographs. It’s a picture of my mother staring through the window of Harrods, perhaps the world’s most prestigious department store. I hadn’t even seen her at first- only when my younger sister went ‘Ammi!’ upon seeing it, that I noticed. She’s simple looking, cute and most importantly- she’s a poor girl outside a rich man’s store. The look on her face is just gorgeous; maybe she was having a good day; maybe a bad one. What I also love is how my father captured this fleeting moment of innocence in her- and the fact that my dad’s not a trained photographer but always captured fun, living shots- is why I felt that I had to move back home to Lahore. I’m an engineer, but just as an architect was able to speak the language of the world through a camera lens, I too, should be able to speak the language of the world through perhaps the digital editing and publishing medium. If I didn’t scan these Kodachrome slides of their past, featuring pictures from all over the world, then who would? Certainly not my father- he’s too busy doing what life intended for him at this point in time. So who was going to do it? Not my sisters. Not my friends. It had to be me.
These may be just some pictures- quaint and scanned- but to me they’ve begun to reveal themselves as just one more story I have to write before my life is up- one more painting to make. I guess it’s one more step towards fulfilling destiny. Destiny’s not a point – it’s a collection of points that I should be able to see as a constellation when say, I die. I’m sure it’s not that romantic of a concept when you’re passing away, but I am sure that with the strength of conscience and imagination that man has, there has to be some moment right at the point you’re dying- that your life flashes before your eyes. I imagine that at that moment, it’s not necessarily the number of points – but the right points mixed together, to form whatever your destiny in life may have been. I only pray that I’ll see the right points- enough to say ‘OK- I think I fulfilled my destiny as much as possible’. I’ve realized that my parents were born dirt poor and as immigrants in a country that was just born itself. Still, Life and God have worked pretty well for them- in that they’ve managed to share some pretty amazing memories over their lives, and I hope they continue to do so.
(By the way, the language of the world- is referring to Paulo Coelho’s take on understanding life on a higher level. Being able to speak it doesn’t mean you utter syllables in a certain manner- it just means that you’re getting closer and closer to getting it; understanding the world)
Another part of this ‘destiny thing’- was to just come back and spend some time with my mother. You see- she’s a cancer survivor. In my last year of graduate school, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent a Whipple procedure, which by the time of her surgery- doctor’s had predicted no luck of surviving because she was so weak. But I guess a mother’s spirit and strength must never be discounted. She’s survived it, as well as thrived it. I could have stayed in California in the hopes of achieving the American dream day after day- maybe I’d even get lucky and do something ‘valleyish’ – launch a company or the follow the regular tech-jock routine of working hard and partying hard. But I think my mom’s return from the brink made me feel like I too, had a second chance. A second chance to experience this wonderful girl who became a mother at 18, and a companion for my dad ever since. Now that I’m back, I make a smirking of what I used to make back in San Jose, but I’ll tell you this. Nothing makes me richer than the fact that I come home for lunch every single day; I work five minutes away from where I live; it’s literally a walk in the park.
If you look at the picture again- another gorgeous aspect is the contrast I’m observing between the pretty woman walking in the foreground and my mother. She’s walking briskly it seems, and has things to do, places to be, and perhaps- most importantly if she worked behind a counter at Harrods – a person to be. My mom on the other hand, is in her own world- probably wondering how someone could ever afford a dinner set in the window? (They both had to survive on a £50/- pound scholarship) She looks like the most innocent person in the world- or maybe that’s just my take because she’s my mother, and an angel to me. I mean- my mother’s sleeping downstairs as I write this, and insha’Allah I’ll have many good days ahead with her. It’s just that seeing her in this simple, beautiful pose reminds me to cherish every moment with my parents. Perhaps this alone, is a part of my destiny, to know that I enjoyed it as best as we could.
The other things I love about this picture, are things I kept in here intentionally- I kept the left most part of the picture in the crop; these are all scanned images- scanned at Bhatti Photographers in Model Town (and Hafiz Center) at 1200dpi, then scaled down for the web. All of this was done, again in Lahore. So I’m thinking- it was hard coming home, but it took this picture and a barrage of emotions to remind me that nothing good ever came easy. Thanks for reading.
And this, my friends, is a thousand words’ worth of picture. Seriously- put it in Mircosoft Word and count it!