Saturday 25 May 2024

Memories of My Father - Part 4


This is my first photo taken with my father. At that time, I had just moved up to ninth grade, my sister was studying for her honors, and my brother had taken his SSC exams. This photo was taken at Studio Aleya near the Gulzar Cinema in Chawkbazar.

Before this, I had the opportunity to enter a studio only three times. After moving up to third grade, I came to the city for the first time. My father had taken the three of us to see the city. Near Lal Dighi, at Mukul Studio, a photo was taken. That was the first photo of my life, but it was the second or third for my brother and sister. In the first photo they took with our parents, I was invisible. At that time, I was in my mother's womb. That was the first and last photo with our mother. I never had the opportunity to take a photo with my mother. At Mukul Studio, a photo of the three of us was taken, but I do not know why my father did not join us in that photo. Later, I realized that my father did not have the financial means to take multiple photos that day.

My second photo was taken after I moved up to sixth grade. It was a half-portrait, where only the face is visible. After receiving the primary scholarship, my father wanted to have his son's photo published in the newspaper. So, the photo was taken. But when we went to the newspaper office, the amount of money they asked for was more than my father could afford. I was with my father. As he walked out of the Azadi office in Anderkilla with his head down, I, who had just entered sixth grade, somehow felt responsible. The conflict between desire and the means that honest lower-middle-class people face was something my father never able to resolve.

My third photo was taken at a studio in Patiya after the junior scholarship exam. At that time, there was only one center for scholarship exams for all the schools in South Chittagong, which was at Patiya Abdus Sobhan Rahat Ali High School. That time too, a photo could have been taken with my father. But it wasn't. 

About six months later, this photo was taken—the first photo of my father with his three children.

This photo was framed in a thin wooden frame and hung on the cardboard wall of our house. Over time, as we left home to study in colleges and universities in various places, the photo became more and more faded while hanging on the wall. After my father's death, we realized there was no other copy of the photo. Several years later, we found the negative of the old photo among my father's disorganized papers. I don't know whether the studio used to give negatives or if my father had asked for it, but the negative was found. Although some parts had been damaged by chemicals, printing a photo from the negative with a digital scanner is not a big deal now.

My father didn't get the chance to see this technology, but his grandchildren were born in the digital age. Every time they see this photo, they feel sad. One of them, who is more sensitive, said, "You didn't even have good clothes, uncle. Grandfather's sandals were torn too."

I never thought that we didn't have good clothes. That day, we went to the studio in our best outfits to take this photo. The shirt I was wearing was my school uniform shirt. Besides that, I only had one other shirt. Even though my father's sandals were torn in several places, he used to say there was no need to buy new sandals yet. He never admitted to having financial difficulties. I can't exactly recall how many more years he wore them after getting them stitched by the cobbler.

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