NONY & NIXI
At age seven I made a portrait of my mother in Pakistan during a family picnic. It is still one of my favorite pictures. In 1948 I was studying in a boarding school in Dehradun. I spent each month my pocket money (20 Rupees) on making photographs with my box camera, while my friends spent theirs on sweets. In January 1960, my husband to be, announced to his father that he had chosen to marry me. The most eligible bachelor had finally decided to marry. His Father was so happy and shocked that he gifted me his Zeiss Ikon that was slung on his shoulder.
After my marriage, I opened a trunk that was filled with photographs of women and many of them dancing with my husband. He told me these were his girlfriends from around the world. My reaction to him was “what a disrespect to good photographs and is this the respect you give to women you once loved”. So I decided to fix all these photographs in an album, the album of my husbands girlfriends. What a Casanova he was. I pasted my photo on the last page!
I photographed my daughters as they grew. Most of all I photographed my first born, Nixi, amazed at the wonder of having created a life, almost like God. After her birth my husband had taken me to the Oberoi hotel in Srinagar (Kashmir) We stayed in the presidents suite. I had never been inside a five star hotel and here I was staying in their grandest room. I placed my darling Nixi on the Chaise longue and made a picture to prove to my family that I had indeed stayed in the room. Then I photographed all the light fixtures, the beds, the view. Nixi from the start was a very artistic child. I still have her sketch books, her portraits at age 5. I thought to myself, this is a talent that I must ensure does not get smothered in the ups and downs of life. But she was very impatient with my photography, while I counted the steps to get her in focus. I dressed her as a gypsy for one fancy dress and that turned out to be quite prophetic. Even though I dressed her as Mother Mary I could tell her life would be far from a conventional one. She is now a famous photographer. I had to fight with my husband to send her to design school and once I became a widow I made sure she could follow her passion and not be dragged into family litigations. My last photo of her before she became a photographer herself, has my shadow on it !
In 1997 I went to Pakistan, 50 years after independence. I went to see the house I was born in, in Anarkali, Lahore. I visited the room I was born in and peeped into the tiny forbidden black room next door. It reminded me of my grandmother saying when we were naughty “behave or I will lock you in the dark room”. Of course we had all forgotten, my grandfather was a photographer, he died young and so the room was always locked. That was how the dark room entered our lives. And later Nixi would always sleep with the light on in her room. When my husband would tell her not to waste electricity, she said it was for the gods not to trip in the dark.
My photography still continues even though I now use a digital camera, that my famous daughter brought me from abroad. She was the one who found all my old negatives and had them printed in 2000. I was so surprised with some of the photos, the lab had been cropping my square pictures into rectangles.I thought the camera saw less than my eyes all this time. But now this nice man says he wants to show them in France. I am not sure if he is just being kind to me.