My paternal grandmother was a rich, generous ,large hearted lady and the mother of many sons and well regarded in our village.Since she died when I was only two years old I never knew her. Her equally philanthropic sons decided to give the village its first school, its first hospital ,a gurudwara and also a community centre which had electricity.
Several decades later, a well wisher of the family advised my uncles to get their mother’s portrait painted. Since I was well into photography by then, it fell to me to get a portrait painted so that it could be duly hung in the school building.
In Gran’s days there were no photographs, so nobody really knew what she looked like. Somehow a tiny , sepia print of her was found ,and a famous local artist commissioned to paint the portrait. He took almost a year to complete it and finally ,amidst much fanfare ,the beautiful portrait was unveiled, garlanded, and placed reverently on the credenza of the principal’s office. My uncles, relatives and friends were very pleased and the artist and I got several pats on the back till a dissident voice from the back of the crowd called out, “Who is that woman?” and my uncles replied, “Why, that is our venerable grandmother, the benefactress who has given you all this school.”
There was a slight pause before the old man, who had been a contemporary of gran’s came forward to peer closely at the portrait and said, “That looks nothing like her. Your grandmother had a terrible squint!”
a blur from the past
transforms the present