My grandmother died not too long back, she would have been 88 today. The studio pic is of her as a wee thing in about 1930-she was the eldest child so this must have been a special trip. She looks pretty good all decked up in a pavadai, loose “chattai” and bits and bobs. I like that ribbon touch the best but that’s just me, I love ribbons.
Later in life – and I don’t have a picture handy – she was a slim 5’6’ who always wore a nine yard sari even as her peers abandoned it. She also retained her two nose studs. Her abundant hair was always oiled and plaited, her person always neat and elegant. She was a calm and methodical worker, not the kind who cooked up a feast but the kind who would make two faultless dishes. Like many Tamil women of her age she had been instructed in music and was good at it.
Though we had a fractious relationship at times – she was strict and serious, I carefree and unruly – her influence on me in matters aesthetic is very strong. Most of all my fascination with the 30s-50s is thanks to my grandparents accounts of the times.
My grandmother gave me this photo as a keepsake when I was 21, she trusted me to preserve it and take joy in it. It’s a little battered with all my moves but still intact. In a way it was the first piece on my vintage inspiration board.
My personal journal has a lot of entries on my grandmother. When she died I found that she had kept copies of those pieces. To be remembered in a public post, to know that this first photograph of hers is still around, would make her happy. So here it is!