The Wedding Photograph, Lahore 1937

KAMALA AND BALDOON DHINGRA

‘By the time we got round to getting our wedding picture taken, I was already expecting and had become quite big.  That’s why we didn’t get a full length picture.’

In our flat in Paris this wedding picture used to live on a display shelf of a tall slim ornately carved piece of furniture belonging to Nicholas Roerich and which we called the ‘Tibetan piece’ (a story). There were two other framed pictures on the same shelf, my paternal grandparents, Sir  Beharilal and Ved Dhingra and Sri Ramakrishna, and Sharda Devi (another story).

Around the photograph are many stories too: how my parents met in Simla, got married in Lahore on Baisakhi, the love poem my poet father penned and sent, and even the fact that both of them had expected to marry someone else…

My mother was a consummate storyteller. All the stories still swim in my head and sometimes come up for air. 

Two anecdotes from the beginning of the marriage.

‘After I married your father we went to stay with Burre Mamaji my mother in law in Simla and in the morning the servant came up with two glasses of fresh orange juice. I looked at the two glasses and said to the servant, ‘ Who is the second glass for?’ And he said ‘ For you.’ I was surprised. And pleased.  A whole glass of orange juice for me! In our house even if we had cauliflower, my brother got the flowers and we got the dandas (the stalks).’

‘Now, a woman was always expected to eat after her husband, and naturally I wanted to do the right thing, so I covered my head , sat at the table in front of an empty plate and when the Bearer would bring the food, I’d put my hand over my plate

Then your father said ‘Why aren’t you eating?’

So I said I was waiting for him to finish.

So he said ‘ why are you waiting for me to finish?’

So I told him about the custom and he said he had never heard of such silly custom in all his life and wouldn’t have it.

But now, you see, he had this habit of always leaving something in the plate after he had finished eating. 

So I asked him about it.  He told me he had been taught by his English Governess that it was polite custom to leave something behind in the plate for  ‘Manners’.

Now I said I had never heard of such a silly custom in all my life and wouldn’t have it.

So we both ate together at the table and he always emptied his plate.’

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