Family: Family life: Snapshot: My parents in 1970s America
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) This picture of my parents was taken in the lobby of the Empire State building in New York in 1975. They spotted someone with a Polaroid camera and asked for a photo to be taken. America was celebrating the bicentennial and also recovering from the Watergate scandal. The pocket calculator and the first digital camera - invented by Kodak - were just making an appearance and Abba topped the charts.
My parents were born and brought up in small-town Kerala, India, at a time when travel abroad for work or study was rare. The furthest trip abroad in the family had been made by my maternal grandfather who went to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) during the first world war as an accountant, part of the Indian contingent of the British army. So it was with troubled hearts that they left my three-year-old brother behind (at the insistence of my paternal grandparents) in Alappuzha, Kerala, for the American dream. Telephone lines had not yet made it to their town, so they told relatives they had landed safely by telegram.
My parents' baptism of fire into western culture started in a tiny apartment in Manhattan. They later told me that those years were as alienating as they were intriguing. It was their first time interacting with people of many different races and ethnicities.
The cafeteria counters held a mind-boggling variety of food, fruit and milk and juice fountains. Unable to speak fluent English, Dad says he struggled with interviews and conversations on coin-operated telephones. Visits to now defunct department stores such as Woolworth and Korvette's led to my initially sari-clad mother adding peasant blouses and flared trousers to her wardrobe.
Four years later, they decided they would rather bring up their children in India so they gave up their green cards and went home. Years later, my brothers returned to the US to study, marry and settle; I came to the UK.
In the first months of my marriage, I stumbled on this photograph of Mum and Dad in the early years of their marriage - a vision of innocence and optimism, full of hope for their future. Almost 40 years later, this photo is my favourite because it resonates with me. To me, this is the photo that started it all.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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