A FAMILY PICTURE | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 05, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:12 AM, May 22, 2017

CROSSROAD

A FAMILY PICTURE

I am not a writer.

When I read some of the introductions of myself, I see that people see me as actor-director, TV personality, social activist, entrepreneur, etc. Yes, I wear many caps. And these are things I do.

Recently, I've been trying my hand at writing. I have started a blog. For the most part, writing keeps me energised, though I am still learning “Creative Writing”. Yes, I have just finished an online course on the subject.

The name of my column, as you can see, is CROSS ROAD. I feel I am at a stage in life when I may be changing my path. From performance to writing. I know it's easier said than done, but who knows? 

I will not only write about my memories, as I do in today's column. I would like to share my experiences from the stage and the world of communication.

And who knows, maybe somedays I'll surprise you.


This is a family picture in black and white. My father, mother, two brothers, my youngest sister and me. We are standing in front of the newly built house in Dhanmondi. We had dressed specially for the occasion. We used to oil our hair at that time. My oiled hair appears to me to be wet. There is a reason for this.

A swimming pool was made at the back of our new house. Nothing glamorous. The tank, where the bricks were drenched for seasoning when the house was made, was expanded to a swimming pool. The idea was to make sure all the cousins and their friends learned to swim. Chlorine was added to the water to make it look blue and to keep it bacteria-free. When I see the picture, I can smell chlorine, and as I said, I imagine my hair to be wet, because we were in the pool most of the time. 

I am amazed to see the exact same expression on my father and my elder brother: pursed lips and face. It was probably in the middle of 1965. Amma is smiling with downcast eyes. Alim ( Pincho bhaiya), my younger sister Sajeda (Pixie) and I are smiling freely. My younger sister is wearing a hair band of stretched material. We don't see those bands anymore. Amma is in a nylon saree. In those days, these light nylon sarees were considered fashionable. Probably the nylon saree and my sister's band were brought by my chacha as gifts from England.

I cannot see the colours as it is a black and white picture. But I remember the frocks that my sister and I are wearing.  They were made of netlike material of salmon pink colour. My dress is not attached to the lining; Sajeda's is. My boat-necked frock looks more fairylike than hers. I am pretty sure my two brothers and my father are wearing white shirts. At the most, Pincho bhaiya's shirt was light blue, and Chinku Bhaiya's shirt was cream coloured. It could not have been any other colour at that time. 

Why do my father and elder brother look smug? No reason for that, really. I guess in those days men did not smile or laugh as much.  Though Abba was not at all the non-laughing type, sometimes he was angry and serious. My elder brother had an inverted snobbery, as his friends recall. But that was later. Here he is only 15 years of age. 

We were a family of six. Did we know that we would not be able to continue to stay in the new house for more than nine months? I used to go to "Ragrupa", a dance school in Dhanmondi. Moving to a rented house in Eskaton Garden from here meant that I would not be able to continue with the dance class and that was sad for me. Maybe Abba is looking stern because there was the stirring of the conflict which led to us to leave the house. Amma was detected with hypothyroid around this time which is why she looks bloated. But the most tragic part is the story of Chinku Bhaiya. Five years from the time of this photo, Chinku bhaiya went off to the war in'71. On his way to the war, en route, he and his friend were held up on suspicion of being non-Bengalis. In a very tragic situation, both were killed. 

Sara Zaker is theatre activist, media personality and Group Managing Director, Asiatic 360.

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