Photographic Memory

Photographic Memory 1. -- A Chicago home, far away from home. I saw my first snowfall here. I learned how to cook in its kitchen. I got to know how to acculturate the American immigrant way.
Photographic Memory 1. — A Chicago home, far away from home. I saw my first snowfall here. I learned how to cook in its kitchen. I got to know how to acculturate the American immigrant way.


I often write about my memories. Some say, I have a photographic memory.

I’m not so sure about it.

Of course, I did have a better memory when I was a school kid. In fact, I remember, when I was in tenth grade, I went to a summer camp for a month where I met a bunch of kids of more or less my age — kids whom I’d never seen before. On our first meeting, the instructors lined us up and asked us to say our names. In our group, there were about twenty kids. At the end of saying our names out loud, the instructors asked for a volunteer who would be willing to say a few names and identify the names with the faces.

You guessed it right: I volunteered myself. And yeah, you guessed it right again: I repeated all the twenty names and put the names with the faces correctly, only after hearing the names once — for the first time in my life. Everyone was surprised; I was of course very happy that my pride balloon got full of that gratification gas.

Ah well…those were the days…way back when…

But I don’t have that kind of photographic memory no more. In fact, these gray-hair days, I often need photographs of memories to remember my memorable moments.

So, without further ado, here’s a bunch of photos for you. These people and these places have stuck with me forever because of some special moments they’ve shared with me and I’ve shared with them. I hope you have a few minutes of your valuable time to look at the photos and read the descriptions I put together for them. You might find them worth…remembering.

Dear Calcutta, Bengal, India, with Love. -Partha
Dear Calcutta, Bengal, India, with Love. Yours, Partha

Each photo is a pleasant reflection of some of my precious moments here in America. Each littlest detail on these photos takes me back — instantly — to the uncertain, unnerving, shaky first days of my coming to the U.S. — as a twenty-some year-old foreign student, a “non-resident alien” as the Immigration and Naturalization Service used to call our type. I made $380 per month (yes, per month!) at Illinois State University to teach biology labs to undergrad students, pay for rent and food and buy other items to live such as laundry and airmail letters, and also pay 10 percent of it as income tax to the U.S. government. Yes, 10 percent income tax squeezed out of a dirt-poor foreign graduate student like me, who came to America empty-handed.

Ah, well…not to distract no more.

Each detail on these photos reminds me how my life took an unimaginable turn — within a matter of weeks — since getting out of Calcutta and getting in to Chicago. From a society I knew all my life to a country where society was practically non-existent.

These people and places found me a new society of my own in this then nonresident alien land. They took care of my trembling, about-to-explode heart, and re-settled it.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Mira Nair and their “Namesake” could have easily borrowed a few frames from my personal album. It’s a pity they decided to bypass it.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

(Back in Brooklyn, New York)

Photographic Memory 2. -- The maple tree here in Chicago was two decades younger back then. Sitting under it, I wrote a number of long letters to the loved ones I left behind in Calcutta.
Photographic Memory 2. — The maple tree here in Chicago was two decades younger back then. Sitting under it, I wrote a number of long letters to the loved ones I left behind in Calcutta. It sounds sentimental, but really, this tree heard a lot of my heart beats up close.
"Bob" Uncle, as they called him. He and his family gave me a home here in America, far, far away from home.
Photographic Memory 3. — “Bob” Uncle, as they fondly called Mr. Nath. A totally selfless, unassuming man, a big brother, he and his family gave me a home here in America, far, far away from home. Bob Uncle gave me my first cooking lesson. He also gave me my first driving lesson. He taught me the rules of baseball and American football. Acculturation — they call it.
Photographic Memory 4. -- Photograph and memory merge together. Two out of these six people were not here at that time when I first came to America. They joined us later. The others -- a Bengali housewife and mother and two Gujarati sisters -- they were much younger back then -- gave me love and smiles that held my heart in its place. The kitchen, the dining room, even that turn-up-turn-down little dinner-table light were precious. I shared countless joys and tears with them.
Photographic Memory 4. — Photograph and memory merge. Two out of these six people were not here at that time when I first came to America. They joined us later. The others — a Bengali housewife and mother and two Gujarati sisters — they were much younger back then — gave me love and smiles that held my heart in its place. The kitchen, the dining room, even that turn-up-turn-down little dinner-table light carry stories. I shared countless joys and tears with them.

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