Graduation Day

Lahore, 1942 

Graduations are both endings and beginings. This May, thousands of students will graduate from college. Some will find employment. Others will enter graduate studies,the military, begin their own business, or marry and begin families.

Long ago in 1942, a young beautiful woman named Vida Rampall, graduated with a degree in education from Kinnaird Women’s College in Lahore, in what was then undivdied India. She was 21 years old and one year eariler she had already met the man who would be love of her life.

Even though Vida was my mother, I know very little about her aspirations at the time of her graduation. The occasion of her graduation was large enough for my Nana and Nani to pay for a professional photographer. I didn’t know her long enough for her to tell me what she was thinking on this day. But in this photo, she has a look of anticipation mixed with a slight apprehension of the unknown. She must have dressed carefully, selecting her hoops with polki design, adding a ring and bracelets, plaiting her hair in a single braid, arranging her sari and finally adding her graduation robe and mortarboard.

Mamaji’s ring is familiar. It looks very much like the ring I wear on my finger that once belonged to my mother, given by my father. The ring is a gold band with “Mizpah” embossed on it. The word stands for an emotional bond, based on a verse in Genesis, and means, “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from each other.” I imagine that Mamaji ran her finger over the raised word, perhaps feeling a little anxious on her graduation day and thought of my father. I often do the same and think of them both. I imagine as Mamaji put on the ring, she thought of the days ahead and all she hoped would come to pass—her desire for further education, marriage to the man she loved, children and a long life filled with joy. Like the thousands of other young people graduating this month, Mamaji’s dreams fill her eyes and her face is contempletive on the day she begins her life story and steps forward to meet its challenges.


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