My Nani’s House


Hoshiarpur, India 1953

Last year, my sister Miriam and my son Philip went to India. We visited the old family home in Chandigarh and other places our family had been. I only met my Nana (in the white turban), my Nani, my uncle, aunt and my even my own mother very briefly. By the time I was three only my siblings were a part of my life—everyone else in this photo had died or had been made to vanish.

I had never been able to put this photo in context until I finally visited this exact spot—more than 64 years later. This was the home of my Nana and Nani—my maternal grandparents. My mother, sister and two brothers are standing outside a place which brought them much happiness and joy. My siblings recall watching Nani make soft, buttery chapattis over an open fire and of the pleasant gurgling sound Nana’s hookah made as he watched them from the veranda.

Going back to this house was bittersweet—the yard had overgrown, the people living there had allowed it to fall into disrepair and chickens and goats wandered in and out of the house. But hearing Miriam narrate memories of Nana and Nani’s house, reminded me of this photo and somehow just knowing that once I was there too, gave me back a small part of my long ago family.

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