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Life of Pi (part 1 chapter 33)

2006-08-22 21:08

  CHAPTER   33

  He shows me family memorabilia. Wedding photos first. A Hindu wedding with Canada prominently on the edges. A younger him, a younger her. They went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. Had a lovely time. Smiles to prove it. We move back in time. Photos from his student days at U of T: with friends; in front of St. Mike's; in his room; during Diwali on Gerrard Street; reading at St. Basil's Church dressed in a white gown; wearing another kind of white gown in a lab of the zoology department; on graduation day. A smile every time, but his eyes tell another story.

  Photos from Brazil, with plenty of three-toed sloths in situ.

  With a turn of a page we jump over the Pacific-and there is next to nothing. He tells me that the camera did click regularly-on all the usual important occasions-but everything was lost. What little there is consists of what was assembled by Mamaji and mailed over after the events.

  There is a photo taken at the zoo during the visit of a V.I.P. In black and white another world is revealed to me. The photo is crowded with people. A Union cabinet minister is the focus of attention. There's a giraffe in the background. Near the edge of the group, I recognize a younger Mr. Adirubasamy.

  “Mamaji?” I ask, pointing.

  “Yes,” he says.

  There's a man next to the minister, with horn-rimmed glasses and hair very cleanly combed. He looks like a plausible Mr. Patel, face rounder than his son's.

  “Is this your father?” I ask.

  He shakes his head. “I don't know who that is.”

  There's a pause of a few seconds. He says, “It's my father who took the picture.”

  On the same page there's another group shot, mostly of schoolchildren. He taps the photo.

  “That's Richard Parker,” he says.

  I'm amazed. I look closely, trying to extract personality from appearance. Unfortunately, it's black and white again and a little out of focus. A photo taken in better days, casually. Richard Parker is looking away. He doesn't even realize that his picture is being taken.

  The opposing page is entirely taken up by a colour photo of the swimming pool of the Aurobindo Ashram. It's a nice big outdoor pool with clear, sparkling water, a clean blue bottom and an attached diving pool.

  The next page features a photo of the front gate of Petit Seminaire school An arch has the school's motto painted on it: Nil magnum nisi bonum. No greatness without goodness.

  And that's it. An entire childhood memorialized in four nearly irrelevant photographs.

  He grows sombre.

  “The worst of it,” he says, “is that I can hardly remember what my mother looks like any more. I can see her in my mind, but it's fleeting. As soon as I try to have a good look at her, she fades. It's the same with her voice. If I saw her again in the street, it would all come back. But that's not likely to happen. It's very sad not to remember what your mother looks like.”

  He closes the book.

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