#HGTimeCapsule: 9 Readers Share Their Favourite Old Photographs & The Stories Behind Them - Homegrown

#HGTimeCapsule: 9 Readers Share Their Favourite Old Photographs & The Stories Behind Them

Social media catch phrases and motivational quotes scribbling on the walls of public bathrooms keep telling us to ‘live in the moment’, encouraging the human race to be spontaneous and enjoy the ‘now’. But while we’re all for appreciating the present, there’s a lot to be said about how the past informs our present.

While dwelling on bygone regrets is indeed a waste of time, it’s hard to ignore the unbelievable potency of our lived lives. Each year that goes by adds a layer of water to smoothen the edges of who we are right now--reminding us that we are nothing more than works in progress. Looking back is an important part of moving forward, and as we peek into our individual histories, we find a treasure cove of crazy ideas, misguided mistakes that we had to make, unforgettable moments seemingly stuck in time, and, well, those terrible haircuts that our younger selves thought were a good idea. And in that unkempt history, we find pieces of ourselves that complete the chaotic jigsaw puzzle of our lives, from finish to start and before.

In a trip down memory lanes lined with sepia-toned photographs with dog-eared corners and torn edges, we called out to our Instagram followers to send in old photographs that are drenched in meaningful nostalgia, and we struck gold in the form of dusty photo albums with captions scribbled on the sides. From hilarious ‘70s wardrobe choices to a single photograph of a mother who passed away many years ago, these images are not only small glimpses into some of our readers more intimate memories, but also provide insight into life in different decades and eras. So scroll on for our crowd-sourced Homegrown Time Capsule, a telling trip down memory lane like you’ve never experienced before.

I. Aishwarya Yerra

“Simple Past.”

Old Photograph of siblings
Simple Past

“Nostalgia is bittersweet; reminds you of the happy past, all the while reminding you that it is the PAST.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“This picture was taken in the mid-90s,” Aishwarya explains. “The girl in the pigtails is me and the boy next to me is my elder brother. He passed away when I was 13 years old and whenever I see our pictures, they invoke a bittersweet emotion.”

[25-year-old Aishwarya is currently a journalist working with Catch News.]

II. Akansha Gupta

“Tiny wannabe movie stars.”

Old Photograph of little girls dreaming of being movie stars
Tiny wannabe movie stars

Nostalgia for me, is pressing roses between books as a testament to what we lost while trying to become what we thought we wanted.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“My mother had me when she was 22 and also being one of the eldest in the family, she suddenly grew up,” Akansha tells us about her time capsule photograph, which she dug up while making a 25th wedding anniversary present for her mother. Ever since she laid eyes on the picture, she couldn’t help but imagine a time when her mother too wore short skirts, which she now disapproves of, and stared unabashedly into cameras, “and maybe, just maybe, she dreamt of being a movie star too.”

“I have always associated my mother with maturity, poise and a certain sophistication as her primary traits, thinking of her more as an ideal than a person. I guess this helped me imagine her otherwise, to see her as what she might have wanted to be, before I decided to descend on earth and change things for her.” 

[24-year-old Akansha is a Delhi-based architect. She has a passion for conservation or hoarding, as her mother calls it. She is a reluctant wordsmith and I enjoy looking for stories in everything, from people, to places, to experiences or things.]

III. Cherry Sharma

“I will always call that image ‘TAI JI’.”

Old Photograph of a young woman getting married
Tai ji

Nostalgia allows me to be myself. It reminds me of my unadulterated self and my roots, my childhood and my happiness.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“The lady in the picture is my mother’s aunt, and it’s my most favourite picture of all time,” Cherry shares. She found the photograph in her uncle’s house, and was stunned by the elegance of ‘Tai ji’, and kept it. “My Mum’s aunt got married when she was 15 years old, which was around 1950s, most probably 1955. And this image was clicked in a studio in a rural part of West Delhi at that time. She was very pretty and very beautiful when she was a young girl and what makes it much more special is that this image was clicked after she got married. And her mother-in-law was the one who made her do that. The Mother-in-law was so proud of Taiji’s beauty that she wanted to show off about the same, which is very unexpected from a woman from those times.”

Cherry confides, “The photograph which I sent you has been my all time inspiration. That image looks so powerful to me whenever I see it. The pose, the clothes, the elegance with strength. I picture myself all the time like her. I ask her for her old clothes and jewellery and likes to wear them. It’s just pure love.
What I love particularly about this image is the Bra showing off under the blouse and the pose she is holding with the Skirt. I find it very pretty. I can look at this picture again and again and feel so happy.”
“Also, She is much more elegant now and we are often asked to take tips from her and notice her elegant way of dressing up,” she adds.

[Hailing from Delhi, Cherry is a 26-year-old designer and artist who works with fashion designers such as Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna as a Graphic and Fashion Designer.]

IV. Laden Gensapa

“Longing for a bygone era.”

Old photograph of a smiling lady with a camera
Longing for a bygone era

“A photograph really is a frozen fragment of time and to capture that moment is painfully beautiful and this is how memory becomes a nostalgia.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“This is my grandmother who also happens to be a writer and feminist activist who writes books and poetry on women,” Laden tells us, further describing how her grandmother retired from being a PhD teacher but still continues to work with women’s welfare associations in Sikkim. “She loved photography and has so much love for art and literature. Her name is Dr. Shanti Chettri (Kapil) (Circa 1980, Hong Kong),” says Shanti’s grand daughter proudly. “I look at this picture and gradually, I’m moving back in time with her. I quote Roland Barthes here, ‘it achieved for me, utopically, the impossible science of the unique being’.”
“I value this photograph so much because there’s so much going on in it. We get to see that her interest in art was expressed throughout her life, and still is. It’s really important to protect and digitally preserve those memories,” Laden shares. Her grandmother, who is now 69, was 35 in this photograph. 

[23-year-old Laden is currently studying for her Masters in Literature in Pune.]

V. Leah Thomas


Old Photograph of a family

“An old photograph, a souvenir from a place you’ve visited, a small toy from your childhood, anything that reminds of you of a day or a place with a specific memory associated to it, is important. At the end of the day, these small trinkets and all the memories associated with it are all that we have to remember our lives by. It’s a sad thought but at the same time it’s beautifully poetic and it’s the only way in which we can give meaning to our very temporary lives. This is what nostalgia allows you to do. It allows us to foolishly believe that we are bigger than ourselves. All that we do means something. We hold on to these little things because it helps us get through life and its impermanence.” 

On her time-capsule photograph

“This particular photograph is something that holds a lot of importance in my mother’s life,” starts Leah, “My grandfather travelled to Singapore to make a living for himself at a very young age. Slowly, he built a life there for his whole family. Coming from a small village in Kerala, he never had the opportunity to finish his education, so he did everything in his power to make sure his children did. Though a very strict father, one could get why he raised his children the way he did. He wanted them to have the best of everything, but at the same time learn that only through hard work and discipline would one get to where he or she wanted to be.”
This photograph was taken sometime in the early 70s after all of Leah’s grandfather’s children were born. She shares, “He looks to me a proud and happy father in this photograph. It’s a classic. God only knows how long it would have taken my grandmother to get all of them to sit still for a minute.”

[20-year-old Leah is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree from Delhi University. While she’s currently based out of the capital, she is a Malayalee who lives in Bangalore, but is originally from Mumbai. “Complicated. I know,” she adds.]

VI. Manasa Shetty


Old Photograph Of A Young Couple

“Nostalgia allows me to time travel! Especially looking at old photos, it allows me to be in two places at once.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“This is a picture of my maternal grandparents VS. Sulochana and M.L Rajaram 40 years ago,” Manasa tells us about her photograph, which she stumbled upon while making a video tribute for her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. “As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. In my case, these two were at the centre of my metaphorical village.”

[23-year-old Manasa originally hails from Bangalore, and is currently pursuing her Masters in media and communications in London. She also recently started a blog about literature, media and the need for diversity in story-telling.]

VII. Priyanka Poulose

“Ballers of the ‘80s.”

Old Photograph of 2 girls in a field
Ballers of the 80s

“Nostalgia is something that comforts me. It’s something that I hold on to. It’s that fuzzy, warm feeling and that immense joy I feel when I look back at those funny pictures I took with my cousins at the beach, the stiff family portraits, the sepia toned pictures of my parents in their youth, stuck inside the old plastic covers of the family album. To go back to a memory and re-live it, whether through a photograph, a video or even a conversation about a past event, makes me nostalgic.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“This is a picture of my mother Jacinta and her younger sister Priscilla, taken by a Times Of India reporter at a basketball practice session held at the Dadar Railways Basketball court, way back in the 80s,” Priyanka shares with us about two of the best basketball players of her mother’s time. Her mother played for St. Xavier’s college before joining the Central YMCA Club, and her aunt represented Burhani college before joining the Good Council Club team. They went on to represent India at the Asian Games in Delhi, 1982. “Growing up, we spent a lot of Sundays at my maternal grandmother’s house, listening to stories about my mother and her siblings, especially of her and her younger sister running off to play basketball. My grandmother did not approve of them wearing shorts in public so she never went to any of their games but that didn’t deter them,” she adds.

She tells us why this photograph is so special. “It reminds me so much of my younger sister and I on the court (wearing longer shorts, of course), following in their footsteps. Whenever I look at it, I see two strong, bold, independent women who played by their own rules and who raised us to be the same. It’s inspiring and it makes me proud to be a part of this family.”

[Priyanka is a former district and state-level basketball player. Having graduated from Kamla Raheja Institute for Architecture (KRVIA) in 2014, the 25-year-old currently works as an architect at Studio Eight Twenty three in Mumbai.]

VIII. Shilpa Chakravartea

“Behold the wise lil one!”

Old photograph of a  young girl reading a book
Behold the wise lil one

“Nostalgia is anything that makes my whirling world to stop, for that tiny second or two, just to go back to a sweet moment. Relishing it all over again!”

On her time-capsule photograph

“Our family loves capturing moments for posterity,” Shilpa tells us about her photograph that was clicked on a wintry Gangtok night. “This is me when I was about two years old and wanted to prove to my brother, who was nine years older than me, that I was smarter! He found it amusing, I guess. At least I held the book up straight. Phew.”

[Hyderabad-based Shilpa is a corporate lawyer by profession, but has spent most of her life learning kathak, odissi and sarod forms of dance, and is now learning how to play the drums. She was born in Gangtok, and has lived in parts of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Andaman, Calcutta, Bombay and the UK, which is why she calls herself a ‘drifter’. Her sense of adventure takes her quad-biking, off-roading, ethical fishing and hiking.]

IX. Suni Sharma

“Flares and sideburns: the Indian identity in 1970s England.”

Old picture of a young man with sideburns
Flares and sideburns: the Indian identity in 1970s England

“Nostalgia allows me to get a glimpse of my parents’ lives as they grew up in the UK. It fascinates me to see a culture and environment so different to what it is now.”

On her time-capsule photograph

“I love this photograph for so many reasons,” starts Suni. Her dad, who is the eldest son, was in his early 20s when this picture was taken in 1967, England. “Like most 21-year-olds, his appearance meant a lot! Photo shoots were common for rishta photographs which were then printed and given out. This was the photo that my mum was shown before they got married. To think that one photo could mean so much compared to now when we literally share hundreds of selfies with complete strangers!”
For Suni, this picture stands out because of her dad’s 70s dressing sense, along with the fact that it was a rishta photograph, which draws a connection between Indian culture and traditions in an English environment. “Needless to say, my dad has changed a lot over the years! Photos like this always make me think how different it would have been for my parents to grow up in a time and country that is now so different to what I experience.”

[28-year-old Suni is based out of Nottingham, UK, and works in communications and marketing for healthcare services. She does freelance designing in her spare time and drinks copious amounts of tea!]

Compiled By: Nida Razack & Rhea Almeida

[If you’d like to send in your own old photographs for this new series, please write to us at [email protected]omegrown.co.in with the subject line ‘TIME CAPSULE’]

If you enjoyed reading this article, we suggest you read:

12 Indian Photographers Share One Image That Impacted Them Deeply

The Museum Of Material Memories: An Archive Of Timeless Family Heirlooms

Memory Keepers: These Photographs Of Objects Helps Draw A Mental Map To Childhood

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