Notes from Delhi: The Black and White Couple

Hauz Khas Village is a nice enough place with plenty of cafes and shops, but there’s something about the place which I can’t put my finger on. It seems like it’s trying too hard and its general atmosphere exudes hipster-kitsch, which doesn’t help things sometimes.

After lunch at a cafe at Hauz Khas last week, we came across a vintage store crammed with an assortment of some of the most random stuff I’ve ever seen in a shop. From buyable stuff like vintage posters, postcards and antiques to arbitrary stuff like old photographs and stamps. The sales person was friendly and good naturedly let us root through the place to our hearts content.

On an impulse I rummaged through the box containing old photographs and came across this.

The black and white couple

Don’t you think this couple have so much scope for a story? I mean, look at them. Ignore the complete lack of body language to indicate the fact they were a couple – if you root far enough through old family pictures you’ll come across a gamut of awkward pictures of people sitting ramrod straight in studios glaring at the camera – their faces itself are immensely interesting.

The man’s (unusually well shaped, may I add) eyebrows have the slightest hint of defiance in them and the flare of his nostril and thinly drawn lips are telltales of a stubborn personality. I’d love to guess at his age, but his hairline recedes into the darkness of the background and as far as I can see there’s no indication of greying.

There’s a barely visible slump in the woman’s shoulders and well, I think she looks beautiful. I was inclined to dismiss her as a ‘typical’ Indian housewife at first glance, but her eyes beg a second glance and (I’m probably reading too much into things here) there’s something achingly poignant about her face.

The couple and the composition of the picture was so out of place at that exact moment, in the sweltering heat as my friends laughingly burrowed among vintage posters and browsed old pipes.

The basket was overflowing with similar vintage photographs; I can’t put my finger on why I was so drawn to this picture. I just can’t help thinking there’s a story behind this couple.  I wish I knew what it was.

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