It’s as if I remember it. I’m so taken by the photographs of my mother and her two young sons, together with a gathering of new friends sitting on deck chairs aboard a troopship heading west towards the destination of post war Britain. The date I know is July 1948. I know this because I know it. But no matter how hard I try I cannot remember anything else about that event other than the details of those few photographs. Do I remember the pictures only or do I remember the event in such a way as to have an inner resonance?
I remember the teak decking upon which my older brother and I sit playing with a set of playing cards spread on the deck. It’s sunny, very sunny out of the wind and all of us, children and adults are brown by the long hot Indian sun, where my mother and her two boys were born.
We are dressed in woollen clothes. Mother has a tweed jacket and woollen skirt, other adults dressed similarly and we two in short sleeve ‘airtex’ shirts, hand knitted cardigans. And trousers. I remember the prickliness of the course wool on my bare arms. I felt the gentle sway of the huge boat beneath us as it rolled gently in the swell of the Indian Ocean headed for the Egypt and the Suez Canal. I think I can hear the chatter behind me of the adults outlining plans for their transport after disembarking in Liverpool, or was it Southampton? They may have been talking about the hasty and headlong departure, more an escape, from the dividing jewel in the crown as India prepares for its independence together with the creation of not one but two Pakistans, East and West.
I can’t possibly remember the journey my mother was required to make with two small children to a war torn England, cold damp weather and brutal austerity after the golden years of her upbringing in India. Though I admit I can’t remember the details of the photograph, I think I recognise a resonance of place and time, perhaps induced by the photograph. I have looked at that photograph so many times searching for early memories that perhaps all I remember is that one snap shot.