Monday Memories 13 – The Kodak SIX – 20 Brownie (Model -E)


My mother had just completed her intermediate when my grandfather gifted her the Kodak SIX- 20 Brownie Camera Model – E.

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She remembers it costed forty rupees at that time and it was a huge amount to spend for her father on such a luxury but my granddad always appreciated hard work and never stopped anyone from pursuing their interests. My mom was the eldest of  six children and even though the earning were not so high she was gifted this beauty which has come to us as a legacy.

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This box camera was manufactured till 1957  and then it topped being made.  So it is one of the collectibles. It came with meniscus f/11, 100mm with portrait lens, a single blade shutter, two brilliant view finders, 2 pin flash contacts, tripod sockets and cable release socket, metal winding knob and release button and shutter safety catch.  Mom says she used 120 and 620 films which gave 12 images.  It was manufactured by Kodak England  in the early 1950s and had two built-in filters. One is a yellow filter and the other one is close-up filter and they both pull in/out using a lever on the side.  It was a relatively  low-priced, point-and-shoot, hand-held camera that even children could operate.

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The camera traveled everywhere with my mother and she captured some of the most memorable moments with it.  She fondly remembers a picture she took of a caravan of camels crossing the chambal river in the ravines as the sun slowly made its descend behind the hills.  Most of the family pictures in Banaras where she lived were clicked by this little wonder. The whole family life of her friends, siblings, parents and relatives captured in images that are now neatly placed in bundles marked by year, date and time.  Later the smiles & tears and the memorable “first” moments of her children ( me and my elder brother) were also captured by this camera. Slicing of a moment and freezing it forever in all its vulnerability. I think it was her sketchbook of intuition and spontaneity.

I was very small when the camera developed some light problem and even the films became unavailable.  When mom used to open the black trunk in which she kept her valuables I as a little girl would sit with her exploring the treasures, the heirlooms, the albums surrounded by the scent of old cotton sarees of my grandmother mixed with a mild fragrance of cloves tied in small bundles to keep the bugs away. Those times were full of stories and myths that each photograph told. For hours we would sit with old yellowing pictures and this box camera in my lap remembering days from a distant time, distant era. Events that could not be reproduced but for those B&W images. The process sometimes became self revelatory.  one begins to find a part of oneself in each person who is photographed. A bit  like alchemy. As a little girl I would click imaginary photographs with it, people, places, and spin stories around them. Most of the pictures were hand drawn sketches but were appreciated as perfect photographs. Such are the joys of childhood when you aren’t judged for anything.

The camera still has its original brown leather with a metal clasp though it is opening up from the seams now.

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Some days back I found a large bundle of old letters and photographs and along with them this camera which lay forgotten among the past relics. I did  some research on the Brownie cameras by Kodak and came up with this interesting article The history of the twentieth century cameras   . It is amazing how the technology has advanced. The model -E is rare and not many sites feature it.

Today as mom and I sat looking through the pictures again I wondered how this little device gave us memories some unforgettable events in our lives.  Nostalgia gripped her as we talked about the advancement in photography.  Not many young women had the luxury of owning a camera of their own when mom got it. The printing and film cost were not very high but pursuing a hobby still added to the expense.

Its been a long journey full of kodak moments. The camera is not in use now and has become part of the memories it created.  A collectible that is part of  history as well as our personal lives.

Here are some photographs taken from the camera. Most of the photos are of mom’s family and many of them are tucked away in cartons.

These were with me so uploading. One picture is taken in 1953 at Kanyakumari in which mom and her two sisters are at the sea-shore.

The first close up with a baby is mom and my brother, the second is me and mom . The lake scene she can’t remember but it could be Nainital.

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Now we have moved to much advanced  DSLRs, digital cameras and mobile phone cameras but these bittersweet moments are all we have of times gone by. The time before digital photography. The heyday of Kodak with the famous slogan ” you push the button we do the rest.”

Kodak pioneered in home photography and now after a hundred and thirty years of making memories the company has stopped making cameras.

I am looking for some experts In New Delhi, India who can correct the fault with the camera and provide the 620 film roll if possible. I want to bring this memorable device to life. Suggestions are welcome.

On Being A Mother And A Woman , In That Order


“If you don’t like where you are in life, there comes a point when you must give up the part of you that’s keeping you back.” –Dr. Sonya Friedman Best friends- mother and son Kid 2 embarked on a new adventure in his life today. It gives me immense pride to see my little cherub begin his college life. Till kids are in school we usually consider them as kiddos and then in a blink of an eye  they grow up.  Since last few years I saw the handsome lad mature into a responsible, thinking young man. Something that happened too quickly in the case of my first-born. The kid grew up too soon. That’s another story most of you know by now. It is hard to be a mother and harder  to be a woman at the same time. Why am I reversing the order? Because that is how I want you to look at it for now. I had thought I will never bring up this subject again but things don’t always go the way you want them to go.

Once a female child is born, she  immediately sides into the role assigned to her by the society – of a daughter, sister, wife, mother so on and so forth. The first robe of role-playing that the baby girl is wrapped in grows with her infant body, taking her through the long tedious  journey into womanhood. Somewhere she shrinks into nothingness and all one can see is the role she is playing at a particular stage in her life. Am I being too bitter and judgmental? Maybe, but this is how I see an average woman’s life especially in my country. So what happens when this infant begins to acquire a mind of her own, when her body begins to stir  and revolt under all those layers of responsibilities etc? What happens when she finds she has a voice? What happens when at some point of time in her life she throws away those cumbersome layers that draped her individuality and breaks free? She is condemned for life. She is called names. She is looked down upon and  society begins to foam at mouth and picks up weapons of filth to fling at her. Thinking for oneself is not acceptable. How can a woman think for herself? Who is she anyway? Some women disagree and step out of their “boundaries” their “line of control” irrespective of  the repercussions that would follow. Some “adjust” and ” compromise” for various reasons and stay confined within the four walls of their “home”.  Consumed by the fire that burns in them.

In a society where maternal love is revered it is difficult to digest the fact that a mother can walk out of  a bad marriage leaving her children behind. Men do it all the time but women are judged harshly. They are called “cold-blooded” “inadequate” “shameless”. How can a mother leave her children? It is sacrilegious. Taboo. “What kind of mother are you?” Someone asked when I said my boys stay with their father and I have been away from them since last two years. “You abandoned them?” Pat came another question and by this time I was beginning to feel guilty again for the umpteenth time since I crossed that threshold of the house I lived in with my kids, husband and in-laws.

“No, I did not abandon them. (The word is very upsetting ) I see them regularly, talk to them almost daily. They come and stay over at my place. We are closer than ever before.. I think so..” my voice began to fail me here. Leaving your marriage is the biggest challenge one faces in life. For twenty years I stayed in an unfulfilled marriage not knowing which way to go. I was economically dependent and had no confidence to break away and start all over again. The boys were small and needed me. I wanted to stay with them, watch them grow, give them all the love and support they needed from a parent, be their friend, be there when they needed me. I did that as best I could but then something snapped within one day. I had to take the hardest decision of my life. To stay in the marriage which had lost its meaning or walk away. Choice 2 meant leaving the boys behind. At that moment I did what I felt was right. I left. I broke the news to my sons (15&19 at that time) and hoped they would understand. I believed they did. convinced myself. They put up a brave front and stood side by side with me but the sound of their hearts crushing into trillions of pieces shot through me like a comet leaving me throbbing with unsaid hurt and a permanent feeling of  guilt. Still somehow I could not bring them to stay with me nor could I go to live with them. We had to part to discover each other. The fact that I did not ever feel guilty enough to reverse my decision made things worse. In the eyes of others it was “cruel” in plain and simple words. I often talked with my boys about it and knew how difficult it was for them to show support for my action when inside they were hurting. No child can be happy in such circumstances but I often wonder if they were growing up as happy kids in the kind of environment they were living in. What changed by my leaving? The house was same, people were same, it was same shit they were facing anyway and now without my support. It was worse or was it? Only they can tell.

I have heard people whisper “All that fight for dignity and respectful living is fine and dandy but how could she do this? I could never leave my babies at any cost.” Well, it is what it is. I left at a time I believed they would understand my action. I am sure they did or they would not have had anything to do with me. The fact that we are still together no matter where we are speaks volumes. Some day I would want to know honestly what went through their minds but till then i am not assuming. There are times when I ache for togetherness. It is a lonely battle one has to fight if one chooses to break the norms. I began to start afresh, learned to be financially independent, though still legally married and still dependent on my mom and brother as I stay in their home, I am finally able to choose what I want to do with my life , with myself. Sometimes it feels like a bigger trap , more space but still a sand box. It is fine till the time I play inside it, stepping out isn’t an option but for now I am good with it. At least I am breathing without ventilator.

It is unfortunate and very tragic how the course of events in one’s life can affect children. They do bounce back and begin to live a normal life but somewhere the heart longs for the times spent together. It is the same with parents. I won’t say its just the mothers who go through this, fathers too suffer. I told myself over and over that kids need love and support and don’t want someone to fight their battles that they do on their own. They chart their own paths. One just needs to be there to encourage and give them that opportunity to grow and expand their horizons. It doesn’t matter if that’s done living together or elsewhere. I have been there for my boys no matter what  and whenever they needed me but today somehow the deluge was too much to contain. Caught between rock and hard surface I sat here in my room getting updated on the progress of how things were shaping up as Kid 2 prepared to leave to other city to join the college. An important mile stone in his life. I wasn’t there in the last two important years of his school life and the fact that I could not give him a proper hug and wish him luck by physically being there broke me completely. Some emotions are private and I cried my heart out into the pillow. For the first time I longed for two strong arms around me. A shoulder to keep my head on and just pour it all out. We weren’t engineered for being lonely. It is tough at times especially when you are mushy and a sucker for love.

The sun is about to set in my city and soon the night will come bringing another rush of memories. Memories of all that I lost and found in my struggle to juggle various roles as a woman and somewhere I would stand and watch myself , the “me” that is now and wonder was it worth it ? I don’t know what the answer will be today but most of the day it is “YES”. Even with this burden of gratitude I am carrying of being “taken back in the fold of my maternal home”. Even with the knowledge that I owe my “independence – economical and otherwise” to someone without whom it would have been a different story all together. Even though it is a bumpy, uphill task to live day-to-day and struggle to keep my voice strong It is Worth every bit of it. I will miss our weekly meetings, fun and laughter, cooking especially for him, hanging out in favorite joints but we will be connected none the less. he didn’t meet as often as Kid 1 but his absence will be strongly felt.

This is the second time the brothers are being separated. Earlier it was when I had to send Kid 1 to he boarding school. Another hard decision I would have preferred not to take. I know they will miss each other more than anything. One day each one has to take their own path and go in different directions, the hearts say connected none the less. I know my boys will understand and not judge me harshly. I know they will treat the women in their lives and for that matter any woman anywhere with the respect they deserve. I know things will not stay the same.  I know that wherever we go we will never be far away. The love and friendship we share will strengthen with time and we will always be able to float above the so-called ” social norms and code of conduct”. I wish my boy all the very best in life and success in the path he chosen. I am there for him always in any way he wants. I have a lot to say to the elder one and some day we will sit down , just the two of us, and talk to each other as two friends should but till then I just want to say I am a very proud and happy mother. Thank you for being in my live and enriching it. You guys are the best friends I have .

Stay strong , Stay Focused. Love you. please excuse the typos and random flow of thoughts.   Republished on BellBajao Blog