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.

Heirlooms : Treasures From The Yesteryears


When I was a small girl I used to wait for that sun drenched day when mom would open her black trucks and lay out the treasures. The fragrance of cloves which were normally tucked away wrapped in small bundles of voil. The carved wooden boxes with tiny velvet compartments. The heirlooms , the tiny silver spoons and bowls from our childhood , locks of hair and the umbilical cords ( yes she still has them ) all had a special place in my heart.

Ma would sit on the dari or chatai and I would sneak in from behind the door and wait for the cue. ( she has eyes at the back of her head too ) 🙂
Then her sweet voice will drift through like the morning winter breeze filling me with joy and I would rush to sit by her side.

The scene is still so vivid that every time I think about it my eyes fill with tears of joy. There was something magical about all that.

I did a post about it long ago The Black Trunk Do read it.

When my first child was born ma gave me some thing very special.

A silver power box with a geese feather puff for the little darling. It was special because it was my granny’s. My grandfather ( nana) had bought it when mom was born. The eldest of all the siblings. Now 80 years later it lies with me  neatly wrapped in the same voil piece from my granny’s old sari as I had seen it as a baby.

I never got it cleaned though it has beautiful engravings all over just for the simple reason that I wanted to preserve the antique look. The soft powder puff still smells of a fragrant lavender body talc which was used for me. I did not use it for my sons for some reasons so it remained inside the cupboard all along.

I noticed that all children have this habit of exploring 🙂 . One day I found my sons going through the contents ad blissfully  enjoying the touch of soft feather against their skin. I think if I had a daughter the things may have been different. Girls love such things. I do.

Mom  also gave me something priceless. I never saw my paternal grandmother but knew her to a very strong-willed woman. In those times  women of upper caste ( zamindars) were not allowed to step out without escorts and especially in Allahabad where she stayed there were many restrictions. My granny made her own rules and went alone for her early morning bath at the Ganges . This created a buzz in the household and the men did not like it at all but no one had the courage to speak against her. She was a religious woman like many others of her time but a very learned one. She stood for her rights and that of women in her household and made sure the new rules were accepted.

Ma never met her unfortunately . Theirs was an inter-caste love marriage and granny died before dad actually got married.

In her last days she took sanyas and went alone to live in Ayodhya where she stayed on her own till her last breath. A  life of dignity and self-respect.

She was a very talented woman ma tells us. An excellent cook, a woman with a generous heart and an open mind.  She gave me one of the very few things that were handed down to her from dad’s close relatives. ( His parents died before his wedding)

A long hand embroidered strip of black velvet. These strips were made with hand , a very laborious task , to be used as borders for saris .

 

I love the vibrant use of colors and  the fact that it is one of the three-four things left of my grand mom. A priceless piece of hand work. Sometimes I sit with these things and build stories around them. Imagining what kind of life she must have had. This sure  must be made in early 40s if I am correct.

These heirlooms are precious treasurer for me.  I will be doing two  more posts on such priceless things. Priceless not because they are valuable money wise  but because they hold a very special place in our hearts.

When ma fell seriously ill sometime back she called my children and handed them two silver bowls and a sindoor dani ( a silver box meant to keep vermilion powder} . These bowls are from my childhood and she wanted my kids to keep them as remembrance .The sindoor dani is mom’s . Dad had got it for her when they got married. Some day I will tell you about this inter caste love story 🙂

I am still looking out for more such treasures.  Old books  now not in print, baby clothes from our childhood, old B&W pix from mom’s childhood , old music records now a thing of the past and much more.

Keep looking out for the new posts.

Each of these things has a fragrance of the person who is associated with it, love that drifts in air around you and envelopes you in warm embrace.  Each has a story behind it , a memory of that time period . The people are long gone or old like my mom. Some day these very things will stay for generations to see and connect with their past. I don’t know what will happen to them when I am gone but for now they remain with me encased in a cocoon of love.

A fragrant memory.