Have you ever wondered how our lives will look when they become the 'past'? When our present is confined to old photographs or described in rambling, half-forgotten anecdotes? How will we remember the past when we're old? I was looking up articles on how our Facebook-dominated digital lives can become an archive today, when I glanced upon a postcard tacked on to my desk.
A postcard from 1958.
I had picked up this postcard nearly two years ago in Bombay. I was a Masters student living in the city and was shooting a documentary in Chor Bazaar. Our documentary was on letter writing cultures in the city and we were scouting shops for old letters, when I saw this postcard.
I love collecting postcards and always pick one up whenever I'm travelling. When I saw this one in Bombay, I'd just returned to the city after living in Germany for six months as an exchange student. Among my collection of postcards from Germany was a postcard with the Cologne cathedral on it; bought from a tourist shop in freezing December just outside the Metro station.
Now, some 7,000 kilometers away, I was holding the same postcard. With the same photo of the majestic Cologne cathedral. Except I was standing in the sweltering Bombay heat. It was a coincidence hard to ignore and I ended up buying the postcard along with some vintage Hindi film posters.
Written in November 1958, the postcard was addressed to an Anil R Tadkod living on Christchurch Avenue in London. The author (or writer?) expressed regret at being unable to meet a certain Mr. Parulkar in the matter of a record player and writes of his upcoming trip to Hannover. Signed in an inscrutable hand, the author's name is either Baka or Baba. A nickname, I've always believed.
Was Mr. Tadkod a guardian for Baka (or Baba)? Someone the author of the postcard wished to apprise of his whereabouts as he embarked on a grand tour of Germany? Why couldn't he meet Mr. Parulkar? Was his train late? Was he carrying the record player he wanted to repair? Or was he supposed to pick up a record player for his (maybe) local guardian Mr Tadkod? Did it reach him? And how did it land up in Chor Bazaar in Bombay?
For the past two years, every time I sit on my desk, I look at the postcard and invent a history for Mr. Tadkod, Mr Parulkar and Baka (or Baba). Over time, the fictional history of the postcard would start reflecting my mood for the week — somber, joyous, hopeful and angry. The laptop, with its temptations of the Internet, often challenged me to find out the truth about the postcard. But I didn't want to. Finding out the truth meant replacing the tapestry of my multi-hued inventions with a definitive outcome.
But on this fine Saturday morning, I decided to let go. I entered 'Anil R Tadkod' into the Google search engine. A blink and I had nearly 4,920 results in 0.45 seconds.
4,920 potential histories to dislodge my own fanciful stories.
Among numerous LinkedIn profiles was a link to ancestry.co.uk. A list of names were given along with information about when these names arrived in the United Kingdom. An Anil R Tadkod was listed.
According to the website, which accesses information from The National Archives of the UK, a 17-year-old Anil R Tadkod arrived in London in 1956 from Sydney on a ship called 'Strathnaver.' The port of voyage listed on the website says Bombay in India. Does this mean Mr Tadkod left from Bombay and travelled to UK via Sydney? Or is it that he left from Sydney and travelled to London via Bombay?
More importantly, is this the Anil R Tadkod from my (our?) postcard? If it is, then it means that this postcard was sent to him two years later? Or maybe it isn't him, just a funny coincidence? I searched frantically for more digital imprints of Mr Tadkod or any of the protagonists of my postcard. But all I got were permutations of names indicating different Anils and Parulkars. And more LinkedIn profiles.
As I write this, I have more questions than when I first embarked on my Google pilgrimage. I still don't know the truth about my postcard. But over the years the postcard has been tacked on my desk, hasn't its truth changed? Aren't there more stories associated with it than just the memory of its initial journey?
In 1958, the postcard may just have been a medium to communicate. In 2018, I look to it in anxious moments for reassurance — a reminder that change is the only constant. And things which seem life-changing and larger-than-life today will become a footnote in the future.
Just like an old postcard on a scattered study desk.
I'm still figuring out what this newsletter should be about, so any feedback is most welcome! Just reply to this email with words of advice, any information you might have about my postcard or a funny GIFs.
Have a great weekend! :)