When dead people converse with us
After I returned from India with my grandpa in 1999 I began to look even more closely at the photographs and at the captions that were written inside the photographic albums that my grandpa had always kept so safe. It became clear to me why he was so desperate to re-visit Juhu beach in Mumbai the moment we landed at Mumbai’s international airport.
His memories were kept alive inside these books, they were trapped inside a few tinted colour photographs and inside the many hand printed black and white photographs that document his well spent youth in Bangalore and Bombay.
Nine years later in the spring of 2008 I was cooling down in the sea at Palolem beach in south Goa and I began a conversation with an Australian man called James who was trying as best he could to catch a few small waves on his board.
Our conversation continued later on that day when we met at Cairans bar in the evening, I told him of my Anglo-Indian background and of the many portraits I had taken during the last few years of travelling through Indian and he suggested that I visit him in Bangalore where he was working and he said we should spend an evening with an Anglo-Indian friend of his called Michael Ludgrove who might be interested in my story.
A few months after this initial meeting with James in the sea off Palolem beach I rang him to say that I would be in Bangalore in the next few days and would it be ok if we met up? He said that was fine and we met at the apartments where he lived and I got to stay in a plush ambassador’s residence in a secluded district in Bangalore. Nice!
That night, in Bangalore, I was shown the ‘other’ side of modern-day India that is thriving today. We began by meeting Michael Ludgrove at a fashion show at Bangalore Palace. After that event had finished we took an air-conditioned chauffeur driven car to the Bangalore United Services Club; this was the very same club that I had visited with my grandpa in 1999. After we drank a sensible amount of beer and ate good food with Michael, who is the curator of antiquities at Mysore palace, both myself and James headed off to a few night clubs. I am aware that nightclubs are part of the new progressive IT ‘hub’ of Bangalore but it is a world that had until that night, remained closed to me.
This was an unusual night for me, I usually stay in the least expensive and dreariest of lodges, and I usually drink in the seediest and darkest of hotel bars. Bangalore is a High tech city; it is exploding with middle class money and it is choking on the exhaust fumes that this wealth brings. I usually do not like to stay in citys too long or move in such upper class circles.
When I returned to the United Kingdom in 2009 I once again began to trawl though the photographic albums that were left to me by my grandpa and that are now kept at Birmingham central library. One caption drew my attention immediately. Written underneath the words ‘Scenes from Juhu beach’ was a list of the names of the people in the photograph and one of the names that my grandpa had written down was ‘D. Ludgrove’.
Out of chance I sent an e-mail to Michael Ludgroves offices in Bangalore and I sent him a scanned copy of the photograph and the photograph turned out to be of his late father, Donald. The photograph was taken at Juhu beach in Bombay in 1940. it felt like the dead were covertly talking to me, leading me down a path if I wished to take it.
Jason Scott Tilley