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Posted at: Jul 18, 2017, 12:25 AM; last updated: Jul 18, 2017, 12:25 AM (IST)

A trip to the past

Connecting dots from his father’s old photographs on Google, Maninder Singh recreates and relives his father’s memories

Jasmine Singh

BOSTON-based Maninder Singh, 32, who is an ex-student of Panjab University where he did his engineering from UIET in 2006, would often ask his mother ‘what was his dad like? Was he an introvert or an extrovert? What did he like doing in his free time? Did he like to travel?’

Every day, Maninder added a new question to his list. And that’s when his mother showed him the old pictures of her husband, from his visit to Europe in 1981, who was killed when Maninder was a four-year-old. Maninder was glued to these pictures, trying to imagine what his father felt at that time. What were the thoughts that crossed his dad’s mind while he got himself clicked?

“And then I saw an advertisement, where two friends separated at the time of partition find each other after their grandchildren Googled certain things about their native house and more. That was the moment when I thought I could do the same! I could Google places where my father was photographed and then probably go and visit all those places,” shares Maninder who hails from Ludhiana.

Maninder who had never imagined a life outside his maternal village (Dugri), where they moved to after his father was shot dead, after much persuasion from his brother decided to move to USA in 2007 to study telecommunications from Northeastern University. “What I am today is because of my mother but all this while, I missed having not knowing my father well, I wanted to know him, you know so much like the Oscar-nominated film Lion, starring Dev Patel. Just like Dev who craves to go back to the place where he was born, and day in and out Googled about it, I started doing the same.”

Maninder scanned nearly 10 of his father’s old pictures. He had an idea that they were taken in Europe but not exactly where. He searched on the Internet the statues and monuments in his father’s old pictures. “It was Berlin, I found out,” he was excited, yet mellow. “My father had taken those pictures in Berlin,” he repeats. And finally last year November, Maninder made the emotional journey to the country where his father had last been to. “It was an emotional journey, I visited all the places my father had been to 35 years earlier. In fact, I wore a similar long coat and turban that my father wore while getting his photographs clicked. I stood exactly at all the locations and points where he did,” his voice chokes. We can hear his silence, “Land has borders but the sky belongs to all,” Maninder gathers his voice, “Even today, when I miss my father, I take a flight to Germany and visit those same places again, I can feel his presence. I still don’t know my father was thinking at that time, what did he eat that day, where did he go next, but I feel he was happy. And I am sure, my father helped me find him, he was guiding me all through, and you bet he must have said to Him up there, ‘look my son made it,’ Maninder goes silent again. 

jasmine@tribunemail.com

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