Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

23 Nov 2010, 15:25 p.m.

Winning Every Staring Contest

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

It's traditional in my family to put photos of our dead ancestors on the wall, in the living room or similar common areas.

When Nandini and I arrived at the house in July after my dad died, we saw that Mom had a recent photo of Dad framed and sitting on a chair in the living room. Her first words to us were "Now he is in a photo frame," before she burst into tears and we hugged her for a while.

It was weird having him in a chair, as people came by to talk and visit. I looked at his face and he was smiling as though he was just about to say something, but he never did. I was disoriented that he wasn't jumping into the conversation at all. Later the photo got hung on the wall, and the distance ... made it make more sense.

While I was away, in August or September, Mom had a painter do a photorealistic portrait of Dad based on that photo. It's about four feet tall. It hangs on the wall of the stairs' landing, between downstairs and upstairs, visible from the living room and the dining table and the kitchen. Every time I go up or down those stairs, there it is, inches from me. I am not used to huge pictures of a man's head, except just above or below political slogans. Maybe I should come up with one to superimpose on Dad. We shall do our utmost to implement the goals of the 32nd Party Congress. Or: TRANSLITERATE! in sort of a Dalek font, if such a thing exists.


Thomas Thurman
23 Nov 2010, 8:54 a.m.

I think you could write "[citation needed]".

(My parents' house has had a full-size portrait of my brother Mark at the top of the stairs for almost my whole life, but he's not dead. When my mother was pregnant with Mark they lived in a nearby flat, and one of their friends painted Mark, as they thought he'd look when he was grown, on the plaster of the wall. When I was eighteen months old, Mark was born, and they moved into the house they now lived in. They took that rectangle of plaster with them, and framed it and hung it at the top of the stairs. It's a surprisingly good likeness.)