The Photograph by Ruskin Bond
In The Photograph by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of memories, identity, change, equality, acceptance, independence and freedom. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a man looking back on an incident when he was ten years old and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of memories. The narrator as he is listening to his grandmother talking about the picture hears her tell of the day the picture was taken and the activities of the young girl in the picture (who is the grandmother as a child). This may be important as Bond may be linking the activities of the grandmother as an old woman and a child. Suggesting perhaps that as life has passed things have gotten slower for the grandmother. Her rebellious or independent streak may have left her with the passing of time. Though she does recall with happiness how she felt as a young girl. Perhaps the grandmother misses her youth and the freedom she felt when she was younger. No longer is she able to do the things that she once was. Which may leave some readers to suspect there is an element of sadness as well as happiness in the grandmother’s tone.
It may also be a case that Bond is exploring the theme of identity. Though the narrator knows that the girl in the photograph is his grandmother. She never confirms it. As to why she doesn’t tell the narrator is difficult to say. Perhaps she might be embarrassed to admit that she was someone who did not conform to her mother’s wishes when she was younger or perhaps she simply doesn’t wish to tell the narrator of her past. It really is difficult to say as to why the grandmother refuses to admit that the girl in the photograph is her. It is also possible that the grandmother wants the narrator to grow up respecting his elders while she herself as a child may not have necessarily done so. Though this might have taken away the element of freedom that the grandmother felt when she was younger if she was to follow her mother’s instructions all the time. When an individual is independent of others it is better to allow them to continue their independence without having them relying on others.
There is also a sense that the grandmother when she was younger was the equal of the other children she played with, particularly the boys. This may be significant as it suggests that the narrator was able to stand on her own two feet. To be the equal of others through her confidence. As to whether this confidence remained with the grandmother is also difficult to say as Bond does not really give the reader any insight into the grandmother’s present day activities. Apart from the fact that she is knitting a woollen scarf. Though that in itself may be symbolically important as it could suggest that the grandmother is prepared for what lies ahead in life. It is after all coming near to winter when she is knitting the scarf. It is also interesting that the grandmother cannot recall who is behind the wall with their hands in the air as Bond may be symbolically using this image to suggest that at the time the photograph was taken the grandmother was focused on the task at hand. Getting her photograph taken. It is also possible that the grandmother did not wish for her photograph to be taken and just wanted to play and as such stood motionless for as long as the photograph took and continued on with her routine of enjoying herself after the photograph was taken.
The fact that the grandmother calls herself wicked is also interesting as there is no reason that the reader is aware of for her to call herself wicked. Unless one considers that she did not follow her mother’s instructions. Which might suggest that the grandmother with the passing of time and her advancement towards old age has changed somewhat. She may not necessarily think now as she did when she was a child. This too could be important as it suggests that change is inevitable. Despite being what some might call headstrong in her youth. The grandmother with the passing of time may have become more relaxed. If anything Bond could be highlighting the fact that the grandmother is comfortable with how she lives her life. She enjoyed her youth and on the surface and with the information provided to the reader by Bond appears to be also enjoying old age. Despite considering herself wicked as a child the grandmother is not fazed or disturbed to look at a photograph of her as a young girl. Which may leave some readers to suspect that the grandmother has complete acceptance about her past and present.