The Past is a Foreign Country; We Did Remarkably Similar Things There

Or, following in my father’s footsteps, or something like that.

Putting up some old postcards of Darjeeling earlier this week set me to thinking. And, let’s face it, anything that can achieve that is a good thing!

I have posted before that my father spent time in India, both during the Second World War and in the days leading up to Partition. If you would like to re-read it, the link is here: My Father In India

In this post, I mentioned that when I first visited India in 1989, at least, my first proper visit rather than simply passing through on the way to Nepal, I visited the Red Fort in Delhi, taking plenty of photographs, of course.

Some while later, at home, I was going through some of my father’s photographs, and discovered that I had taken a photograph of a view of the mosque in the Red Fort that was almost identical to one that he had.


Above: the one my father had. And, below: the one I took.


Looking at the minaret in front of the dome closest to the viewer, it seems I took my photograph from the archway to the left of the one my father’s photograph is taken from, but otherwise we must have been standing in the same spot. My father would have been quite a bit younger at that time than I was when I visited the Red Fort, and the circumstances very different. But I’m sure that he felt the same sense of awe that I did.

Now there are mature trees behind the mosque, a couple of low hedges in front, and the creepers on the wall have gone.

Otherwise, the view is the same.

And because my father is no longer here, there is an extra poignancy to this; although our footsteps crossed and merged at this place, thousands of miles away, and we both must have lingered in this same spot and, who knows, possibly thought similar thoughts, the passage of time means in reality we might as well have been tens of millions of miles apart.

And this led me to look more closely at his other photographs.

There are not many, perhaps thirty or forty of them, but it is strange that when he was on leave in India, one time, he went with a few chums up to Nainital, and again there appear to be photos taken from spots where I have stood. The images are not the same, this time, but again our footsteps must have crossed.

I think the greatest regret I have about this, other than the obvious one that he is no longer alive, is that I cannot talk about these places with him. But just sharing them is good, even if it does make me feel sad.

52 thoughts on “The Past is a Foreign Country; We Did Remarkably Similar Things There

  1. When you discovered that almost duplicate image, I imagine your heart skipped a beat.

    I’d like to think that by sharing with us, in this post, you are in a way, having a conversation with your dad – just on a different plane.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the greatest regret I have about this, other than the obvious one that he is no longer alive, is that I cannot talk about these places with him.

    So often we come to appreciate or discover things that we would like to share or further understand when it is too late.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Makes one wonder about genetically inherited psychological predispositions, at least? I found that as I moved towards middle and late-middle age I recognised more of my parents’ psychological predispositions within myself, and suspect that’s not uncommon. Now, in my sixties, I’m noticing moreso some of their little physical mannerisms habitually acting out within me, too.

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        1. I’m not entirely sure about that, Hariod. I used to remark upon that in a joking way (for example, when I first paid to visit a garden I joked that I was becoming my parents, who would do that, but it may simply have had more to do with appreciating different things as I grew older), but we all continue to grow and change as we age, in any case. Now in my own sixties, there are a number of things I like to do that my parents did, and I didn’t want to do at the time (like visiting gardens), but there are also, naturally, many things I still like to do that they never did. As a person, my father had many traits and predispositions that I certainly don’t share.

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  3. I am probably repeating what others have put. Apologies….. I think its a spiritual thing to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors. How wonderful is that? Especially in places so far away. Its spine chilling stuff to stand in a place your ancestor did and see what they saw. Its almost like tracing their footsteps in the sand. Yes its sad you didn’t discuss it face to face but you were both there – taking in the same view and breathing the same air. That’s almost, as good, isn’t it? And in some way, more magical.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Jackie. It’s a spiritual thing. Yes, chilling? Magical? I’m not sure; ‘strange’ is a word that doesn’t sound very powerful, yet strange sort of covers it. Yet it is all of those things too: chilling and magical and more besides. Thank you – all these comments help, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can only imagine the myriad feelings that went through you when you noticed that the photos were nearly identical (I admit I liked the overgrown bushes growing against the wall in your father’s photo). Life has all these coincidences that leave us wondering about their purpose, but maybe the purpose here was simply to bring you closer to your father. Very beautiful post, Mick.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s difficult to say if it’s a coincidence or the world is conspiring to make it happen. We’ll never know! But good thing is that it brought you closer to him. Our life is full of regrets…these are just the thoughts. Many people share similar traits with their father while another set don’t. Good to read this post which has many emotions attached.

    Liked by 1 person

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