Lines For A Photograph‘ is a poem written by R Parthasarathy. It portrays a girl in a photograph, her physical attributes and some unforgettable events in her life. It was first published in ‘Illustrated Weekly of India‘ along with ‘Stairs‘. It consists of 20 lines. Various interpretations are given to the lines of the poem; literal, figurative and symbolic. Yet most of them are often literal in general.


Over the family album
the other night I share your childhood
The unruly hair silenced 
by bobpins and ribbons, eyes half-shut
before the fierce glass,
a ripple of arms around Suniti’s neck
and, in the distance,
squatting on fabulous haunches,
of all things, the Taj
school was a pretty kettle of fish:
the spoonful of English
brew never quite slaked your thirst.
Hand on chin you grew up,
all agog, on the cook’s succulent folklore
You rolled yourself into a ball
the afternoon Father died, till Time
unfurled you like a peal of bells.
How your face bronzed as flesh and
bone struck a touchwood day. Purged
You turned the corner in a child’s steps.
                              –  R Parthasarathy


The poet in this poem ruminates over a specific picture in the family album. First the poet illustrates the young girl’s appearance. Her hair is uncontrollable and is neatly shaped up by bobpins and ribbons. Unable to look straight at the fierce flash from camera, her eyes were captured half-shut. A ripple of arms seen around Suniti’s neck, the name of the girl in the picture.

At distance, the Taj school which the poet says, “a pretty kettle of fish“, is visible in the picture where she had learnt a spoonful of English which never quenched her thirst for knowledge.

The poet recounts how she was excited to listen to the cook’s succulent folklore. He also recounts one afternoon in her life when her father passed away, she rolled herself into a ball, awestruck by his sudden demise. Only time has healed her of all her pains. On a touchwood day when she came of age, her face had become pale and tan, which assumed her to touch adulthood from childhood innocence.

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