Here is a picture which tells a 1000 words.
Its a picture of our kitchen at Nana Chowk, Mumbai in 1981. The large tin oven was a relic even then - it had been used by my grandmother Alice Eicher and somehow made its way into our hands. On the front was a thermometer in Fahrenheit - and inside were at least 2 racks which allow multiple cakes (or pizzas) to be baked at once. The whole apparatus was placed on top of a double burner gas stove - and you regulated the temperature by the flames of the stove.
I have many happy memories of this oven. It was the first one I used to bake cakes. And in my early teens we used it to make a whole series of pizza-parties where our friends would come over and play extended games of chor-police in the night and then end it off with an endless flow of pizzas.
Showing my kids this picture their reactions were telling: 'ew, so much rust!' And looking at it again I can see it. We were living very much in a hand-me down world at the time. The stove clearly had seen its better days. The table top was a piece of tin hammered down on a set of wooden cupboards. The electric heater was used to heat water since gas was hard to get extra cylinders for.
But I also see Mum's hand of beauty. Behind the oven she has placed a set of dried grasses that brought nature into our urban space. Just above the tap a small money plant is growing. The window actually looked out on the main confluence of all the roads that converge on the Nana Chowk junction - a steady barrage of traffic and dust which meant that we could never open the windows.
Most of all, this kitchen was a place of love. A small table and two chairs were installed on the other side of the cooking counter. Many a lonely and broken person would come and sit and talk to Mum in those days. That legacy continues today - as over and over we meet people who remember back to the days of the early 1980s and tell about how Mum and Dad changed their lives with the love that they showed.
This is hallowed ground.
This photo is part of a treasure trove that arrived in the mail today. A CD of 700 slides that Stirling and Karen Swan took during their time in India in 1981-82. Most of them were human interest shots of Mumbai and other parts of India - with classics of street life which took me back to my early teens. Very grateful to 'uncle Stirling' and 'auntie Karen' for sharing these with us!