As a photographer, it always amazes me how sometimes my most casual photographs become moments of lasting reflection and universal attachment.
It was the winter of my grandfather Dhanji’s 89th birthday, and we gathered at Mani Villa. We spent the afternoon sunbathing, eating and listening to stories of Dhanji’s impassioned life in the sprawling garden of this beautiful half an acre of property: Mani Villa, home of our beloved grandparents, was a British row house in Jhansi, in north-central India, that was named after my late grandmother, Mani. After Mani passed in 2002, Dhanji lived there alone with their German shepherds, Gallant and Nikki, before he passed in 2012.
Here you see my late older sister, Seher, taking in the winter sun as my grandfather was immortalized in one of his “Dhanji quirks”—when his index finger went up, everyone listened! He regaled us with his wisdom in between bites of my mother’s gajar ka halwa, an Indian carrot pudding she made every winter for his birthday.
It’s one of the last moments we all spent together at Mani Villa. The property was sold in 2018. It was one of the toughest experiences for us to see our beloved family holiday home go, and it was a deeply emotional goodbye.
I keep this photograph of Dhanji and Seher close to me at my desk. I surround myself with the energies of these two spirits who have helped shape me into the person I am today. They are my guiding lights.
—Zishaan A. Latif