But that’s not why they have ambushed me and locked us up behind the closed door. Suresh pulls out a pile of envelopes from the bottom of the trunk and hands them to me.

‘Put this away in your suitcase and lock it up. Take it to America with you. Because if Baa ever sees it, or one of the sisters gets a whiff of it, all hell will break lose.’

‘What is it?’ I ask.

‘See for yourself.’

They are long legal sized mesh lined manila envelopes, carefully cut down at one end to the size of the content inside. I pull out what feels like a bunch of photographs.  I quickly flip through some of them. My brothers’ eyes focused on me. While Suresh maintains his solemn demeanor, Dinesh and Rajesh are sheepishly smirking at me with that knowing but astonished look written all over their faces, ‘do you believe it?’

I am not exactly surprised. A bit amazed maybe. So Dad had a good collection of these pornographic images, line drawings of Indian royalties involved in every possible Kama Sutra positions and a whole bunch of French postcards – containing the nudes of wholesome beauties. Rest contained the explicit images of felatio and cunnilingus done by and to each other by men and women – some in threesome and also featuring multiple partners. There are women making love to women and some being pursued by their furry friends even. And there are several envelopes titled BELLE ARTE PLASTIC – Made in Germany, 3D images of the naked women, complete with the red and green 3D cardboard framed viewing glasses.

‘Put them away right now in your suitcase and lock it up before anyone barges in.’

So I do. Stash them away inside the inner pockets of my suitcase. And then I forget all about them until I get home to Chicago a few weeks later and am unpacking my stuff.  Might as well, because had I remembered them, I don’t know how comfortable I would have felt going through the customs in Chicago in the knowledge of their existence. I could just imagine the headline: Playboy executive detained by Chicago’s O’Hare customs for attempting to import hard core pornography!!

At some point I did go through them. The collection also contained original negatives and  glass plates and also a small wallet sized leather bound photo album with rounded slit corners, inserted in which were a similar collection of photographs.  Majority of those were stuck to each other and were not salvageable. The prints of the line drawings on thinner paper were all curled up and some had turned sepia with age. The French postcards, as it turns out were actually made in Germany. They were printed on better quality paper and were in better shape.

All of the envelopes came from the same law firm, so the printed return address on them indicated. The space for recipient was blank, which meant they were hand delivered, but a couple of them had post marks, indicating they were mailed from Bombay 1 to Bombay 2, addressed in care of the trustees of Bada Mandir (Big Vaishnava Temple) in whose compound we lived. This also may mean that they were originally meant for one of the priests  of the temple, of whom my father was a staunch devotee and either they were given to him for the safeguard, or they together and others who hung out together were partners in the crime. They were mailed in the year 1951.

In retrospect, when I think back, it should have been apparent to me that as religious as my dad was, in things socio-sexual, he was fairly liberal. Perhaps because the Indian classics are full of explicit descriptions of sex and the female anatomy. And the fact that the carvings on some of the Indian temples would put any pornographers to shame, also indicates the liberal attitude of the ancient Indian culture. This of course would have perfectly fit his belief system. Or in other words, good old dad was a cool cat!

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