The Desi Dad Project

The past month or so has taught me that there are a lot of people out there that want to see this blog, and what it is all about, succeed. The emails we recently received offering technical support, as well as the offers of financial support we have gotten, have led me to conclude something similar to what one forward looking American politician once said. To paraphrase:

“We’ve earned capital in this blogosphere, blog capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.”

So with that I am announcing the creation of The Desi Dad Project.

For the past six months I have been mulling this idea over in my head. Photographs, even without any words or explanations, can convey a tremendous amount of information and history. Just look through these pictures of some of the first Indian Americans that came to the U.S in the early 20th century, most of them Sikh Punjabis. Recently, with the immigration debate in this country raging on, we have discussed the signifigance of the 1965 Immigration Act and how many of our fathers immigrated to the U.S. as a result of this act. Eventually this led to many of our births. :)

So this is what I am proposing, particularly in light of Father’s Day which is just two weeks away. I want you guys to upload a single picture of your dad. I want a photographic archive that captures the spirit of what it meant to be an immigrant in this country as part of the second wave. I want to capture that part of our collective history before it rots away in old albums in our basements, attics, and closets. This project won’t end with Father’s Day though but will keep accepting phtographs.

Here are the criteria you must meet before uploading a picture of your father into this new archive I am proposing:

  • Your father immigrated to the United States between 1965 and 1985. If he arrived a couple of years before 1965 it is okay, but please do not upload pictures taken after 1985. I am looking for pictures that capture the experience of a SPECIFIC generation for the purposes of this project.
  • Your father came from a country in South Asia (e.g. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc.) or from ANY other country so long as his ethnicity can be traced back to a South Asian country.
  • The picture you upload has to have been snapped in America.
  • I strongly prefer that your father should be the only person visible in the photograph (feel free to crop the original picture). Pictures of individuals tell a different story than pictures of families. If you don’t have ANY pictures of you father alone then maybe you have one with the two of you together.

Don’t just upload the first old picture of your father that you find. Put some thought into it. Select a picture that you feel best captures the spirit or attitude of your father in that particular time in American history. Pictures in front of famous or historical American landmarks or taken at historically significant events would also be fantastic. Remember that the main point of this is to capture through pictures what it meant to be a South Asian immigrant in the U.S. during the second wave which followed the ’65 Immigration Act.

IMPORTANT: Follow (to the letter) my instructions below for how to upload your picture. Make sure that if you scan it you use high resolution (300 dpi) so that we can all have good quality images to look through. Email this post to as many friends and relatives as possible. The larger this database of pictures the bigger the story it will ultimately convey.

There are TWO ways to upload your father’s picture into The Desi Dad Project Flickr album which can be found here:

Method 1) Upload the picture to your own Flickr album first. If you don’t have a Flickr account then it only takes a minute to create one. If you have a Yahoo account then you can use the same login and password to log in to Flickr. They are partners. When you upload your picture title it your father’s name followed by the approximate year that it was taken in. For example:

Venkat Santosh Subramanium, 1967


V.S. Subramanium, 1967


Venkat S., 1967

You can also add a brief description of your dad such as where he immigrated from and what his profession was or the context of the picture. You don’t have to though. Once you have uploaded your picture go to Search–> Groups at the top of the Flickr page. Type in “The Desi Dad Project.” Once you click on the link you should click on “Join this Group.” Next, go back to the picture of your dad in your own album and click on it to see the full image. Above the picture you will see several icons. Click on the icon that says “Share with Group” and select “The Desi Dad Project.” That’s it. Easy as pie. Note that you can only upload a single picture so consult with your siblings, choose wisely, and properly edit the name and description before uploading.

Method 2) I strongly urge you to use Method 1. If you just refuse to open a Flickr account then you can EMAIL the picture to the following address as an attachment:

map77fire [at]

VERY IMPORTANT: You MUST put your dad’s name followed by a comma, followed by the year the picture was taken in the SUBJECT line of your email. The body of your email should contain the description of your father only. Make sure to TURN OFF ANY AUTOMATIC EMAIL SIGNATURE that is normally included at the bottom of your outgoing emails.

NOTE: **By uploading a photograph on to this website you are giving me permission to use the photograph that you upload in whatever more permanent display I ultimately choose for this historical collection or whatever else I choose to do with them as related to The Desi Dad Project. Also make sure to get permission from your father if you are still able to.**

Now let me explain before someone asks, “Abhi, why are you being so sexist? Why can’t we upload pictures of our Moms? They are just as important.”

Answer: Three reasons. First, because Father’s Day is coming up. Second, because in most cases our father’s came to this country first and many of them came alone. And third, and most importantly, there WILL be a Desi Mom Project next May, just in time for Mother’s Day. :)

If you have any questions please email me or leave them in the comments. Thank you all in advance for participation in what I hope will turn into one hell of a database of images for our community to share. Let your friends know about this project, please. This project does NOT END on Father’s Day. It is an open album.

70 thoughts on “The Desi Dad Project

  1. Theoretically, everyone on this thread should be FINE with projects which have a narrow, specific scope; they are commenting on a South Asian American blog.

    I don’t think Abhi is being unreasonable at all with his requests. I also think he’s painstakingly explained why he only wants pictures of our Fathers at this point, and how this doesn’t in any way take away from the greatness of our Mothers. The carping is getting a little old.

  2. Too bad..I can’t participate in this project…but I’ll make it a point to save one of my photographs (circa 2001)..and use it for later projects (in 2025).

  3. This is so unfair. I mean yes, I do love my dad….. but, huh my mum’s pics are pretty indicative of the era too especially the one in a pink saree… she looks just hot.

    Does ur mom have a pink purse too, pink nail polish, pink fur coat? oooooooh, I wish the whole world were pink :(

  4. I have tonnes of my dad’s “in the 70s” pics. Actually they look kind of cooler than the ultra realistic pics of today. They have a haunting nostalgia the camera these days doesnt seem to capture. They are sepia.

  5. Think of it like a ship in port from which the pictures aren’t allowed to disembark after their journey from India.

    And if you’re Gujarati, the ship will be called the Komagata Maru Che.

  6. Cool idea! Let’s bring out the sideburns and polyester shirts and plaid pants!

    Don’t forget the brown tweed jackets with those funky leather elbow patches.

    Safari Suits too, for the Ugandan/Kenyan crowd among you.

  7. i think the people who have been criticising the decision to only have dads in pictures etc. should READ THE POST CAREFULLY. ALL OF IT. PLEASE.

    because it’s pretty obvious that every single objection posted in the comments has been accounted for in the original post. he doesn’t hate your mommas. he just wants pics of your poppas. and we all think canada is lovely, everyone respects canucks, and canadian dads are very cool too.


    good luck collectors of polyester-ed and sideburn-ed photos. what an a for awesome idea :-)

  8. Hmmm…why is there only one pic so far?

    I don’t think Abhi is being unreasonable at all. It’s a cool project. As brown_fob said, I’ll keep some of my pictures aside for use after 2/3 decades :) Actually, I wonder what would count as ‘nostalgia’ in 2040.

  9. did any of your dads wear those hats that kinda looked like baseball caps but flatter? What are they called? All my pictures of him are back in the states so I won’t be able to post one but it would have been great. He wore bellbottoms and those caps and then he used to write poetry. That’s all he’ll tell me about his pre getting married American social life :) Driving caps, that’s what they’re called.

  10. NOTE: By uploading a photograph on to this website you are giving me permission to use the photograph that you upload in whatever more permanent display I ultimately choose for this historical collection or whatever else I choose to do with them as related to The Desi Dad Project. Also make sure to get permission from your father if you are still able to.

    Is it possible to add a note to the “NOTE” that says you won’t alter and/or misrepresent the image in any way? As a reader of SM I trust your intentions but for those unfamiliar with you and the site, such a declaration might be reassuring. In addition, since permission is being granted to you and not Sepia Mutiny, it might also be helpful to link your personal web-address to the page so people know the identity of the abovementioned “I”.

    Just a thought, addenda to an entirely great idea.

  11. Dogday, while I understand the helpful mindset behind what you are saying…In this day and age where so many of us are posting hajaar pics of ourselves/our friends/family…we’re also pretty aware that anyone can take the pics and alter them etc. So be it! My feeling is that if we get toooooo nit picky legalistic/paranoid about all this (a) all the fun spiritedness goes out of it and (b) people are going to think twice/thrice/frice before coming up with such creative projects.

  12. hey…what if your dad is indian but he was born here in the 60′s, can I post one of those pictures

  13. hey…what if your dad is indian but he was born here in the 60′s, can I post one of those pictures

    Sure. I didn’t even think of that possibility. :)

  14. Sure. I didn’t even think of that possibility. :)

    Abhi – Wait..I’m sure there’ll be more of such “technicalities”.

  15. Am I clicking the wrong link, or is there really only one desi dad photo?

    This should be the link. There are only five photos up so far. People are being wankers :)

  16. Come on people, this is a worthy project. There are 25 members but only 5 pictures – truly a lame Sepia Response this close to Father’s Day…

  17. Not all of us have fathers who proved their worth, beyond merely being biological facts of life. Perhaps that has something to do with the paucity of dad pictures.