In a slum by the site of an industrial area somewhere in Haryana (3 March 2018)
15 October 2017
That afternoon I had no shooting or field recording. I had a pile of diaries to start reading for a biography project–the diaries of Pukhrambam Bharat, the maker, along with his brother Pukhrambam Tomchou, of the modern Kakching.
After a long Sunday with nothing so entertaining, the children in my neighborhood got bored by that afternoon. In our small estate we have the widest and most comfortable space in the neighborhood for children, and children from all over there come to play here with my brother’s small daughters, especially when they are bored at home. Our home, in that sense is full of fun. There will always be the should of children having fun and laughing. Yes, sometimes they fight, and that’s sweet part of childhood. That afternoon, from my study window I saw four or five children gathered there in boredom without a word said to one another–they were restless, fidgeting, and moving around aimlessly and listlessly. One of them happened to cursorily look into my window when passing by it and there was visibly a slight hue of hope appearing on her ennui-faded face.
“Kaka, when is kaka Ushaken coming back?” She trickily said.
My brother likes children a lot, as much as I do, and I had overheard them saying he had promised them to take them to angling at a river far away. My brother loves angling and if he has nothing to do, you will most probably find him angling at a river or a lake favorable for that fun at that particular time within the radius of 20 kilometers, if he is not at gambling (his another passion) somewhere around. But my brother had not returned from work for a couple of days.
“No. It’s bandh today.” I said. Manipur merged into India in on that day (15 October) in 1949, after Maharaja Bodhachandra was allegedly forced into signing the merger agreement on 21 October of that year. Revolutionary organizations in Manipur, since a long time ago, have been observing October 15 as a Black Day and on this day the roads are deserted and no shops in major markets are open. Earlier, the insurgent organizations used threats to this effect but now people do it on their own. Conditioned.
“Then take us to a nearby place! Anywhere!” She turned it on to me and changed the topic. Children are clever.
I laughed. Children in my Kakching neighborhood find me comfortable to be with. I love children with their simplicity, innocence and innocent small tricks.
Hmmm… Me smells. Gotta take a bath. Will continue after that.
Once used to the environment they find themselves in, children find joy–at least momentary ones–in the dust, among broken machines, in the concrete rubble heaps of war, under the roofless slum houses, though those in oppressive conditions would have to get back to their torturous realities after a brief period of joy.
Adults! Hmmm! What they do in search of joy, in search of happiness! Unhappy about happiness. Tired of searching for rest.
Tamo Doren of Photo Max verbally nudged me (he was busy covering the wedding we attended) and looking back I saw the man. He stood out from the more than hundred people gatheted at the wedding hall and the several many people passing by in that narrow alley. I was immediately interested. He was restless for the whole time he stoood at the gate of the hall and scratching himself a lot–his hands and legs. Finally he sat down in the middle of the narrow alley dedicated to the scratching job. A symptom.
I had been waiting for a chance to photograph the cute girl in the picture. She was conscious of my camera and she shyly hid herself behind her eight-year old brother every time I held up the camera. When I turned away, she teasingly ran around me. I waited for a chance.
I was lucky to get both of them in a single shot.
We were children again yesterday–Atul Singh, Monalisha, Rahul Pachori, Vineeth S., and I, and it was happiness that we felt in us when we lived like this yesterday afternoon. The following pictures are some from those I took. More will follow.
The sun was shrouded in wintry clouds, fogs and Delhi’s dust and smoke and the light was slightly tricky for the nonprofessional that I am.
Vineeth S. and Monalisha
Rahul Pachori, Monalisha, and Vineeth S.
Monalisha and Rahul
Monalisha, Rahul, and Vineeth S.
And here comes our calm, cool and quietly beautiful and very serious friend Atul Singh (I found him sitting there and he caught me camera-handed stealing a shot:
And this handsome guy stole all the show yesterday. It’s my camera’s mistake that his smile is blurred–out of focus:
And here he is an action hero:
And this is again Vineeth, in silhouette:
And Vineeth as a handsome hero. I told you–he stole all the show yesterday.
More photographs to follow.
And more to follow 🙂
Walking through the junk yard back from the Hero servicing center toward Delhi Cantt Railway Station (2 January), we followed the direction of a man’s pointing finger by walking into an area housing a big cluster of houses. It was immediately obvious to our eyes that the people were in an abject condition.
But just a few steps into the neighborhood, I saw a sweet view–a boy was ill and he was lying in a cloth bed on the damp (all about it was wet) ground between two rag houses–his blanketed body in the sun and his head in the shade of a house, and he was surrounded by five friends. They boys were all dirty and their noses were, to be euphemistic, runny and one of the boys had the milkish paste from his nose smudged off toward his one cheek. They did not see the dirt surrounding them. What they did was to be with the ill friend, surrounding him from all directions. That was true friendship I have never seen after I had lost a childhood friend who died in his childhood (he vomited blood and we did not know what he was suffering from).
While I wanted to take a snapshot of those children in the way how they were, we walked on past them–I remained diffident and feared if I hurt their emotion, at least of anybody in the neighborhood (be it their parents), if they felt being treated as an object or subject. Then a man on a broken stool, whom we had walked past, called on to me requesting me to take a snapshot of the ill boy. I was glad and immediately I returned to the position I saw the friendship from and pointed the camera to them. Two boys immediately posed with their ill friend, hugging each other. That was cute. Two children, embarrassed, got to their feet and became an onlooker, and a boy nearest to the camera remained where he was, without reacting to the situation much visibly–an odd combination of defiance and vulnerability. This was the shot:
That is colorful. That is the color of their life. And look at the hearty smile of the middle boy, and that of the ill one. That is of pure joy, yet unsoiled by the complexities of life. And the boy on the left is cute, all his dirtiness adding to it.
While color shows the color of their life, I want to watch their actions, their friendship, extracted from the colors which can be regarded as extraneous in one way. I want to see them in grayscale, like this:
There is the simple beauty of the three boys’ friendship in the context provided by the larger scope within the frames. Yet, a tighter framing may be more eloquent:
The hands of the invisible boy takes care of the excluded part of the context. And this one is just three of them:
If they see these pictures when they are old, I think they would miss these innocent days. I don’t know how ever they would see these pictures. Some old pictures can mend broken friendships and families. I am not ambitious, and I don’t have utilitarian aims in photographing people, but I am deeply touched by these children and their love for each other. Such is very rarely seen, if it happens at all among us who live under roofs inside our own houses.