By: Ananya Bhatia
Bundi Lal from the village Kunjethi in Uttarakhand was a prosperous farmer. His land yielded about 1.5 quintal of wheat a year. The cloud burst and flash floods in June 2013 however, changed his life forever. Many villages were washed away. What remains now of Lal’s land only produces 8-10 kg, barely enough to feed his family. A photograph of Lal with his wife and child against the backdrop of his now fallow farm, with only a sack of grain, is a story of survival.
Delhi-based documentary photographer Sharbendu De had been to Uttarakhand soon after the disaster and he returned in May this year to document the lives of the victims. His ‘trip has resulted in an exhibition called “Story of Struggle and Resilience Through a Lens” at Select CityWalk. De has collaborated with Oxfam India, an international rights-based organisation, for this project. As a part of their Rebuild Uttarakhand initiative, De captured the stories of nine families in photo essays from seed farmers to horse cart owners.
“Rami Devi was a beautiful, plump woman when I met her a year ago. When I went back to her this May, after a year, it seemed as if I was seeing her after ages. She hardly looks the 42-year-old that she is,” says De, a professor at Jamia Milia Islamia University. Devi’s 4x4ft portrait (pic on left) is the central photograph at the exhibition. De says, “The disaster has broken them down, like a termite that eats from within.”
The exhibition is on till 4th July at Select CityWalk, Central Atrium.