To be a photographer is to own a special eye; to capture something that is aesthetically visualised and emotionally registered. But there are instances when the subject overwhelms that eye. Last week, out of the blue, I was commissioned a shoot. I had no idea what the story was. All I was told was that I was to go to a place in Ghaziabad called Hindon Vihar. Something terrible had evidently occurred there.
It soon transpired that a three-day-old infant girl, placed inside a polythene bag, was found discarded in a junkyard in the Hindon neighbourhood. When I arrived there, I was lost in a clutter of poorly-built houses, lined by drains filled to the brim with running sewage. Garbage was strewn all around and smoke from burning rubber waste pierced through my senses.
I didn’t have difficulty finding the address. The little baby had already gained instant fame in the neighbourhood. Moments later, a minute, fragile, wrinkled creature was brought to my attention. As I photographed the baby for my newspaper, I took her tiny pair of feet into my palm and tried to picture her ten years hence. A wave of sadness and pity passed through me.
But life moves on, and so does work. I took photographs of the tiny form and, when I was done, formatted my camera card for my next assignment. Ironically, it turned out to be a job involving the photographing of sweet little girls, dressed attractively, and performing a ballet at a large auditorium in Delhi. Their affluent parents had their eyes glued to the stage, flashing happy smiles laden with pride. Some with their hi-tech cameras frantically tried to capture every passing moment.
As the kids finished their routine, there was a chain reaction. Parents stood up and clapped hard enough to bring the roof down. The little misses came back on the stage for an encore and their parents went wild with delight.
As I took in this scene, the little baby girl of Hindon Vihar came back in my mind’s eye. I remembered, particularly, her tiny feet which I had held in the palm of my hand. Will she ever go on to do a ballet recital, I wondered.
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