Sunday, 11 October 2009

September 15, 2009 (Session 10)

This was to be the last session of the long workshop that had unfolded many stories of grit, determination, self-confidence and hope. The remaining photographs of the participants which had not been viewed until now, were presented. The session began with Tabassum's photographs and she was urged to talk about them. Sudharak introduced her presentation stating that she did exactly what was instructed and her photographs displayed the emotions and feelings among her family members, whose photograph she had taken during different periods of the day and week. "Both Tabassum and Heena have done excellent work with their camera and although they have both shown images of their home and family, both have different perspectives to the same topic," he said.

Tabassum said that she had the camera with her for only a single day and hence the easiest way out with her project was to to take photographs of her family. "I wanted to show what my home, my locale looks like -- how we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives. So i took photographs of everyone dancing suddenly when music was on and an infant who was put to sleep in a makeshift swing made of dupatta. I had some cousins visiting us and i took their photographs too," she said.

Ravi commented that the bond among her family members were evident, while according to Sudharak, Tabassum did not have to struggle a single bit to show emotions in her photographs.

Next in line was Heena, who wanted to show the interactions between her four children who were the rock to each other. "My eldest daughter almost always feeds her siblings and is already a mother figure to them. My husband had divided our house with a plank of wood and the other side of the house has been given on rent where a little girl lives. She had dressed up as Krishna's Radha for Janmasthami, but I did not have a camera with me at that time. So when I got hold of the camera, I told her mother to dress he up again and that's how I took her photograph again," Heena explained.

Next was Fatima, who was also quite determined to show her family life through her photographs. "One morning I woke up and saw that my son was sleeping with my brother. I instantly removed the camera from its case and took the photograph. I always insist my son to drink milk instead of tea, and that is when I thought that I should take his photograph, to boost him further to drink milk before he left for school. My younger sister also finishes her work early in the morning with quite a hurry because she has to reach her workplace. Mornings are quite swift at home and that is what I wanted to show through my photographs. My youngest brother is very religious and is not in much favour of photography and any media. So I had to take his photograph very discreetly," she said.

Fatima added that she always had her camera strung around her neck and that she was eagerly waiting for her other son to get home from hostel so that she could take photographs of her children playing and talking.

Sudharak remarked that all of us intended to take photographs of the outside world, but we hardly ever realised that our home by itself was one of the best grounds for getting the most beautiful photographs. "Taking family photographs is also like documenting history. You can only imagine how your son will feel when he sees the photographs of him eating pav and milk in the morning before school, when he is about 30 years old," he said.

Farhat remarked that although Ramzan was a season of observing austerity in all forms, her family was observing, although with no intention of malice, that she was indulging in much more frivolity with her camera!

The photograph of a balloon-seller was taken by Shabeena, which prompted Sudharak to rightly comment that even if the man's face is not visible, the balloons he carry are enough to spread joy. "I also wanted to show how my mohalla looks. There was a little girl who insisted that I take her photograph and she followed me till my house, just so that I oblige her. My uncle's children were visiting us and I took out my camera. My mother said that I should let them get properly dressed do that they appear neat in the photographs. I rubbished what she had to say and told her that I would take their photographs just as they were. Besides, I love to watch the TV serial 'Balika Vadhu' and hence took some snapshots from TV when the show was on," Shabeena explained.

The shy Shabeena had also taken photographs of a rusted autorickshaw which looked more a like person's face. She also took a photograph of a public bathroom which had white tiles and a white wash basin. Her rationale to take the photograph was that the whiteness of the entire situation appealed to her. Paigumberi, who was then sitting next to her, commented that she was taking photographs of just anything that she saw and that it wouldn't be a surprise if she had taken the photographs of a toilet. "If I feel the need to, then I will surely take the photograph of a toilet. What is wrong with that?" Shabeena retorted.

A shorter presentation then followed which was some photographs selected by Anuja – they included photographs of visuals seen outside and inside the house. Gazala had taken the photograph of her neighbour who was pregnant, and Sudharak told her that she should focus on the woman as her final project. He added, "All of your final photo stories will revolve around you. You can choose topics like single women running their households, women breaking traditional barriers to study and have a career, etc. These are topics that you could think of, within the available realm of your life and immediate neighbourhood. Some other topics that you could work on are poverty, illiteracy, domestic violence, health, gender, living and sanitation conditions, the purdah system, divorce, etc."

Farhat said that she was angry about the way Muslim women are perceived and she wanted to break away from those notions. "I have endured pain personally and know what it feels to emerge successful after all of it. So I am sure that we will pull this project through, positively. In the course of this workshop, all of us had a chance to see many many photographs. We also saw some photographs of Muslim women in their stereotypical attire. It is we who can break those notions through our photographs, and personally rebuild our lives by breaking away from those ideas. We have to make our own image, about ourselves and tell the world that we are just like anyone else."

Ravi concluded the session with the example of a butterfly. "A beautiful butterfly is born only from the tiny larva. The birth process is not one of ease -- the butterfly has to struggle quite a bit so to be able to finally emerge from the larva. Some scientists were once trying to ease the process of the butterfly's birth, by opening up the hole of the larva. The butterflies thus born were not as beautiful as the ones which had struggled to get out. Our lives are just like that the struggling butterfly, waiting to be born beautiful," he said.

Everyone present at that moment in the Awaz-E-Niswaan office sat together is a huge circle and played a refreshing and energising game of antakshari. Some were dinging, while some others joined in the revelry of being together and working towards one goal – of becoming independent and free of any hurt and pain, but hoping for more such fun-filled days in their lives.

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