Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oxford Square, New Delhi, 2007

This is the view from the roof of the school. The children who attend classes belong to families that live and work below. They belong to a caste that washes clothing for a living, live near the water and use the water as their work space.

The good people of the school invited me over from last year to photograph their students. Along with two other guests, they show me a respect that can never be returned. We watch the students line up for a session, listen to the speakers and then watch the students as they begin their lessons.

For the photography, we arrange to photograph each class, one by one, with the girls being photographed first.

The following year, I return to New Delhi only to learn that the school is perhaps closed. There is a bit of mystery and perhaps misunderstanding. It is connected to another foundation that has helped me immensely during my time in India and during one of my days with them, we decide to visit the area in spite of the possible closing.

We decide to walk down this path, to the homes of the people. As we walk, there is a feeling that some of the children recognize me from last year. They look and smile. Many of their expressions turn from that of wonder to that of recognition. At first the walk is lonely and then it is just wonderful. One of the students remembers me, my name and guides us to his home where we are welcomed, given chairs to sit down upon and an audience to accept the photographs from last year. It is a bit chaotic but just beautiful.

After we finish handing out the photographs, we decide to take a different path out of this area. As we do so, many familiar faces come out of the homes, out of the alleys to greet us. One face that has been on my mind is still missing. All of a sudden, a young boy invites us into his home. We oblige and are greeted by that exact face my mind had been seeking from last year. She is out of her uniform, tending to the family's goat. She smiles, remains silent and continues with her work.

I have always wondered how it would feel to be in their small shoes, what it would mean to see a stranger's face one year after that stranger's visit. I suppose that I will never know that feeling for certain and will just settle for that tender smile and that beautiful silence.

I will visit her this year, visit this area and photograph along the banks of the river.

Her picture is below.