Monday, December 14, 2009

Caretaker of Trees, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 22, 2009

We spend the morning of my last day in Banganga, Rajasthan. This is a tradition that dates back to my first year in India.

The teacher from Humana People to People India and her sister look after me as a brother, serving two cups of tea rather than one and two servings of breakfast rather than one on this and every day. They do so even though they have very little, they do so with smiles reflecting the love they have for our collaboration, a love that is mirrored within me.

We arrive early this morning and it is very cold, forcing us to sit around a small fire for warmth. This small fire is cooking the meal for the buffalo nearby. According to the girls, each buffalo eats five kilograms of food per day, food that is cooked for them by the family with much care.

The sun begins to rise and, instead of walking over to the usual place, we decide to photograph at the teacher's home to show fairness. She smiles broadly and arranges the benches that will be used as backdrops. As it gets warmer, the girls of this school begin to arrive. The sun rises more and so does the temperature. We set up and begin with the photography.

In the middle of the session, two events occur, the result of the first is shown above. While making a portrait of his daughter, the father from the second home calls me to come over in an excited voice. He wants me to photograph a young boy who happens to be located about sixty feet or so up a tree.

We run closer to the tree and make the pictures, with this young boy pausing in the middle of his work to pose for us. It is a wonder that he can do so, for he is without shoes and using only a rope to keep himself from falling. I am told that this is his work, that this is how he supports his family, by going to different homes and asking to trim their trees.

This reminds me of a friend's words earlier this evening. Alyssa wrote these words in response to seeing earlier entries and has allowed me to include them here with all due respect to all parties described. She writes:

'If only each American could live a day in their shoes, away from the luxuries and technology that we are able to enjoy everyday... More of us would appreciate the simple things that we have an abundance of, yet they lack.'

This is the first time that my eyes have ever witnessed someone else doing any of the work in either one of these two homes. Every single time we have visited, the men were guaranteed to be working the fields and the women were guaranteed to be working around the home. We have never visited either one of these homes to see anyone sitting down, never. This is in spite of the fact that these two families have a sizable amount of land and even perhaps the humble means to bring someone to help with the land. I have a deep respect for the families, for their children.

We walk back to the photography and notice that one girl is missing even though we stopped by her parents' home the evening before to ask for their permission. We decide to send for her and she arrives for her portrait, a little sad that she almost missed her portrait. Regardless, her friends make the effort to help her smile and she does so ever so brilliantly. At times my lack of language in this land provides me with so many questions. I hope that the portrait when processed in four weeks time will answer my curiosity.

This day is spent without a translator. All seems clearer somehow.