The scene was peaceful and quiet. We walked between homes and arrived at a small courtyard in front of a beautiful, white wall. A woman sat to the left of the entrance, working with a fire and going about her chores. My dear friend Baba from Humana People to People India went about gathering the girls and organizing the photography while I set up the cameras.
This was my second time in the village, the previous year hampered by poor timing regarding sunlight. We intended to make better images for the girls this time, and organized the girls from eldest to youngest. This is usually done to allow the older girls to return to their chores, so as to work within the framework of the village. Humana People to People India has done a wonderful job balancing the activities sought with those already established. The elders sitting nearby watched us working without once commenting in a negative manner. This has always impressed me with the foundation, and has given me the perception that our work is respected.
As the girls watched their friends being photographed, each would get an idea to do something different. The first girl might stand in front of the crowd with her arms to the side, then the next would dare to put her hands on her waist. This continued until the one above had the courage to share her attitude with us, thumb in her pocket and her shoulders back... uncommonly beautiful indeed. In light of the fact that almost all of her elders were watching less than twenty meters away, courage is an understatement.
We finished with the photography, gathered our equipment and walked over to have a wonderful meal accompanied by warm milk. The fact that all of the ingredients were gathered from the adjacent fields and that the milk was from the family's oxen only enhanced the experience. We sat on hand-made benches in a most beautiful structure made from mud and cow dung. The meal was of course spicier than anything from my experience, and the milk was sincerely appreciated. Glass after glass of milk was taken in to the surprise of the family, all of whom were smiling as they watched me quench the heat with the milk.
These are the times that I wish I could hang around the village and document to my heart's content. Having to depart after the meal leaves me with an ache, and soon that ache will be erased. This fall I hope to visit these villages once again and spend days in each documenting the reopened schools, then following the girls as they perform their chores. This is my hope.
Halim Ina Photography