This past visit to India I had the honor of visiting a few villages and documenting the students in various schools, thanks to our hosts Imdadullah and Munshad Ali Chauhan. The trip ended with a visit by Nirvana and his wonderful team at Nirvanavan Foundation.
We visited an area from three years ago, an area affected deeply by the riots of Muzaffarnagar, in which hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims were displaced and harmed beyond description. When Nirvana learned about my plan to visit the area this year, he asked if his team could also visit... perhaps exploring the idea of an inter-faith collaboration.
The visit was so much better than expected. Our hosts of course went well out of their way for us, as expected from my previous visits. However the community embraced the thought of an inter-faith collaboration beautifully, especially the children who watched and listened as Nirvana and his team spoke. It was an enlightening experience and one which has energized me to reach out to the American Muslim community upon my return to the States this weekend.
This young girl attends the government school in our hosts' village. Her school day begins at the mosque, where her classes include Arabic and Islamic courses. Shortly after she and her classmates walk to the government school building where her other classes begin.
We made her portrait in an unused classroom, using a reflector held by my dear friend Javed. Thanks to Imdadullah and Mushad, the leaders of this community, we were able to make this image, otherwise an impossible one to make.
I hope to honor their cooperation, and the spirit of this young girl soon with my efforts to find funding for their schools. The venture is a promising one to write the least, especially in this deeply fractured spot of India.