Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Young Girl, Community of Prostitution, Nirvanavan Foundation, Near Alwar, Rajasthan, October 29, 2009

Working with Nirvana and his wonderful team at Nirvanavan Foundation has provided me insight otherwise unattainable. Through their good works I have been introduced to a world otherwise unbelievable. In these villages exists the world of the sex trade unlike any other, where the girls are sold in the open by their families... and the only crop grown is that of the flesh.

Over a span of three years we worked diligently, documenting almost every single child under their supervision in roughly a dozen villages. The foundation has done well to introduce itself and the idea of education to the adults in these villages, and the communities have come to accept them wholeheartedly. In some they have provided shelter for the classes, while in others sessions are held under the shade of a tree. 

Because of my association with Nirvanavan Foundation, the villagers allowed me to photograph their girls, risking the possibility of media exposure in the meantime. They permitted us to work at our own leisure, never once interrupting our sessions. As they became more familiar with the work, some of the older women presented themselves as well.

In this village we entered for the first time with the idea of photography. Nirvana and his team spoke with the villagers and all agreed in a kind manner to allow our work. It was the early afternoon and we needed to wait a bit before beginning. The open courtyard was perfect and contained one white wall, as well as some paneling for the color images.

As the sun set, we were about to begin when a group of officials strolled into our space. To my untrained eye they were police officers, with official uniforms. To those more familiar with the scene, they were participants in the transaction, checking out the guests and making sure that any activity is within their circle of knowledge.

They talked with the adults for a little bit, asked a few questions about the camera, and walked away as smoothly as they crept in. To my dismay they failed to notice the red light on top of the video camera, and the entire conversation was recorded.

I look back at these times and wish that I had done certain things differently, but hope that one day soon I may return to help document the work in another manner. I admire these young girls, for they are able to survive in the midst of the sex trade. They see their sisters being sold, their uncles negotiating the prices in the open. At the same time the fire within each and every single one has never been put out. 

My imagination fails to provide me with a picture of the darker times. My experiences cannot prepare me for such. I try to imagine this young girl's future, when she turns a certain age and is groomed for an endless line of men. All around me during my time with these villages were the older versions of this beautiful girl, all engaged in the world of prostitution. Never a single one of them let her guard down, nor did a single one show me one sign of weakness, of sadness.

I will never know this world from their viewpoint, but hope that one day the men of this world will wake up and realize the wrongs perpetuated over generations on the feminine half. Only when that day comes will the need for such girls be extinguished. I know that I will never see this day, and am impressed even more so by the resolute path this foundation has taken. They have seen much more than I have yet they move forward without flinching. I salute them and their good works, and hope to continue my association with Nirvanavan Foundation.

Halim Ina Photography

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