Friday, January 21, 2011
Photoshoot in the bustee
Thursday, we went to Dakshindari, the bustee (the slum neighborhood) where Prayrona II sits, at the end of a narrow alley. Reena, who teaches there and at the other Prayrona schools, told us that the kids had been waiting for us for months. When our plans to visit were finalized last March, she told the kids that we were coming, and they were so excited that Reena wished she hadn't told them so early. Waiting is a hard thing for kids! So were arrived, all the aunties and uncles, to lend them our cameras and follow them around the bustee while they snapped away. I had two little girls with me, Sabana Khatun and Sabrale Khatun, and after a couple of quick demonstrations about standing still and pushing the shutter release all the way down when shooting, off they went. At first, they were clicking on the run, and we got a number of great shots of feet, sky, and headless persons. But they got the hang of it very soon. All told, they took nearly 200 pictures of vendors' stalls, mini-factories, old people, babies, families, kitchens - everything you can imagine, and many things you couldn't. I noticed that the bustee was cleaner than it has been in the last two visits, and I came across a crew actually shoveling a pile of garbage into a truck for disposal. The two shutterbugs tussled over the camera a couple of times, but it went very smoothly. We have done this outing twice before, and Reena prompts the kids before we get there, so they knew what kinds of things to photograph. At first, it was just the three of us wandering around, but word travels fast in the bustee, where so many, many people live in close quarters, and we soon had a posse following us. I don't know how many kids came up and eagerly said "hello," and "where are you from?" Visits by westerners to the bustee are rare, and we were both a curiosity and a pleasure for them, I think. Everyone is friendly and smiling when they see the kids with the cameras. One man stopped me and asked, "Can you train them?" If these kids were not in school, they would be working to support the family. It is a measure of how well Reena has worked with the parents to get their support to be asked the question that this man asked me. They do get it - they want their kids to get what the school can help prepare them for - a life better than laboring in the slum, or as a servant in a well-off household. The kids have self-esteem and self-confidence, especially the kids whom I have seen now three times in three years. The ones who were so little three years ago are now noticeably self-possessed. When I look at them, and then at the little ones eating their healthy lunch and laughing and smiling at us, I'm confident that they are in good hands, and that our visits and support is making a difference for them. The photo is my friend (and self-possessed young lady) Saboo.