All of the photographs in this blog entry were taken over the past 3 days. What is written below is based on the LAST TWO photographs in this blog.
My day started out at 8am walking towards the center of Surkhet with my camera in hand and an open mind to really find a story to tell. Before you hit the center of Surkhet there is a bridge and below this bridge is dried up river that leads all the way to the hills in both directions. As I veered off the main road, I started to walk down the riverbed and situated along the banks of the dried up river I notice families living in shacks that are constructed from straw, mud, plastic, old potato sacks, tree branches, and anything that can remotely used to construct a shelter. The night before there was a massive storm with fork lighting all night followed by massive amounts of rain. As I walked all I could think about was how do these people survive not just 1 night but 4 months of monsoon. (If you have never been to Asia during monsoon… It’s extremely intense and I highly recommend going during this time of year)
After about 45 min. or so into the day I came upon a little community of about 20 shacks along the banks and was greeted by almost everyone living in this tight nit community. There homes were all joined like a bunch of emperor penguins huddled together during storms in the Antarctic to keep warm…. greater chances of survival is sticking together, literally. I notice several of the local men fixing all the roofs, patching holes of the outer shack walls, and scavenging anything that could be used to help re-build about 20% of the communities roofs that had collapsed from the previous nights storm.
After about 5 min. of trying to communicate with this little community I was approached by a young Nepal university student named Pramdeep who spoke enough English for me to easily communicate with the riverbank dwellers. After about a 15 min. tour of the little river bank community he offered to be my guide for the day and take me where ever I wanted to go and in exchange I would help him with his English. Without any hesitation I agreed before he could finish with the offer.
A lot happened that day and I could write about 10 pages on what happened over the next 3 hours but I don’t want to torture you that much but I will tell you this. The last 2 photographs of this blog I feel have the most impact and say everything about what this day was and about.
The second last photograph of the old man with the beard and the scarf on his shoulder is a man by the name of Sarsursah Mohamed who is an 80 years old working in the brick kilns where they make bricks for constructing homes and huts. He was ecstatic when I approached him and asked him if I could photograph him. He sat for me willingly and laughed along as I took his photograph. After I had finished taking his picture and with a glowing grin, he shook my hand with force I never imagined could come from a man in his 80’s. I will be going back tomorrow to visit Sarsursah again.
The last photo is of a man named Gopal who is 29 years old and has TB (Tuberculosis). Gopal didn’t mind having his photo taken even when I asked him to remove his shirt to really get an idea of what this disease can do to you as I knew very little about TB. When he removed his shirt, I was shocked and speechless. It’s completely different when you see disease or distress in a photo or on the news, but when you see it 2 feet in from of you it is sensory overload and it becomes VERY REAL. The villagers say he has less than a 1 year to live.
Today was about reflection, finding what is important, discovering a voice and a story to tell. I am still trying to find my voice in my photography, but I ask you to really dig deep and ask yourself what is most important to you in your life, what would you do if everything was taken away from you? How would you cope? How do you cope now when situations arise that you can’t predict?
I hope you enjoy the photographs and thank-you again for following.