Married as minors
A year ago I traveled to Rajasthan, a state in northwestern India, to photograph child marriages. Minors in India continue to be forced into matrimony despite a ban by the central government. In fact, several children below the legal age tie the knot in mass ceremonies during the Hindu festival of Akshaya Tritiya, considered one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar.
Almost a year later, I was asked to go back to Rajasthan and photograph a child couple whose marriage I had documented earlier. The couple were 14-year-old Kishan Gopal and his 12-year-old wife Krishna. With the help of a few friends, I tracked down the village and the groom’s house. I wasn’t sure if the parents and the couple would allow me to photograph them again. With a lot of apprehension, I reached the house of the child groom.
Kishan recognized me the moment he saw me and that put an end to my apprehension. Kishan’s wife, Krishna had gone to her parents’ house in another village and Kishan was supposed to fetch her the next day. Not one to miss the opportunity, early the next morning I landed at Kishan’s house to accompany him on his journey.
When we arrived, Krishna and her family welcomed us warmly. They were happy to see Kishan but happier still to see the pictures from the wedding, which I’d carried for them. The family didn’t have any pictures of the wedding, as there is an unofficial ban on the photography of child marriages by the government.
At first, the couple were very shy to speak to each other in front of me or others in the house. But after some time they went into a small room in the house where Krishna lifted the veil of her sari for the first time to reveal her face.
That’s when the couple finally got comfortable in my presence and even started cracking jokes. I left them alone after taking a few pictures.
From going to the corn fields to getting fodder for the cattle to cleaning the porch of her house, Kishan followed his wife everywhere in the hope of speaking to her whenever there wasn’t anyone around.
After completing the household chores and visiting her relatives, Krishna changed into a bright red sari and started playing on an improvised swing tied to the branch of a tree in her courtyard.
When I was leaving, I thanked the family for having me over and invited the child couple to Mumbai.
On my way back, all I thought about was Kishan and Krishna and their future together. I wondered if things will change for their children or will they too be married off as minors.