Not child’s play

January 25, 2013

Baran, India

By Danish Siddiqui

When I first took pictures of this child couple in a small village in the desert state of Rajasthan in 2010, I had no idea that I would come back to this village again. But life had something else in store and I have been visiting them every year since, documenting the changes in their relationship and their surroundings.

When I went to their house last week I was greeted by the loud wailing of a baby. It was their four-month-old son Alok, which means enlightenment in Hindi. Last year when I visited them, I learned that Krishna, the child bride, was seven months pregnant. I wasn’t surprised at all but out of curiosity I asked Gopal, her husband, why he was in such a hurry to expand the family. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nothing else to do, no work, life is so boring.” I was a bit taken aback.

Those like me who live in big cities and metros plan meticulously before taking the plunge into parenthood. And here this teenager was telling me that he wanted to have a child and risk his young wife’s life because of boredom. That, again, is a different India.

When I visited, I was happy that the parents, their family and even the neighbors were enjoying the presence of the little boy. Gopal told me that his wife was nearly on her deathbed after the delivery last year and her being alive now is nothing less than a miracle.

When I asked the 14-year-old mother if she’s happy she had a baby boy, Krishna nodded her head and said, “I wanted a girl but its okay now.” I was surprised by her response, as most people in both Indian cities and villages prefer boys over girls who they see as assets as opposed to girls who they consider liabilities or dependents.

During my visit, I noticed that 16-year-old Gopal had changed in the last couple of years. He started consuming alcohol a lot.

He hasn’t got any work, as even the soybean fields which his family owns are not that fertile now. The water level in their fields has gone down, resulting in irrigation problems. This time when I was in the village, Krishna broke down after her husband came home drunk and was trying to carry the baby. She was scared Gopal might drop his son.

I stayed with the couple for a day and then took them out of the village to shoot some portraits. It was the first time in four months that Krishna was stepping out.

I took the opportunity to ask Gopal about his future plans. He told me that for his family’s survival he needs to move out of the village and try to find some work in the city. When I asked him if he plans to have another baby he told me his first experience was scary enough for him and his wife.

As I left the small village, the only thing which bothered me was the future of four-month old Alok. Would he go down the same route his parents took or would he bend societal norms to carve a separate path for himself and his future partner?


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For that to happen employment has to be generated in the rural areas! Lets hope the recent economic growth will have some effect here too. To start, may be one can improve agriculture in the area. The boy observes that the fields are not too fertile and now he has to go to the city for a job! This I believe is much better than the subsidized TV that some politicians were talking about :D.

P.S: It was heartening to know that someone has shown preference for the girl child. :)

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive

I’m sure your photos and blog have produced a sizeable bit of money for you. You’re amazing. How could you follow such devistation and feel you have ‘done your best’?
People all over the world would happily send this couple and any other families you have documented on in your ‘journalistic career’. In your article is there a minute hint of their location so as to be able to forward on money to aid in their life? Are you only seeing a story? Not the desperation? Do you feel anything? You have the ability to help people in such desperate situations with just a mention of their location. Or are you just reporting tear jering stories to show how Humane You Are???

Posted by JYPfan | Report as abusive

Gopal should be educated so that he could utilize his land in a better way and could get better yielding. If Gopal understands the value of what he has and could provide Alok a better life, this could change not only a family but a complete village who has the same situation.

Posted by ..Manu.. | Report as abusive