Photographers' Blog

City of joy

By Rupak de Chowdhuri

It’s festive time in Kolkata, with the Durga festival celebrated across the city, before Diwali celebrations fill the city with light. Kolkata has been called the “City of Joy,” a title which was immortalized in a book by Dominique Lapierre. It tells the story of the poorest of the poor who still somehow find hope and joy in life. Little did I know I was about to come face-to-face with such a story.

I hunt for pictures every day. One day, I was looking for pictures when an old friend told me to go to a place where I was guaranteed to find a good story. Because of my curious nature, I started to walk in search of the story I’d been told about in the middle of Kolkata. I started searching among the food stalls because I wouldn’t believe it until I saw them myself.

At last I found them. And I stood stunned, like other customers in front of the food stall. I watched for half an hour.

The next day I came back and started talking to other people at the food stall. The other workers said they were a happy family once. They lived nearby for forty years. A few years ago, they moved to a village about 45 minutes away by train. I went home but I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I didn’t sleep at all that night.

Early the next morning, I went to the railway station to wait for them, I knew they came to Kolkata on the same train every day. I waited for a long time and at last I saw them come out of the crowded local train.

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 monkeys tie the knot

It all started with a phone call. I was being invited to a wedding. Sounded good. I’d finally make my debut in wedding photography.

I had it all planned. I wanted to spend a day each at the groom’s and the bride’s respectively. Now the only hiccup was I couldn’t interact with them. After all, they were no regular couple. They were monkeys.

Monkeys have an important place in Hindu mythology. They are worshiped as Lord Hanuman, the mighty ape that fought the devious Ravana alongside Lord Rama to create the epic Ramayana.