Poonam's Tale of Hope in Bhopal - India
- 'Full PhotoShelter Gallery 2009-14'
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Sometimes a picture has the power to turn fate around:
In August 2009, I began visiting urban colonies in the city of Bhopal, central India, to document the severe illnesses faced by children as a result of contaminated water. As a consequence to the 1984 tragedy, around 100,000 people are now chronically ill from the effects of the gas leak, while tainted drinking water has affected thousands more.
Toxic waste – buried around the former factory – has penetrated the underground aquifers, harming the health of nearby dwellers. As a grim result, children are increasingly faced by severe disorders. Living with his family in a rundown shack made of bare soil and cow dung, one such victim is Sachin, now 20, and suffering from leg paralysis.
On a fateful day, during one of my regular visits to his home, heavy rain began to fall. His youngest sister, Poonam, then 6, was revelling in the rain to curb the scorching summer heat.
I started taking pictures immediately.
A frame from that propitious moment was later assigned numerous recognitions, including a 5000 USD grant from ‘The Photographers Giving Back Awards’ - in Sweden - to implement a long-term plan for the wellbeing of Poonam, 11 in 2014, and designed to assist her family overcome extreme poverty.
Born ‘unlucky’, with a tiny sixth toe on each foot, her father superstitiously believed she brought misfortune upon their lives.
Today, Poonam dreams of becoming a teacher, like the ones practicing in her small private school, a short walk away from the family’s newly-built home – made of solid bricks. Along with her sister Jyoti, 12, she regularly attends lessons. (Year 5 Elementary in 2014-2015)
I have witnessed the passion that is moving this family along, and how a single possibility for change was able to spark in them such a vibrant enthusiasm for life.
Poonam’s fairytale is far from over: time after time, I intend to witness her blossoming into a teenager, an emancipated woman, and later into a loving wife and mother.