It has been a couple of months since this blog has become subdued and has lacked regular updates. The excuses are many and perhaps best left unsaid. But hopefully it is a thing of past, and hopefully I will have regular updates here in the days to come. Let me begin with a set of images of children from the mountains—Himalayas to be precise—all the way from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.
When I was about to begin this post, my plan was to hastily post a few images of children from my recent trip to Lahaul and Spiti region. Looking through the impressions of those innocent faces, a thought passed to me that the children from many parts of the Himalayas look a lot alike. They all come bundled with a twinkle in their eyes and a charming innocence in their faces. I then thought it would be worthwhile making a larger compilation of images from across the mountains. Here we go!
Let me begin with an old image from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a photograph that made me happy and gave me some boasting rights. It was one of my very first images to get licensed for a reasonably good price.
On a crisp morning when we were searching for breakfast in the main street of Tawang, only to find that most restaurateurs were too lazy to serve what we wanted and preferred to offer us nothing more than a sandwich. Left without choice, sandwich is what we had to order and even that was bound to take some time to make. While the lazy cook took his time on the sandwich, I wandered the streets with my camera over the shoulder. It was the hour of the day when Indian Army bus was to come and pick up school children from their homes. This girl waited for the bus, while her little brother gave her company. I watched them chat with each other fondly for a while before making this picture.
Two years later, it was used by UNICEF for their annual calendar that had pictures of children from various ethnicities from across the world.
Happy, carefree children can be seen everywhere in Arunachal. All these four kids were riding on a bicycle—just one bicycle—at Jang Village on the way to Tawang. The tallest of the kids seemed to be the ‘leader of the gang’ who dictated what games they play and how they spend time. While the elders in this small village were away working, these kids were having a ball and posing happily for tourists.
While the four kids above were having a good time, this girl was performing her duties nearby, taking care of her siblings. They seemed amused to see us, a little confused about how best to interact with us. The little kid riding on the back of her sister was shy and unsure what to do, occasionally peeping out to have a better look at us.
It is common to see little monks like this one—monklings as a friend once described them—giggling and running around chasing each other in the courtyard of the monasteries. We stopped by to have a chat with this fellow and his friend, but they turned from ebullient to shy when we spoke to them.
The image of this little fellow in Thangu Village is northern parts of Sikkim is perhaps the only image I have, of children in Sikkim. It is long time since I backpacked in Sikkim, a place I long to go back to but the the ordeal of reaching there keeps me out. Those were the days when I was shooting with a film camera and focused on photographing landscapes and only landscapes. Hopefully I will return there soon someday to get another dose of this beautiful mountain state.
Uttarakhand is another region in Himalayas, from where I have no images of children. It is also another place that I visited a few times long ago, when my focus was largely on photographing landscapes. And similar to Sikkim, I hope to go back and backpack again some day soon, but haven’t made it so far thanks to the ordeal of getting there.
Next, when I was looking for images from Himachal Pradesh, the first that came to my mind was this little Thomas Alva Edison experimenting with his (rather dangerous) toy that was soon taken away from him. At Darcha Village, the last permanent habitation in Himachal Pradesh on the long road to Ladakh, I was tired and was not really keen to take my camera out. But one look at this guy, I knew I wasn’t left with that choice.
At Langcha Village in Lahaul and Spiti, we were invited for a cup of tea at the house of our guide Lara. It was a day when most of the village was in Kaza for the annual fair, having a good time watching performances. While Lara’s last daughter had no idea of the fair, she still was pleading with him to take her to Kaza, to enjoy a jeep ride. She was pacified by her father till she forgot about it.
Eldest of Lara’s children, Lobsang must be about ten years old or less. Unlike other kids in the village, she had a much serious demeanour and seemed to have matured beyond her age. She also appeared obedient and spending a lot of time helping the elders with household chores besides going to school. I do not know why, but I had a feeling that she had lost her childhood sooner than one would.
Among all the children of the mountains I have seen, the Ladakhi kids are perhaps the naughtiest and the bravest. Here is a bunch of them having a good time at Korzok Gustor Festival, when monks wearing demon-like masks were performing at the courtyard of the monastery. Korzok Gustor Festival is an annual celebration at the monastery at Korzok Village, located on the banks of Tso Moriri Lake.
These kids were playing with stones near Lamayuru Village when I was out for a long walk. They became very conscious on seeing me and stood next to the wall, looking at me awkwardly. They were good for the camera anyway, awkward or otherwise.
We had an awesome awesome time playing with kids in Zanskar during a cold winter season. Some of us played football with them (when the temperatures were somewhere ten degrees below zero), dragged the sledges for them or just laughed and ran around with them. In a season when Zanskar is completely cutoff by road from rest of the world and buried in snow, people of Zangle Village—kids and elders alike—were happy to have some visitors. These little siblings watched us play from their terrace. This girl called us as we were walking away and we had happy conversations in languages incomprehensible to each other.