“Survivors” Part I
“It seems like a lost world, where standing in a quivering dark, where there is nothing but darkness, a place where you stand alone and shiver in fear. I experienced the same. Children who are inhaling pains within themselves every second make me feel small, their sweating smile flashes their innocent identity, touches of their dirt-oily little fingers interpret their presence in my life, their spoken or unspoken life stories makes me unrest. Since then, I am upholding them inside of me. A simple and small photograph’s emotions might inconceivable to you if still now you do not know any of such children who straggle each day to make a living from nothing. Till the day, I know I had to do and I have to do my bit, may be it could be major, may be it could be minor but that was the day, I open the door of my heart and take them in. I vow to fulfill their lost smile by refilling it in their innocent lips. The creation I am crafting in 10 years never give me such feeling , but then first I felt the tender of giving birth of the creation by dedicating it to the angles of hell, at least my first endeavor to bring them up from the darkest hell. I celebrate my rebirth by expanding my arms, placing as more children as I can and thus my voyage begins.”- GMB AKASH
I cannot remain mute about the oppression that divides human beings — which is one of the reasons I commenced photography and it’s been 14 years I am doing. And it is my duty as a photographer and artist to point with my pictures at every aspect of existence in the society and world I live in, to show what can be shown, to go deep into every milieu and also into every aspect of poverty, deprivation and hardship that I encounter – because the only sin for a photographer is to turn his head and look away. After 14 years, acquiring tons of awards and gaining access to all major media frankly I experience NO CHANGE in the life of people I photographed.
Despite knowing a photographer duty only tilted for showing and investigating reality but this simple rule does not bring peace to my heart. Once an 8-year old balloon maker told me, “I took some damaged balloons for my little sister; I have no time to play. I have only time to support my parents,” I realized at that point I should turn my lens on lives like them.
I decided to dedicate whatever fund I left after make a living of mine to give to these ‘Survivors’. First I decide, I will gift them opportunity which will come from my personal earnings, portion of print sells or selling portion from my book ‘Survivors’. In the industry I am a straggler yet my pursuits provoke me to make my first experiment before I publish my book ‘Survivors’. I started searching faces inside the book and outside the book, which I photographed and found in vulnerable situation. One year I compromise my time, my photography, my assignment and my daily life to search these faces, I started living with them, understanding them and keep finding what I can do to make them able to earn a better life together. My idea is, working with them within the circumstances, gifting them the opportunity which will come as advantage in their life, advocate them as an assistant, monitoring their changes in life in one word to do everything that I will do to change my fate if I were them. Searching a face which I shoot 10 years ago is not an easy job, a face can be invisible in a crowd but I am fortunate to find many of them and building trust on me. 10 successful families consisting of ave 60 members make my dream come true. I ensure their life better, much better than they were living. & this gives me faith to publish my book ‘Survivors’ which is and will be the source of finance and gifting business/opportunity/education/chance to these ‘Survivors’ whom I photographed past 10 years. It was the day when I finally face my eyes to these children and touches their hand knowing I can at least rescue few of them from their daily hell. I become one of them, I become their hope, I become their asset and thus I started valuing myself and understand the significance and purpose of my rebirth.
It was just one year ago when I again found out Munna, whom I photographed at 2006. ‘Integrity with innocence’ this is the concrete of Munna’s character portrayal. Five years ago I first met Munna. Five years have passed fates of Munna & his father brings no change in their lives. At 2011, only difference was, with his five years experience Munna was getting 1600 taka ($1=72taka) per month. Moreover 12 years old Munna was running his younger sister education with his extra income of Friday overtime.
Munna’s father Alamgir was a cobber. Their family is consisting of five members who receive continuous negligence from their community as he works as cobber. Munna & his sister ashamed to say that his father is cobber and his little income cannot give education to his younger daughter Shathi and hunger forced Alamgir to send his little son to the factory which produces rickshaw particles. Alamgir elder daughter has to get married at early age because of poverty. They managed to eat hand to mouth, but without depending on Munna’s income their foods cannot be assured. Munna’s younger sister appeared to her class one final exam by borrowing pencils from neighbors, she had nothing without will for education. Munna works in a factory which produces intolerable noise during work. His 9am-7pm works ruined his childhood. His overtime income never allowed him to play. In fact he lost his interest for playing. A shy, unspoken boy whose whole body was covered with dust and permanent scratch on skins dull his brightness in an extent that he seems belong to the darken factory. During working with him in his work time, I never saw his smile. He had no ambition, no dream and surprisingly had nothing to share with anyone.
I aim to help Munna & his family. & my journey with them begins.
After seating several sessions with Munna’s family, we come to a decision that Munna’s father is the person who can be the financial in-charge of the full family and setting him in a business that he is capable to do will be helpful for the full family. After our market survey, by understanding the business chains he decided and I agreed with him to let him do business of cucumber. My logic is not to give money at their hand. I went with him and prepare everything; in short I assist him in every way to do the business. After one month of successful business Alamgir take out Munna from the factory. Their family started having three times food and able to provide rent of the house in proper time. He manages to make his capital triple in three months.
Munna’s younger sister running her school and did top in result. She will be in class four next year. Munna’s only one dream is to support his sister in education and fulfilling his family’s loans which are liabilities of their bad time. Still he wants to support his father by at least doing something. Within two months Alamgir tried to admit Munna at school but Munna told him in his spare time he will go to night school to get same age students like him and at day time he wants to do something he likes. As well Alamgir was afraid as they are living in slum and children who have nothing to do mostly get mixed with people who supplies drugs/engage in bad works. Again after seating with them, Munna expressed to me he wants to do popcorn business and he wants to establish himself independently. I realized I cannot take out him from the situation; I have to assist them to get a better life in their present situation. So I agreed with him and go to see first what will be his changes in life if he sells popcorn near his home at sadarghat.
Now every day, Munna willingly wake up early morning after brushing his teeth he seats with his sister to learn from her. Then he goes to ghat and buys popcorn from vendor later he sells popcorn till afternoon in ghat and finishing his work at 1pm he came at home. Now within months his appearance has changes a lot, his face, hands, and legs, fingers scars are recovering and mostly vanishes. The best thing is that now he laughs, he is making friends in evening field, he is proud that he is doing his own selling and helping his family beside education. Munna who lost most of his childhood in blocked, dull factory now loves to spend time with people by selling popcorn. He becomes vocal and ambitious. He keeps savings from his selling profit of popcorn. Munna’s sister Sathi dreams to become doctor. With the income of Munna’s father and Munna they are happily dreaming for their future.
Every evening Munna plays cricket with friends. Within Nine months Munna is recovering his forgotten happiness. His few hours works, playtime, quality family time and private education changes his life visibly. A family who hardly once managed one time food now can ensure nutritious foods for their children. A pessimistic Munna is now very much optimistic about his life and future. His family is earning happiness by putting out of their mind about their past bad days. I dream to get hundreds of Munna in my journey and to refill their lost smile. I am happy that at least there are many munnas with me and I am able to make them a part of my life. I will share these stories of my life with you one by one. It’s my belief that if a single hand comes to hold a child miracle in their life can happen.
“I am a story teller, nothing but I steal emotions, this link me to those lives which wrapped me in sentiment. I am a simple human being; I do mistake and learn from it. But I like to do experiment and I hate to be defeated. I try and keep trying until I achieve. I will keep contributing magic in lives I face with my camera. I will do my part, I will do my bit. A quote from Helen Keller inspires my journey.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
If your heart is moved to do something do not make it complex, plan it, do it & do it right now. Stop dreaming in expectation of Superman. Within you there is a vast chance of opportunity spread your wings & bring humanity.” – GMB AKASH