Saumya Khandelwal– A Shattered Childhood

 
Nirma, 16 years, married to Rakesh. Nirma lives in her won home, but talks to Rakesh on phone who tells about his friends and school. Rakesh has studied till 12th while Nirma is in 11th. She aspires to become a doctor someday. Now she even looks forward to her Gauna. Though when she got married, she was scared, because she didn’t know how to do any work that is expected out of a bride. Photograph / Saumya Khandelwal

Nirma, 16 years, married to Rakesh. Nirma lives in her won home, but talks to Rakesh on phone who tells about his friends and school. Rakesh has studied till 12th while Nirma is in 11th. She aspires to become a doctor someday. Now she even looks forward to her Gauna. Though when she got married, she was scared, because she didn’t know how to do any work that is expected out of a bride. Photograph / Saumya Khandelwal

“The fact that the lives of these young girls were so different from my own, kept me going.” – Saumya Khandelwal

When Saumya Khandelwal heard about the prevalence of child marriage even today, she knew she had to find out for herself. “I knew much about the context of Shravasti, a district in Uttar Pradesh with the most alarming statistics on child marriage, but meeting subjects in their space and hearing human stories was a more unsettling experience than analysing facts.” Here, she discovered the world wildly different from her own, where children did not understand or realise that they were getting married until traditional ceremonies like haldi were taking place for them. “I didn’t know what structure or shape this project would take. I met brides, to be brides, grooms, their parents, and spoke with them.

Over time I figured out that I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the girls because they face the most loss in this process.” she said. Saumya had to struggle a lot to get her stories initially. Imagine a girl from an urban city in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh, with a camera in tow. These were reasons enough for her questions about their way of life to be met with suspicion. “It was very difficult to convince them to tell their stories, as they were always afraid of me reporting it to the police.” Saumya does not know how long she will continue photographing the lost childhoods. “Maybe when I feel that I have explored all the elements of the story I will think of stopping.”

-Written by Natasha Desai

Tags: A shattered CHildhood, December 2016, Look Who's Shooting, natasha desai, Saumya Khandelwal, Snapshots

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