Wednesday, September 26, 2012

India 2012

Stars out at the dunes


Funny camel man.  This guy continued to sing and giggle to himself the entire two day trip through the desert.  He was quite the character.


Bopha woman selling jewelry


Mukesh and her daughter

Santos listening to women talk about their self help group in Jodhpur.  We took her and Rampati (two of the Bopha women that are part of The Shanti Project) to Jodhpur to get ideas about our Jaisalmer SHG "Golden Group"

Monkeys on the temple in Udaipur



Man fishing in Udaipur at sunset
Abandoned Brahmin village
As the story goes hundreds of years ago there were thousands of Brahmin people once living in 84 villages, the largest of which was Kuldhara, then over night they all just vanished. It is believed that they all left because when the Maharaja (King) was visiting Kuldhara he saw a girl and said he wished to marry her. The Brahmin people did not want this but they could not say no to the Maharaja, so they just uprooted over night. The village is a beautiful eery place, there are many disintegrating stone buildings filled with bats and few old artifacts
Rampati, this beautiful woman was wed at 15 to a 40 year old man.

Litsman's belly is incredibly swollen.  His mother, Rampati, says he has many health issues, but the surgeries and medicine necessary to treat his ailments are too expensive.  She is already in $50, 000 rupee debt from her daughter's dowry.

Gagu and one of his four puppy friends.

Praying to Ganesh

Beautiful Shanti

Mukesh's eldest daughter

At the Fort many Indian men heckle Sirmila, telling her to go take a bath and calling her dirty.  This upset Sirmila so much that she refused to go back to the Fort and sell jewelry until her mom, Santos, bought her a new dress.  We also gave her some shampoo, and Amie braided her hair.  She looked so beautiful as you can see.

Khalais at home

Kalaka Colony.  This is where many on the families we work with for The Shanti Project live.

Khalais' daughter, Davie, coloring.

Khalais' eldest son, Jogi.


Khalais' family


Fooley's Daughter, Sony.  She is always smiling like this;  Fooley says it is because she is always happy to see me.

Fooley playing a mouth harp
Santos and Ana

The view from my rooftop

There is a NGO here in Jaisalmer called SKSS, it has a few wonderful projects helping the local people.  One of the projects works with women doing embroidery projects.

This is one of the embroideries in progress.  Each one is different and unique to the individual who made it, but the theme of the pieces is a woman carrying a water jug on their head.

These women are part of an empowerment program here in Rajasthan.  They make embroidery patterns that are sold in Sweden by a wonderful Artist named Elsa.  This project is under the Organization SKSS.

This man spends his days dying the cloth that is embroidered by village women.

I live in a castle

Khalais making puppets

Pooja and the bracelets she sells by the fort gate

Sleepy Ana with her painted on eyebrows.

Being offered "tomaco." After watching many adults and children snort this, we discovered it is a powdered form of tobacco that people sniff to clear their sinuses and relax.

There are always so many birds swooping around the Fort.


Santos cleaning up her jewelry and getting ready to head home.

Bubbaloo fixing his broken necklace.

Beautiful Litsma

Lice is extremely common within the Bopha community.  Litsma is almost always scratching.  Now with her newly shortened hair it is easy to see all the bugs roaming around her head.

Sisters, Pooja and Ana

Pinky and friends

Life in a tourist town

Fooley with the Fort behind her.


Litsman playing a mouth harp.

Santos at home with her family.


Cows doing what they do

Interviewing Santos about her life for The Shanti Project

Jaisalmer moon

Entering one of the Jogi (gypsy) villages

Jogi children

Jogi Woman

Amie brought water colors and painted some faces.  Some of the children already had lots of make-up on their faces, because they are gypsy dancers.


Every time this man spoke all the people around him would burst out laughing.  Limited by my lack of Hindi knowledge, I am sure of only one thing... this guy is a character!

Starry night at the dunes

Musical bow

Cita's family

Beautiful Indian girl.  She and her husband are in a love marriage, it was immediately obvious they were not arranged.

Pinky and her cousin
Cita's husband playing music, two of her sons, and some kids from the neighborhood.

Cita's mother in law

Cita's son
Cita and two of her four children.

Cita's house is made of blankets like this and sticks.

Cita making chai
Pooja, Santos' eldest daughter


Ana with a band aid.  Amie attempted to clean and cover Ana's scraped nose, but the band aid was off again in a matter of minutes.

Photo of Santos from long ago


Sermila climbing a tree next to her house


Good luck charms

Shanti walking home from a long day selling jewelry inside the Fortress.

Santo's eldest daughter, Pooja, is due to be wed in Jaipur next year.  She is 14.


The Fortress at sunset

Mukesh with her one month old baby girl.
Lucia with an old Indian woman meeting in the courtyard

Cita's baby boy!  What a happy guy.

The government pays these women a small sum of rupees to dig out this pond.  This is the drinking water supply for this village and villages nearby.  The people boil it before they consume it thankfully.  It is strange being in the city of Jaisalmer and seeing only men in the shops and restaurants working and then going out to the villages and seeing so many women in very labor intensive jobs.

Two women moving the dirt they have dug from the pond.

Himut swinging


Village man
This is Keran.  She is the daughter of Bimla, who is one of the women from the Bopha caste.  As Amie and I were laughing and playing Bimla told us we could take her daughter.  We could just have her as if she were something you can just give away.  We are not sure whether Bimla was trying to offer her daughter a better life by going with us, or if like many other baby girls, she is just another mouth to feed.
We visited the Government Hospital in Jaisalmer this week.  We were trying to figure out why so many of the locals choose to go to private doctors instead of getting free care at this hospital.  What we learned is they are severely understaffed with trained medical professionals.

We got to see all the new babies that had just been delivered!

We spent most of our time in the maternity ward looking at all the babies and asking women if they were happy and excited to have a new baby.  It seemed some were filled with joy and others were rather despondent.

This private doctor's office is where Jaisalmer locals go to get care for their families.  At any given time of day this place is swarmed with people that refuse to go to the government hospital.
Shanti means Peace
Our friend Amit.  He is deaf, but he communicates to us using gestures.  He is my favorite person I have met here.  He always takes us to the coolest places and gets us access to things we wouldn't normally be allowed to do.

Ants and Sugar

 Citta and her son

 Bimla's baby girl.
Female infanticide is quite common in Jaisalmer.  
In just three months time (May- July) 38 baby girls were found dead in 2012.

 Desert performer wrapping his turban

 Desert Musician

Desert performer

Desert plant coming up
Desert Moon
 Desert village girl dancing

 Desert village woman

 Desert Village Woman and child

 Desert people

 Desert villagers watching us teach the kids "duck duck goose"

 "Ring around the rosie"

Jaisalmer street Performer

The main objective of the project is to build the leadership of women and children in prostitution.

The overall objective of The Shanti Project is to build the leadership of women and children in prostitution.
Dancing under the moon to desert songs

This photography project is based in India, primarily in Rajasthan.  It is a documentation of people and places I have encountered while living in India for two months working on The Shanti Project.  The Shanti Project is a non-profit organization that myself and 3 friends started in 2011.   
The main objective of the project is to build the leadership of women and children in prostitution. 
To learn more about the project please visit our website!


wanderlustedone said...

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”
― Marc Riboud

BEAUTIFUL! You are beautiful. Your work is beautiful. It is soul-ful and produced from a deep place of beauty.

Michelle said...

Thank you so much for your kind words. What an encouragement! This place is so special to me, and I hope that my photos can begin to help others feel connected to these people in Jaisalmer!