Monday, April 21, 2014

On India: Part one

I have to be real with you. Life is kicking my butt. After an awesome week in ATL with Jason's sister and family we returned to life in full swing and I am just so not feeling it.  Call it the after spring break blues but I just have too much to do and not enough kid-free time to do it.  Now is when I am supposed to say something lovely like "well, I will just forget about my to-do list and hit the park" but seriously it is mounting. And when I do have a moment I pretty much feel motivated to sit on the couch and sigh.   There are big changes on the horizon too and trying to discern all that means has kept me up at night. I need some prayer time, some reflection, heck I need some caffeine.

So in these quiet moments while Mr. Abisahi is rocking his afternoon nap I will edit and post some pictures from India because I miss it so and I want to share a small piece the amazing place I was blessed to experience.  I cannot promise that these posts about my time there will be coherent (or that any of you really want to hear all about it) but I really need to process through it for myself and since I am external processor here goes..... As you may have guessed I am also super organized (do you hear the sarcasm here?) and have not sorted through the thousands of images yet so they will be in no particular order.  These images are from a small village outside of Bundi, India called Tikkarda.  Here goes....

India with her shrines tucked in small spaces on every corner leads to much self reflection and part of my prayers and soul searching lead me to realize that while I gained a deeper appreciation and knowledge of photography it really isn't only about the image for me. If you measure my trip in beautiful Nat Geo quality images I failed miserably but for me there was so much more to this time that cannot be captured with a click. Experiencing this place has been more about receiving and, I pray, offering blessing to the many kind and welcoming people that invited me into their home, their work, their family, their lives even if only for a brief time.  The sweetest memories I leave India with have no image to accompany them.  

Motherhood looks a lot the same everywhere. Babies on hips.


The most sacred parts of my time in India were not touring the Taj or seeing the Ganges but the hours I spent roaming the streets of small villages or busy streets in the city armed with my camera and a small photo book full of pictures of my story seeking to catch a glimpse or hear a part of someone else's.  The challenge of capturing small snippets in pixels and jpegs for you to see and maybe even to imagine and dream about this place and these people.  India has 4,635+ peoples, over 1500 major languages and her diversity is staggering and overwhelming but all that is needed to forget all that is to accept one invitation to chai.  Then the people become people and you become a guest in their home.


when I arrived at this outdoor temple I just sat and observed for a while.  This woman was rubbing this man's arm and praying for healing because he had been experiencing paralysis for sometime. 


Wandering around and just looking for opportunities to engage with folks was amazing! I swept a house, watched basket weaving (watching was better than when I tried to take the machete and give it a try and nearly lost a finger only to be scolded), was taught proper chapati rolling technique, got henna, shared tea and food with families. My favorite moments were just sharing a small part of life with the people of India.


These women were painting edging on the ground just outside their home and this was the reaction when my white self grabbed the brush and started "helping."

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I sat in the front of this woman's home and she taught me proper chapati rolling technique. Her mother disappeared into the home and brought back some of their breakfast curry and they insisted I eat "my" chapati.  I ate the entire thing and generous portion of curry they offered which they said made them very happy.

The family brought out a chair for this man to sit on and watch the craziness.  I showed him the small photo book of my family and home and there were many interested eyes peering over his shoulder.


the children made sure to teach us a few games


I was practicing portraits and this woman invited me in to see and hold her newest great grandbaby. Her eyes were beautiful and her wrinkles were clearly well earned. This was my favorite image of the day. 

Once again I am humbled by a culture that refuses to allow a stranger to remain as one.    In Hindi there is a proverb that says "guest is god" and they treat guests with kindness and a welcoming spirit that truly blessed me during my few weeks there.  We were invited in, included in, and welcomed everywhere we went.  Just popping your head into a doorway is met with an invitation to join a meal. It is easy to fall in love at first sight with India and her people.  I'm under no illusion that there are not darker, insidious parts under the surface (as there are in every culture) but my time in India has permanently embedded her in my heart. After living in Africa for 4 years and only just beginning to understand some of the culture I have no great insight to India or her people but this was a journey that had much to teach me. I thought often about the verse of scripture that talks about the blessing you receive when you give of yourself that says it will be "pressed down and running over" and that was true for me.  The Message puts it like this, "Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity."
Now in no way was I giving or contributing a great deal but I think I have come to realize that even if you do all the development work in the world if you are not willing to simply sit and share of yourself with others you will miss so much blessing God has for us. I learned a ton and the leader of my trip was very talented and challenged me to grow and I learned so much from the others on the trip as well.  There were moments that through tears I realized, like everything, there is no short-cut to improving and that time, experience, and hard work will be the only way I will capture images that speak to people.  It feel vulnerable to try something new and not be that good at it.  It is even hard for me to put these images out there and open myself up to critique but I want to continue this journey.  I discovered that will I will continue to pursue photography I am ok with growing slowly because that is all my life with 3 kids allows for right now.  For me THE primary thing is to use imagery to tell people's stories, to communicate the beauty of God's creation, and for me the people are deserving of my focus.  Technique and skills are required for telling these stories with excellence and so I want to continue to challenge myself to grow but I learned that mostly I tend to just grab a place on the floor and start rolling chapati with women.  That I long to see what they do, how they think, hold their kids, and be a part of their lives.  And rather than merely constructing the most beautiful image I always want to communicate that the people God brings across my path are beautiful, loved by Him, and unique.  I want to try to use limited language to connect, to understand.  I want to offer blessing and receive it in abundance.  I want to learn and be challenged and rely on His spirit to lead me and I need to allow the time and space for that to happen.  More of India soon...     
   RoxanneSignature

3 comments:

Kim said...

Um seriously? How can you possibly be this talented and be my friend?;) I can't even find words to describe how in awe and inspired I am by these photos. GORGEOUS, colorful, but mostly you captured the spirit of the people and touched my heart. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

Laura S said...

Love the images, but more of your heart and how you are so good at connecting with folks. I pray (and will use arm-twisting, if necessary) you will join me when I take my trip to India. Oh, and when you are going to be selling your images, let me know. I will buy one, for sure. Love you!

Gma Rho said...

What I've seen so far, just in this post, is amazing! These photos are so engaging - make me want to just ponder them and imagine the story behind each one. I can't wait to hear more about your trip when we see you next - when will that be???