I was out with the family visiting my aunt this afternoon. She still lives in a superbly decrepit flat. And I really meant that; superbly decrepit. It’s far from clean. It smells of old rubbish and the walls are peeling and cracking, as though it’s an ancient monster waiting to shed its skin for the first time. Only a few families live in this government project today. My aunt lives alone.
I remember hanging out in this building with my cousins. We’d run everywhere and play hide-and-seek. It was a lot noisier back then. I remember there were many Hindu families living here and they loved watching Bollywood flicks on national TV. Heck, you don’t need to be an Indian or a Hindu to love Bollywood. But I don’t remember the flat being so tiny.
As much as this place means to me, I felt like an outsider looking in. Today, I found out that my camera can be a weapon. Some of the residents gave suspicious glances while some called the guard. I don’t know them and they obviously don’t recognize me as the little girl who was screaming (and running) along with other kids 14 years ago. So I kept my weapon away.
It felt rude to intrude into their lives or turning their lives into subjects. I don’t want that.
Across my aunt’s flat, two Indian siblings peer out from the grill. They stare me down. I want to look down and walk away, but they’re too arresting. I crack a nervous smile. They smile back. I wave and the older sister waves back. Her younger brother doesn’t understand the gesture, so she takes his arm and waves it in the air. We laugh. And laugh again. This is the superb part.
I like the idea of exchanging things… pictures, letters, smiles, greetings, laughter, hugs, tears and waves. It was only a brief moment, but at that moment, our lives met one another. It’s about making contact. The photo I took of the shoes (above) belongs to them. The shoes belong to their family and the photograph as well. It’s their story. Those are mommy’s slippers, little brother’s sandals and daddy’s shoes. Daddy works as a security guard somewhere and his uniform hangs against the window. Mommy likes hanging out at the neighbor’s house. Little brother and sister will grow up. And I’m merely a witness to their lives. Nothing fancy.