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An emotional get-together

By Our Staff Reporter

Filmmaker Mira Nair with street children at the inauguration of a unique international photo exhibition in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

NEW DELHI, DEC. 4. The street is their home, and struggle their life. But having dared to move beyond the mundane to carve a future of their own, this is an unlikely "army' of 121 children who hope to `shoot' their way through to acceptance.

It was an emotional get- together for film-maker Mira Nair and the children of the Salaam Baalak Trust that was started with the profits of her first feature film "Salaam Bombay'' on street children, when the noted director inaugurated a special photo exhibition "Home\Life'' providing a glimpse of street children's lives as seen and captured by them on film this Saturday.

"The images that we see in life depend on who is seeing them. If we don't tell our stories nobody will. My films have always been inspired by the street, by people and life. I had spent four months living with children who worked as rag pickers to know their struggle for my film. Some of the children here are from the Salaam Baalak Trust which started with the profits of "Salaam Bombay''. It feels really good to see that 5,000 children have profited from the effort over the years,'' said Mira.

Initiated by the Netherlands-based homeless World Foundation, the exhibition is supported by Plan India, the International Labour Organisation and the Royal Netherlands Embassy of India. The two-week long exhibition is a result of a workshop organised in 11 cities across the globe in 2001. Nearly 121 children were taught the basics of photography, given a camera and asked to capture images, with the Foundation ending up with nearly 15,000 photographs.

Their reasons for choosing to capture a real scene on reel may have varied from an innocent "I took the picture because I liked the car'' to more serious "If you look carefully you will know he is ready to do things other than begging'', but what brings them together is the desire to tell their story their way.

Not all of them had an interest in photography to begin with, but with time and result, interest grew with some now wanting to take up photography as a profession. "I was quite confused about what I wanted to do in life earlier. When the workshop started I liked it but was still not sure. But as I learnt more, the interest grew. Now I am serious about it and would like to take it up as a profession,'' said Haran one of the students who was part of the workshop.

Having seen the applause that was received by their friends, those taking the workshop now are also just as enthusiastic. For Kanpur-based Pankaj, who ran away from home six years ago because of poverty and abuse at the hands of parents, the Salaam Baalak Trust came as a welcome break.

"I realise that running away from home was not a good decision. I did go and meet my parents once after joining this place. But now I like it here, as I can read, write and also learn a lot of other things. Now that I am part of the new photo workshop, I am hoping that I too will get the chance to showcase my works,'' he said.

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