Yet another world with a presence of absence,
"... still remains, within the sound of silence"...
There exists yet another little world inside our big planet, rotating on another orbit with its own rhythm. It is insignificant yet it exists. It has its own citizens, own language, own emotions, own sounds or maybe its own silence too. We may be clueless about the existence of this world and hence it remains unexplored, untouched, unheard of and isolated - like a sudden mute moment inside a cacophony, like a piece of erased memory, like an island that doesn’t exist on map.
When I was approached by a reputed NGO to collaborate with them by photographing a few deaf & dumb children in the city for whom they are working day & night, I had no clue about their work & their world. I didn’t have any idea about their life and situation. Though I was compassionate but I couldn’t relate. As a homework, I tried to learn introductory sign language from YouTube so that it can help me to communicate with those children. Also, I armed myself with studies on deafness on web. But that was it. And believe me, it was not at all enough to face the new world that was awaiting me. The very first day was weird – I could neither communicate nor I was comfortable with them at all. I guess, the feeling was same from their perspective too. But that was just the start of a long journey – an exploration of a hidden world, an unforgettable memory for me.
Gradually, after few weeks, I started responding to the signals of silent souls. I started exploring the existence of an entirely different world around us. Their life, their stories, their smiles, their struggle, their emotions and most importantly their dreams & passions took me to another isolated island - so small, so insignificant, so unnoticed yet very conspicuously present – probably this is how their existence can be described.
Lots of small children across the slum areas of Kolkata, India are suffering from hearing impairment and this trend is increasing at a very fast pace. Genetic behavior, poor hygiene, lack of treatment, sound pollution, lack of awareness, no immunization, early age diseases etc. are the probable causes as the experts say. To their parents and relatives, this issue is treated as the curse from God or their misfortune. Their neighbors evaluate this as the result of the wrong-deeds that they have done in their previous life. But they live their own life in their own way. They come across as introverts, shy to come out of their shells but once you smile at them, you might find out an entirely different human with a spark which you have never seen before.
I visited 8 different slums and backward areas of the city of joy with the help of the NGO to identify these children who are hearing impaired and fighting against all odds. Most of them are living in pathetic environmental conditions either due to socio-economic reasons or sometimes due to severe prejudice & negligence. Some of them are orphans, some are so poor that their family can’t earn bread & butter, hence treatment is a luxury for them. It was absolutely difficult to get the access to their very own world in terms of physical reach as well as psychological intimacy. There were lots of challenges – social, political, religious, and of course, emotional. But the NGO with which I was functioning were unquestionably committed to help & support them. It took time to break the ice, but after that it was one new and enigmatic world of sound & silence. We spent time together, we cracked jokes, we shared our food, we played cricket, we exchanged our stories – all silently, yet in a heart touching fashion.
Some of the stories I encountered are truly heart-wrenching, some are inspiring and some are equally frustrating too.
I found small girl Ananya who saw her mother being murdered by her own father in front of her eyes as he took advantage of the fact that she cannot shout. At the same time, I met Rukshana whose mother Rupa is also deaf but both are loved and cared for by father Alauddin, a cook in a street food corner. I managed to get into a room of 4X4 sq ft. where there was no light at all, the room of Devram, a deaf boy who is mentally retarded too. My voice was choked when I saw the cut marks on Munmun’s entire face which are the gifts from his mentally ill brother who brutally tortures her because she cannot cry for help. It was truly a proud and inspiring story of Nisha, a gatekeeper’s daughter, who stood second in the class where all the other children can speak & hear normally. I saw Meenu who lost her mother few years back, sharing a small dark and unhygienic room with her brother, father and a black cow. I was amazed by the struggle of blood cancer patient Chandan Das for his small kid Sujan who is hearing impaired – Chandan was determined that he is not going to die until he establishes his deaf son in life. It was disgusting to see little Ayesha getting neglected by her own parents who are rich enough but do not care at all for the treatment for their daughter. I saw the Ali’s love for his mother who is a Anganwadi cook and is the only support for Ali as he lost his father when he was a new-born.
Not only the stories, there were little elements which were as insignificant as them, yet they had huge impacts in their lives – may be a small rabbit for Samir or a bi-cycle for Mehrin or a cricket bat for Writtik or a black colored dog “Kali” for Abhishek… And there were many more…
Ananya (4 Yrs.), Rukshana (5 Yrs.), Devram (7 Yrs.), Munmun (7 Yrs.), Nisha (11 Yrs.), Ritika (5 Yrs.), Rehan (8 Yrs.), Ayesha (10 Yrs.), Meenu (12 Yrs.), Rohan (10 Yrs.), Sujan (12 Yrs.), Aman (11 Yrs.), Samir (8 Yrs.) and 26 other such deaf and dumb children were very close to my heart throughout the entire journey. I visited their homes (or cages may be!!), their schools, their play grounds, NGO-run set ups to be a part of their world. I spent lots of time listening to stories from their parents, relatives, NGO representatives and even sometimes from them via sign language & gestures. They shared their dreams, their feelings, their complains, their problems, their glories, their prides, their sorrow and even sometimes their best-kept secrets.
They made me rich with experience and emotionally strong as I journeyed through their lives from their stories - told & untold. This unforgettable journey reminds me about the famous song from “Simon & Garfunkel” -whenever I felt the rhythm of the “sound of silence” – unheard yet euphonious.
Debiprasad is an independent documentary photographer based out of Kolkata, India. Though Debi is a Business Consultant by profession, but his strong passion for documentary photography & photojournalism made him travel to various countries like India, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE, UK, Iraq, Bangladesh and USA. He strongly believes that as a documentary photographer, it is his responsibility to showcase the social changes and its impact on human race and he is committed to leverage photography as the most powerful tool to capture the social changes & behaviors across the globe over the years. His photographic vision is not only to depict social, political and financial issues & conflicts but also to portray surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. That is why, while photographing Debi always asks himself what changes his photos can bring to the lives of his “subjects” suffering in the darkest corners of the world.
Awards & Recognitions
Winner of Neutral Density Photography Gold Star Award, 35Awards Russia, International Color Awards USA, Tokyo International Foto Awards, International Photographer of The Year, MonoVisions Photography Awards UK, Nikon India PowerYourClicks Photography Contest (Judged by Magnum Photographer Mr. Raghu Rai), Moscow International Foto Awards, Black & White Spider Awards USA, Monochrome Awards, Chromatic Awards USA, Prix de la Photographie Paris, International Photography Awards USA, Photographic Society of America Gold Medal, FIAP Blue Pin for Best Author, United Photographers International Gold Medal, Photographic Society of Singapore Gold Medal, Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique Gold Medal, Grand Prize Winner at PhotoFest Asia Bangladesh, International Union of Photographers Jury’s Choice Gold Medal Hong Kong, International Association of Art Photographers (IIAP) Gold Medal, Czech Federation of Art Photography CFFU Silver Medal, Black & White International Award Rome, Italy, CIEP Gold Medal Romania, Nomination winner of Photogrvphy Grant UK, Runner-up in InterAction (alliance organization in Washington, D.C. of NGOs) 14th Annual Photo Contest for “Women Empowerment”, Winner of Fotoforum Award Menschen Germany, Second place in India Photography Award – Travel, Diploma from Image Sans Frontiere, France, Second place winner in 'Global Village' Photographic Competition from Society of International Travel & Tourism Photographers, UK, Master of Light Silver Medal, Digital Photo Archive Silver Medal Ireland , Third Prize Winner – Photojournalism at Kolkata Short Film Festival & Photography Festival, Zivko Janevski Bronze Medal, Curator 1st Choice Award world-street photography, Finalist of HIPA Award, and many honorable mentions/prizes from Ireland, Serbia, USA, Singapore, Hungary, UK, Argentina, Russia, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Egypt, Croatia, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Armenia, Tajikistan, Japan, France, Canada, Slovakia, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Albania, Uzbekistan, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, Bosnia and Herzegovina & India. He has been nominated as a jury member in 35Awards Russia 2017 and also was the convenor of first ever Kolkata International Photography Festival 2019.
Publications & Exhibitions
His photographs have been published in many international magazines/websites e.g. Vogue Italia, National Geographic, The Irish Times, F-Stop (USA), Fotoforum (Germany), Rammajamma Images (Australia), Society of International Travel & Tourism Photographers (UK), The Telegraph, Life Force Magazine (UK), Dodho Magazine (Spain), Positive Magazine (Germany), Social Documentary Network, Private Photo Review, ViewFind (USA), Edge of Humanity, Monovisions, 121Clicks, aCurator, Eyeshot Magazine, Scryptic (USA), World Street Photography etc.
Debiprasad’s photographs were exhibited in several exhibitions globally e.g. International Exhibition of Art & Photography at "Galerie Romain Rolland", Indo-French Cultural Center, New Delhi, Slovenia International Photographic Exhibition, International Phodar Biennial Bulgaria (2019), Plovdiv International Photo Festival Bulgaria, The Search for Economic Justice Exhibition at University of Wisconsin La Crosse Murphy library USA, Photography Group Exhibition "Portraiture" Serbia, PONDY-ART 2016 - DRIVING FORCE Photography Exhibition, Pondicherry, India, EikonCulture - Visual Reflections Photography Exhibition Italy 2017, Asian University for Women Bangladesh, Photo Life – Art Hub Annual Exhibition Kolkata, India, Dhaka International Photo Fest 2019, Polyphony Photo Festival 2019, Blank Wall Gallery Athens Greece 2017, “Because I Was There” Indo-Bangladesh Photo Exhibition Dhaka 2018, Consortium for Street Children (UK), Instagram First Ever Photography Exhibition in India, "PHOTOGRAPHY UTSAB" Kolkata, Academy of Fine Arts Kolkata, Aarohanam Art Society - ISA Mostra Envision India, Nagpur, Spring Photo Festival Bardaf Slovakia etc.
Debiprasad is professionally associated with one of the largest multinational technology consulting company as business consultant. He has completed his Post Graduation in Business Management (IIM Calcutta, IISWBM) & Graduation in Electrical Engg. He is currently based in Kolkata and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/ +919830318394.