Both powerful and dazzlingly unique, today’s Photo Story comes from Pallavi Gaur of Delhi, India. Taken during an assignment to one of Delhi’s biggest landfill sites, her sun-bleached images simply engage, speaking volumes with every gesture and expression she so expertly captured.
“I was working on an assignment with a journalist who was recording a podcast from the landfill,” she said about the background for this set.“While I was working as a translator, I grew close to the girls and took these shots as we went along. I found what they took from their everyday life extremely uplifting most times, profound.”
Pallavi was gracious enough to share with us a detailed account about the people she encountered during her visit:
“In the shadow of things, I could hear the voice of a young girl. Her voice, quivering in the heat of the day, a kind of crying that takes over your whole body, and it seems she is trying to remember her dream from last night. ‘A serpent, I was scared the whole night. I tried to wake everyone, I also wear this tabeez.’ She gasps a sigh of relief before turning to the sound of the trucks carrying fresh garbage for the day.
“’Once, they dropped a truck full of white mice, soft and fury with red eyes. I would let them run all over my body; white mice do not harm you.’ The dogs caught half of them, whereas Anjum and I carried a few in our bags. Sharuna had a gravely voice and she would run out of breath, while speaking. ‘I sold a pair for hundred rupees at the mosque.’ At this point, she offers me her hand to climb up this towering mountain of garbage that sits on the Karnal-Haryana border of New Delhi. The 40 acre landfill site in Bhalswa in North Delhi is one of the largest dumping grounds of the city, workplace for the Khan family that lives in the nearby Kalandar colony, and also an occasional playground for their children. This is the third generation from the family that lives off rag picking and reselling garbage.
“Under the gleaming skies of the month of March, the giant birds held up mid-air for the searing buffalo skin they can spot from above.
“Anjum looks upset, and after probing her for a while, she says, ‘They all are leaving me here, and I do not know what I will do without them’. Jasmine’s parents live in Punjab and have been there ever since she lost her older sister to dengue last year. ‘The night before, I dreamt that my sister and I were playing together in Punjab. She has come back and I was celebrating, giving sweets to everyone. I was taking photographs of her, playing. And then suddenly I got up and broke into tears thinking that, it had been so long since I last saw Asiba in my dream’, remembers Jasmine.
“As we were hopping over the marshy parts of the landfill, Jasmine insisted on showing where Asiba lays buried.‘You can see it from the top.’ Barefoot and fearless, they move through this pile of garbage, old and new, like fairies. The youngest one of the lot is always at the end, mostly collecting toys for the evening. And as Sharuna explains, ‘She just comes with us to keep her heart’. Plotting the best way to reach the top of the landfill, we carried on picking glass, broken zippers, plastic, constantly turning to keep an eye on the garbage trucks. You can spot them from afar if you follow the cloud of dust that envelopes the machine and moves with it. ‘Koki died when she came under one of these trucks’, says Anjum. ‘Her whole body smashed to the road, I saw it from the top, she had gone down to drink water. Now, Koki is buried next to Asiba; I would dream of her every night.‘
“I spot Jasmine standing at the edge, saving her scarf from flying off her head, ‘When people from our side die, they are all buried there, around the MukarbaChowk. Look at how the bus just turned, they have built these new roads, and it keeps going round and round’. She stares into the vastness of longing, the nearness of memory, stood strongly afoot on the burning garbage. Let’s go back, shouts Sharuna, it’s a steep way downhill, and I am scared, I say to her.
“‘I do not fear anything because I keep my heart open’, laughs Sharuna.”
To learn more about Pallavi and her amazing work please visit: