India. The beginning of my solo adventures.
IN DECEMBER 2014,
I took a leap.
I believe that God has given me a few callings in life, one to be a physician, another to be a photographer, and another to mesh these different areas of my life in some way. In college, I was introduced to the field of public health and global health, and realized that I needed to be proficient in these fields to some degree to be the most effective in the future. God opened the door for me to go to grad school and get my Master's in Public Health with a focus in Global Health Leadership. When the opportunity presented itself to get hands on experience in India and work with the Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC), I went for it. I was excited and scared to journey off to a place I never imagined visiting, but even more nervous to tell my Nigerian parents that their "rebellious" third child would be traveling alone.
Dr. Sujit Brahmochary, the former medical director for Mother Theresa, created the Institute to care for rural mothers who were hugely underserved. In India, women are seen as unequal, and treated as such. Dr. Brahmochary wanted to help dismantle this ideology, advocate, and empower women throughout his region of West Bengal. What started out as a small clinic for women and children has grown into several rural clinics and pharmacies, a home for orphaned and disabled girls, several schools, literacy and economic development programs for women and much more. I went to work for IIMC with the idea to study breastfeeding practices in new mothers; however, the research I had prepared to do on pregnant women fell through because there were not enough women to study when I arrived. This drastic change of plans could have stressed me out, but instead I came up with a new solution. (A better one honestly because it included photography!) I created health education materials focused on hygiene using photos I took throughout the different IIMC sites. I was able to use my photos to make handwashing flyers for the IIMC schools and hygiene education materials for the community health workers. This was especially useful for the many people who could not read in many of the rural communities.
I had to go during my winter break which meant missing Christmas with my family for the first time in my 22 years of life. I didn't expect to get homesick...but I did on Christmas day. So I left India for New Years to see my good friend in Amsterdam, and returned to India for a few days before finally going home in the middle of January 2015.
The fire for travel had already been lit by my daddy back in the day with our trips to see family in Nigeria and Europe, but as a young adult, the taste was different. The personal growth I experienced on this trip was shocking. As a proud African-American woman, experiencing the oppression women in some parts of India still face was difficult for me. Whether I was on the metro or flagging down a tuk tuk to get to farther parts of Kolkata (Calcutta), I would get stared at by men. Some stares were of genuine interest at my appearance (I was rocking some faux dreads at the time) in such a homogenous city, but most were condescending, perverted stares as if to make it known that they had the right to stare at me, invade my space, and study my being. Those were the stares that made my skin crawl and my chests burn with anger. Understanding the cultural differences and constant language barrier, there was nothing I could do but internally reflect on my gratefulness for living in America.
I could share the photos from my time in Dubai, Paris, and Amsterdam, but I want to focus on my time in India. I was afraid to bring my full-frame camera (Canon 6D), and opted to take my Canon rebel T4i and my trusty Tamron 18-270mm zoom lens. I have edited the photos in different ways over the years, some with VSCO and some with LR. Some, I actually left alone. Click through the images to get the full view, and read through the stories behind some of them!
I hope you see a bit of the beauty that I discovered there.