I had the pleasure of first meeting Abdul at the rug factory where he works in Panipat. He’s been standing up, 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, doing this work for the last 20 years. This is where he met his wife and is raising his five children.
I then went on to visit the community where Abdul and all the other rug makers live. It was a bit of a shock to see the conditions: open sewers, trash everywhere, swarms of flies, so many children, human beings, packed together in such close quarters.
When we arrived at his home, I was taken aback that his wife and 4 children live in a space no bigger than two twin beds pulled together. Abdul had moved almost all his belongings into the street and borrowed plastic chairs just for our arrival, to welcome us and help us feel comfortable.
Sometimes behind the lens of a camera I feel removed from the environment I am shooting, detached and aloof just focusing on the task at hand. But here I took a step back, put the camera down for a moment and took in his warmth and hospitality to welcome us into his home and life. It took my breath away.
Abdul said he felt like a movie star with all our crew and cameras. He is very proud of the life he is providing for his children, giving them the opportunity to be educated. A chance he himself never had.
Children surround our crew, swarming us and our equipment, excited to look at the camera screens and watch as we capture interviews. Little children would edge closer and closer to Abdul to try to get into the shot, while older kids with cell phones were taking pictures of us interviewing him. It was easy to see why Abdul felt like a celebrity.
Watching Abdul in his environment, surrounded by family and neighbors, the excitement and energy was palpable. As I jumped into a group picture and children pressed up against me, Abdul’s positivity and excitement easily transferred and my smile could not have been bigger.