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My Name is Dechen
I was in Manali for the Foundry Workshop. We had to find a subject for a multimedia photoessay as part of the workshop. Walking around the streets of Manali I was looking for something that I could connect to. And then after two days of aimless wandering around, I stumbled upon this monastery. There I saw this window which had scribbling and doodles etched with perhaps lipstick on it. It made me curious. As I stepped closer to inspect it, Dechen appeared out of nowhere. And as I started to talk to her, I was fascinated by her Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde personality. The recesses of her mind were a ceaseless stream of consciousness poem. I have noticed increasingly that what we see in the media are the ends of the spectrum – either the very pathetic or the supremely glamorous. There is no room for the ‘everyman’ of daily life. This is what drew me to Dechen – her everyday-ness. She could talk to you about mundane things and get away with it. But, if you caught her in one of her moods, you would never think that she could be a ‘normal’ person. Her anomaly, at some level, touched me. There are so many Dechens around us everyday. Very rarely do we see them at all. I’m happy I found one.
The story is basically a glimpse into the outer expressions of the inner being of a woman who I met at a monastery in Manali during the summer. She was just an ordinary person I bumped into while on one of my wanderings in the sleepy town and without her explicit co-operation this project would never have been possible.
I would like people to think about the “Dechens” they pass by everyday. Stop, take a moment to acknowledge their existence and the fact that they too lend a brush stroke in the canvas of life.
This essay has been published in RESOLVE – The liveBooks Photo Blog and a blog by my multimedia instructor during Foundry Workshop, and on Tewfic el-sawy’s The Travel photographer.
Dhiraj Singh is an independent photographer based in Mumbai, India. A graphic designer by profession, he turned to photography to explore the world around him. He has been working professionally since mid 2007 and began by focusing on stories from India. His work has been published in Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Lens Blog, New York Times, Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, L’Espresso, Respekt, The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and others. Dhiraj recently won the third place in the ‘war and disaster’ category at the China International Press Photo Award-2009 and third place in Spot News at “The Asia Media Award” 2008. His work has been exhibited at Global Gallery in Sydney, Australia and The National Maritime Museum, Finland has a permanent collection of his images.
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-david alan harvey