January 18, 2020
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A Cold Drizzle

A prettified celebration of want—itself wanting

A Cold Drizzle
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
If I Were Rain
By Nanni Singh
Photo Editor Prabuddha Dasgupta
Youthreach Price: not mentioned; Pages: 306
‘Celebrating the spirit of India's disadvantaged urban child’ is the subtitle on the cover of If I Were Rain. At first flip, the book appears to be one of a kind. A beautifully-produced photography portfolio (hardback, lovely paper and, naturally, in documentary black and white), laced with just the right amount of stark text, designed with slickness and competence; an exercise in making an exquisite visual feast from an emotive if familiar subject. The proceeds from this book will go to the great and good organisations who work with the protagonists on these pages.  

Sadly, that’s all there is to it. Without doubt, there are many fine photographs in this book. They do bring to life the individuals that these children are, fleshing them out as people rather than statistics, and often revealing in flashes their thoughts and surroundings—through the supporting text that weaves the children’s voices. The emotional charge is undeniable, but I wonder just what is being celebrated. Their spirit? Their survival instinct? (Did you expect any different?) Their deprivation?

Beyond that, however, we learn little. We’re scarcely surprised, for example, to hear the kids tell us that people are ready to kill in the name of god, or that given the power to change the world they would "eradicate all slums, ensure that ragpickers study" and that there’s a "change (in) people’s eating habits". Seen from this perspective, this seems to be an exercise of preaching to the converted. For me, it rarely rises above fine photography wrapped in a cold, somewhat distant design which for all its skill, stays alien to its subject, never dirtying its hands. A book to look at? Certainly. A successful fund-raiser? Very probably. Inspirational? It could have been.

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