In Chotian village, kids present stories of life through photographs

Harpreet Singh, a Class VI student, has been taking photographs of his village, Chotian, and life in general for the past six weeks. "I want to go to Germany one day and earn money," he says. His enthusiasm for the European nation stems from the initiative that he is involved in. Harpreet and 14 other children of this small village, which has witnessed the second highest number of farmers suicides in the last two decades, are part of a workshop on story writing and photography being conducted by Germany-based documentary film maker, environment and human rights activist Sarah Sandring.

"For long activists and film makers have been coming to this village to study the factors that have led to this large number of farmer suicides in this cotton belt. I wanted the children of the village to tell their stories," explains Sarah who has been working in the village for over two months now. On Saturday, Sarah and her group of fifteen young aspiring photographers set up an exhibition of their work in the village.

So while Harpreet wants to go to Germany, Amritpal Singh (a Class VII student) and Jagsir Singh (a Class VI student) add: " We do not like the way people talk about our village about suicides, poverty and all. We want to change this through our work." The children have captured the daily rigours of life like feeding cattle, teaching their siblings and village elders sitting in the village "sath" (common place) playing cards or chatting.

The German film maker, behind the initiative, says she wanted to understand the situation of small farmers in India particularly in a progressive state like Punjab. "I first approached well known activist Dr Vandana Shiva who then sent me to Punjab to meet Inderjeet Singh Jaijjee. When I came to this village I saw despair around me. There were these big houses which had seen suicides. Amidst these challenges , life existed and this is what I wanted to study and understand from the children's point of view," she adds.

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