Credits / copyrights
The photograph is part of an exhibition, Ambedkar Nagar, near Kakkan Bridge, Chennai, by Yazhini A. held at Lalit Kala Academy, 6-12 December 2019.
Aarti Kawlra selected a photograph from the exhibition, Ambedkar Nagar- Near Kakkan Bridge, Chennai, to write her story for the session on Reading/Writing/Re-writing/Telling/Re-telling using prompts, 20 December 2019.
The first thing that struck me when I saw this image was a memory. The memory of my own ordeal of going to a Convent school in Delhi run by Irish nuns called the Presentation Sisters, where I was briefly, at roughly the same age as this young girl whose hair is being yanked and pulled. The memory was really that of the pain of being stretched at the roots of my scalp, my hair firmly gripped and head stretched outward from my neck as the comb ran rough across the lateral partition of my hair.
This photograph and the memory both induce me to see what is not visible. The unseen face of the young girl who’s left ponytail is adorned by a beautifully formed white flower-shaped ribbon. The eye is directed to the back of this child’s head seated on a stool lower than the mother’s high-backed chair. On the right is an empty chair that visually frames the ponytail making scene and is counter-balanced by the barefoot of the young protagonist on the left. But what I imagine in my mind’s eye, as my eyes gloss over the scene, is the symmetry that must be achieved to complete the hair grooming ritual. My thoughts linger on to the strict injunctions against an errant ponytail hanging out of line, mismatched from its twin and disturbing the order of the imaginary ruler over the head. I imagine her face as I remember my own and immediately connect to the photograph as one only too familiar.
Pedagogical tool: Narrativise a photo