Tale of two girls - Deepti Asthana

As soon as the first drops of blood trickled between my thighs, my whole world changed. I was the girl with the short hair, the one who loved playing cricket with her brothers, but now, I was being reminded, repeatedly, to learn to behave like a woman. These were my teenage years, growing up in Uttar Pradesh, in a home run by a single mother. This was family, but all I wanted was to escape.

In July 2016, I went away to the lofty peaks of Himalayas. There, I met Manisha and Babita, both were thirteen, living in curiously attractive stone houses. They were friends and neighbors, always walking hand-in-hand. Our friendship grew with a teenager’s intensity amidst the unending pine forests. We became like children, hiding beneath a layer of thick mist hovering above us. There was a strange feeling of familiarity and comfort as we walked for miles together. With every day we spent in each other’s company, I had the opportunity to witness this fragility unfold in the lap of nature.

Babita and Manisha are not typical urban teenagers who were raised to obsess over their clothes and shoes, they did not day dream about their first kiss, that would be sinful in their minds. Their changing bodies never concerned them, they did not fear growing up, or becoming a woman. They were already being treated as one.

Life in the mountains can be ruthless, particularly for women. These teenagers are already being exposed to this harshness. Their days are filled with household responsibilities, they turn to nature to find a safe space. I documented their lives in a very spontaneous way. However, the photographs shown in this narrative must not be confused with their actual lives. I only focused on the tender moments which were free of any sort of worry, responsibility, and the weight of their futures. The moments which allow them to escape this reality, their reality.

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