Children of nature - Deepti Asthana

Chaukori, in Kumaon, is a mountain village in Himalayas. Tiny, yet pristine, a misty white cloud of fog ran through its mountains, roads and even forests. This is where I met Babita and Manisha, both aged 13. They were neighbors and friends, living in curiously attractive tiny stone houses.

While Manisha was bold, had beautiful almond shaped eyes and thick long hair, Babita was a feeble girl who was often beaten by her grandmother if she didn’t obey her. Obeying meant working all day long. She was 13 but looked like an 8-year-old kid.

Life in the mountains is harsh, particularly for women. Sadly, these teenage village girls are already being exposed to this harshness. By the age of 10, they are supposed to cook, collect wood for fuel help their mothers in fields and take cattle for grazing all day long.

But I wanted to photograph that child in them who perhaps still retains its innocence, its carefree playfulness and finds happiness in nature's lap. In the unending pine forests set among the lofty peaks of western Himalayas, I was searching for those lost moments of childhood.

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