Photos from the Field – Daniela Gheorghe in India (Part 1)

Daniela Gheorghe is a 2014 IBL Alumna who has worked in India both before and after the IBL program. She is the Co-Founder, Business Development of vChalk, which connects inspiring minds to children in India. Follow Daniela on Twitter @ella_gh

(To view captions, press the “Info” button on the top right of the gallery.)

[img src=]8891Listen: Munmi’s Sister
I woke up refreshed that morning after my first sleep under a mosquito net. In Munmi’s house in the village, her little cousin-sister agreed to have a photo session. After 30 min, I was still looking forward to her smile. It didn’t occur.
[img src=]9363Admire: Red Pattern of Mekhela Chador
Mekhela Chador is a traditional Assamese dress of two pieces worn by women
[img src=]7550Admire: Old Portal of Ahom Kingdom
In Sivasagar, a city in Assam, among the ruins of Ahom kingdom. Ahoms ruled Assam for six centuries until 1819 before the ruling class was wiped out by the Burmese
[img src=]6760Admire: Candle Making in Sivadol temple
At the entry of Sivadol temple built in the 18th century in Sivasagar, one man fills ceramic lamps with the butter from cow milk (known as ‘ghee’) and beautifully displays them for sale.
[img src=]6141Admire: Candle Fire with Incense Sticks
The light of burning ghee is said to keep evil influence away. This explains why cow ghee is used in lamps in temples and pujas all over India.
[img src=]5740Listen: Protest in a Village
During a morning walk on the village streets, I found a boy with a message written on his jeans. He wasn’t in school that day.
[img src=]5280Admire: Bamboo Kitchen in Allengmora village
Not far from Jorhat, the second largest city in Assam, we visited families to recruit vision assistants for the community. A woman was making tea for us on an open fire in her bamboo hut. It took more than 30 min for the water to boil.
[img src=]5131Listen: Intriguing Green
This girl charmed me on spot. She was standing behind her mother on the bamboo terrace of their village hut.
[img src=]4891Listen: After-school Chat
Children with umbrellas in Jorhat on their way back from school.
[img src=]4640Listen: Wandering at the Entrance
Children take their shoes off and wander around the stone elephants at the entrance of Vaishnavite monastery where a lamp has been continuously kept burning for 484 years. The event was officially recognized in 2012 by the Asia Book of Records.
[img src=]4401Listen: Woman Laughing on a Tea Estate
Assam is the biggest producer of quality tea in India, contributing about 55% to the country’s total tea production. About 135 tea gardens spread for kilometers around Jorhat city. Close to the plantations are the laborers’ headquarters.
[img src=]4110Listen: Tea Tribes Children in Jorhat
Assam's tea industry is dependent on about 2 million laborers: the descendents of those who were brought to Assam as slaves first by the East India Company from 1830’s through 1920’s. The descendents of these slaves are now called ‘tea tribes’ and they are often exploited with low wages and poor living conditions by tea-planters.
[img src=]4051Admire: The Sound of the Bells in Sivadol Temple, Sivasagar
When the bell dongs, the sound originates and then slowly vanishes. This is a symbol that reminds devotees in Indian temples of reality’s three stages of evolution: creation, preservation and destruction.
[img src=]3950Learn: Patient in a Rural Eyecare Center
A trained optometrist finds the correct measurements for a woman's eyeglasses in a new eyecare center situated in the proximity of a few villages in Jorhat district. Without such services, a person living in the villages has to spend up to five times more than a person living in Jorhat to visit the doctor for a simple eye check-up.
[img src=]3891Learn: Eye Test for People Who Don’t Recognize Letters
During an ‘eye camp’ consultation, a village woman is trying to read the symbols on the paper. Hundreds of people can come to the camp when the ophthalmologic team arrives in their village.
[img src=]3960Engage: Bamboo Sadness
When I smiled at the camera, I didn’t imagine the mother and her daughter were not smiling behind me. I looked at the picture later and felt ignorant of the reality around me.
[img src=]3950Engage: Red Saree without Shyness
The saree is a South Asian garment for women, with a length of about 5 meters. When a young bride wears a red saree, she should also show shyness and not look people directly in their eyes. It was unnatural and difficult for me to portray shyness.
[img src=]3770Engage: Surrounded with Care
During a meeting with the vision assistant women, we discussed the tactics to create awareness in the community about the opening of the new eyecare center with quality, affordable consultations and eyeglasses.

2013 was one of the most challenging years I ever experienced. As I led the Business Development efforts in a start-up 6,300 km (3,900 miles) away from home to offer affordable eyecare services in rural areas, I discovered some of my limits and how adaptable I could become.

This photo-gallery is just a glimpse of the months I spent in Jorhat district, Assam state, one of the ‘seven tribal states’ of India. I have structured the photographs in four categories. Each picture has a title starting with one of the four action verbs that are together completing my definition of a full life experience.

  • Admire – photographs that make for a glimpse of the local culture, what I admire
  • Listen – especially to children and their moments, in photographs
  • Learn – why I chose to do this work, what I learned
  • Participate – a few photographs find me engaged, involved

I hope you enjoy this first gallery. Stay tuned for the next ones!