Lost childhood

“I’ll be honest with you; Lamas make for interesting subjects for photography with their red and yellow robes. Initially, I was planning to take their pictures too, but when I learnt of the stories of child monks, I decided to pursue them,” admits 20-year-old Kashish Parpiani, a student of Jai Hind College.

This, for me, is my best shot in the series. They are allowed to watch television once a week and that one segment of a Sunday is so important to them, that everybody shuts up when the television is playing. Pic courtesy/Kashish Parpiani

Parpiani was selected from applicants across 31 countries for a photography workshop in Manali by photographer Sam Harris. The photo documentary is a result of him capturing the daily lives of monks for almost eight hours a day for five days.

The kids at the monastery study for 7-8 hours a day, and in between, they enjoy tea breaks or small breaks when the head monks go for their evening prayer. This picture was shot during one of their breaks when everyone else was running around the compound, playing catch or just admiring the toys the elder kids had. Meanwhile, this kid stood over the kitchen barrack, looking at the hullabaloo that was ensuing down there. I thought this fit with the Tibet issue and my metaphor for it — Tibet stands alone, unattended amid dark skies watching as the rest of the world is at play.

Through his self published book, Parpiani has captured the child monks in their most earthy settings: “They are children of Tibetan refugees. Many have to sacrifice one child to the monasteries, as they can’t feed the entire family. There are several such children in different monasteries in India,” shares Parpiani. “Everyone is bothered about the FDI, no one will want to talk about this issue, as there is no vote bank involved and no one wants to stand up against China’s policies. These refugees have to renew a yellow card by the government every year. Imagine having to renew one’s identity, annually,” he questions.

Parpiani says that they are like other children, fighting over TV remote, “They are removed from the world, one of them, very innocently, asked me if Sonia Gandhi will give them Tibet back?” He lists some of his favourite shots.

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