If you have had the fortune to travel and visit places away from well beaten tourist tracks you will be aware of the fascination that a digital camera will often provoke. Children especially are mesmerised by them – ‘picture’ ‘photo’ they will cry gleefully and if you are patient enough you can take the snap and then show them the result as they crowd around you grabbing your arms. The result is often gleeful giggles and a cacophony of more request for photos. The fascination of seeing yourself captured in a camera, maybe for the first time, is a powerful experience – especially in communities that are not bombarded by images like many city dwellers, TV watchers or internet surfers are.  Being here in India for a longer time has given me the chance to do something I have always wanted to do. To get the images developed and return them as a gift. I also have the fortune of having some wonderful photos that were taken by a Spanish professional photographer on my last visit here in 2006.  Developing large size pictures is reasonably cheap, but I can’t afford to frame them. However I have been able to ‘back them’ with card.  So I set off yesterday on my bike to the village of Pannur to deliver them.

Photo courtesy of Laura Lizancos

In many of the simple houses in the villages there are no pictures, sometimes you will see a Hindu or Christian picture, the Divine Mercy seems to be very popular amongst the Christians. I stumbled across a stash of them in the parish house, so its seems to have been enthusiastically promoted by one of the devotees of Sister Faustina and gratefully received. Two of the Pictures stood out for me.  The first one – to the right – is of Prakash and his son peeping out from their door frame. Unusually the little boy was very shy of the strange foreigners visiting the village.  When I developed it I was told that since the photo was taken his son had died. The child mortality rate is too high in the villages. When I asked my fellow Jesuits if it would be wise to give this to Prakash – they replied ‘Of course, it will be very precious for him’. So this morning when I dropped in ‘out of the blue’ it was difficult to read his reaction. A mixture of course of sadness and tenderness. I hope I have done the right thing!  The second happier picture below is of Pretnamma and her newly born child.  This was a photo I took myself (I think) and I love it because of the look of pride and joy in both the mothers and grandmothers eyes.  A safe birth is not taken for granted in the village.  I also have fond memories of it as it was taken a few weeks before my brothers twin girls were born. Pretnamma promised to pray for my sister-in law Rachel and vice versa.  So it was lovely to drop in yesterday evening after I arrived, just before a thunder storm and sit with her and her beautiful little girl Monica and give them the photo. Drinking chai with them as the rain hit bounced off their corrugated roof, and eating ‘roti’ and laughing at my bad Kannada will be a memory I will cherish.   Who do you know who would love to receive a photograph from you as a surprise gift?