How An Unknown Girl’s Sketches Took A Photographer On Expedition

In year 2011, while Chandan Gomes was working on some project in Jaipur hospital, he came across an ordinary looking school notebook in hospital's ashram, which surprisingly took him on an epic journey to the Himalayan range.

The book had nothing written in it with any school notes or name, but was filled with complete sketches. Surprisingly, all the sketches were of mountains. He hold on to the notebook for while and went through all the 31 sketches drawn in it.

He tried a lot to figure out the owner of notebook but it went all in vain. Gomes then decided to go on an expedition traveling through Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Ladakh while clicking photographs and writing words as a response to the child's drawing.

He captured photographs with the same landscapes as they were drawn by the child artist, with an idea to handover to these photographs if he met the child someday.

dead little girl Sketches Photgrapher Chandan Gomes Expedition

His journey lasted for around 8 months and after coming back, the nurse of the Ashram told him about the girl child to whom the notebook belonged.

She also told him that the child was terribly sick and towards the end of her life. "The weaker she grew, more she drew..."
As told to Gabdig, Bano was suffering from a blood related disorder.

dead little girl Sketches Photgrapher Chandan Gomes Expedition

Gomes managed to reach the girl's village in Baran, Rajasthan but sadly discovered that she was dead. She was 12 years old, named Aini Haseena Bano.

dead little girl Sketches Photgrapher Chandan Gomes Expedition

Gomes decided to make a book using Bano's sketches and sharing about his experiences. He has already been making hand written books since his college days.

dead little girl Sketches Photgrapher Chandan Gomes Expedition
dead little girl Sketches Photgrapher Chandan Gomes Expedition

The front and back of his book's cover are exactly the same as the Bano's notebook. He has almost attributed his work in honor of Bano.

The book was released in Oct, 2015 as "This World of Dew," published by PHOTOINK with photographic artist Roger Ballen.

It reflects the emotional knot between Gomes, his photographs & Bano's sketches and it's probably the best way by which he can call his journey to be successful after 5 years.

dead little girl Sketches Photgrapher Chandan Gomes Expedition

Here is a brief conversation of Chandan Gomes with Gabdig, sharing about his experiences and emotions attached with his Bano :

When you reached Bano's place did you tell her family about your journey ? What was their reaction?

I arrived in her village in Baran (Rajasthan) in February, 2013. There I met her uncle, Shaukat, who told me that she had passed away over a year ago. After Aini's death, her family left the village. Shaukat took me to her grave and showed me her house, which was in shambles. It took me another 8 months to trace her father, Anwar, who was then working as a daily wage labourer in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Delhi.

Did you see any picture of Bano at her place?

Bano's father, Anwar, gave me her crayons, her doll and the only photograph he had of her. And she had drawn on it too!

What would you like to share with the readers regarding experiences or some instances from your journey ?

My journey began in December, 2011 when I found her drawing copy. And it ended in October 2014, when I made my last photograph, inspired by the only vertical drawing she had done in her copy. So it was almost a three year long journey.

She had passed away even before I found her notebook...Aini's drawings were never about the future she imagined for herself, but rather an acceptance that she would not live long enough to ever see a mountain.

From where did you get the hope that someday you might meet the owner of notebook to be returned with beautiful photographs ?

Aini's drawings gave me the hope that I will find her someday. They are beautiful...my photos are a tribute to her imagination and her love for life, against all odds.

What message would you like to send to the readers?

Saul Leiter, the great American Photographer in one his last interviews said "There are the things that are out in the open and then there are the things that are hidden...and life has more to do, the real world has more to do with what is hidden."

These our words to live by...for what is life without wonder and belief?

Today, Chandan Gomes is a documentary photographer based out of Delhi. He also teaches at the Sri Aurobindo College of Arts and Communications, Delhi.

'The World Of Dew' Is Available For Sale, Here.

Image Source © Chandan Gomes / PHOTOINK

(Featured image - Miranda by John William Waterhouse)