Every now and then, there comes a project that ends up meaning more to a photographer than the actual task at hand. Sometimes the human element becomes the real story instead of just being an integral part of it.
I had the pleasure of being associated with Castrol for the second time, a few months back, as part of Castrol Cricket’s #ContinousProtection Campaign. What started as a simple idea snowballed into a movement. In a country of 13 million,especially in the smaller towns and little shanties in big cities, large plots of land are lost, as over time they are turned into garbage dumps. Vast sprawling spaces are overrun by the stench and malodorous presence of these trashfills.
Enter stage right, Castrol Cricket’s movement of #ContinousProtection took on the task across the cities of Ahmedabad, Delhi and Chennai, ofcleaning up these mini landfills and converting them into cricket batting pitches for the children of such localities.
Wonderful though this story is, the true tale lies in the impact it had on the people. I had the opportunity to photodocument them prepping the cricket pitch post the clean-up… and it was glorious.
There was a palpable crackling energy in the air. As the Castrol volunteers set up the corner pillars, carefully draping and fixing the nets tothem, multitudes of shining eyes stared at them with fascination, tiny hands gripping the window grills with anticipation.
Curious crowds slowly gathered. The atmosphere chittered with muffled conversation.
While they were setting up, I was perched precariously on an unfinished ledge waiting to capture some special moments and I got to talking with one of the local volunteers, as he excitedly waxed eloquent about their fresh new open ground.
“What you guys have done for us is wonderful.Our kids had no place to play in, not to mention the smell that would haunt our houses all day and let’s not even talk about the diseases. But now the whole place is transformed! We have held a pooja here, we’ve done a birthday party here, and now this cricket pitch…”
The excitement in his voice barely covering the tremble of emotion and joy, it was the childlike glow of happiness on his face that made this photographer forget the action happening below.
“You are going to have to make sure to maintain this aren’t you” I queried , not intending to be a killjoy…
“…with our life, brother.This is not just a clean ground for us , it’s not even just a cricket pitch” tilting his head to the side he gestures to the ground below us where, the kids are yelling and laughing.
“…The joy of discovering the smiles on our children’s faces…that’s what this place means to us…and that feeling is priceless.” he says with conviction.
By now the pitch is up, and things really get interesting. Castrol , along with setting up the pitch and cleaning up the place, also distributes shiny new cricket gear to the kids.
Seeing the sense of pride and just that wee bit of attitude on the kids’ faces as they gear up and pose – undirected–chin up, shoulders squared- the perfect Hero Shot, this photographer can’t help but feel his heart swell up.
As they take to the pitch , I notice a huge crowd has gathered all around, the cheers and the yelling, rivalling the volume at Wankhede, and – dare I say it -superseding it in passion.
The match goes on for an hour and is hard fought, with passions flaring, shirts being flung around, et al – in short it is cricket at its common man finest. . Finally, like all good things, this one too ends, and that’s when the crowd gets in on the act.
Kids, adults, volunteers, locals, everyone takes to the pitch, each one wanting to show off their finest form, their most ferocious pace , or their trickiest spin.
They say Cricket is a religion in our country. I think it’s so much more, Religion can, at times, be divisive. Cricket, however, is the ultimate unifier, bringing together everyone, irrespective of colour, status, caste, creed, religion and even gender.
Thank you, Castrol Cricket and Sterling Events, for giving me the opportunity to be part of this wonderful story…
…Until next time..