How this baby made a lensman cry 19 years later

24 August 2009

prashna

For news photographers life is one endless “assignment”. The ticking timepiece, the pressure to capture The Moment better than the others on the beat, the boxing for space between “video” and “still” leaves little room for reflection, even less for poetry.

In staff-strapped Indian media houses, the sublime and the ridiculous—ministerial visits, seminars, crime scenes, “human interest”, celebrity photocalls, accidents, book releases, quarterly results, cricket matches—all jostle for equal attention.

Amateurs and shamateurs have discovered their ways of dealing with the pressures. The coscientious and professional keep their head above the water by organising themselves, by keeping personal emotions out, and by not getting overly sentimental.

In February 1989, K. Gopinathan (in picture, left), then as now, a world-class news photographer with his heart in the right place, received word that a baby abandoned the day after her birth, had been given shelter seven months later by a children’s home in Bangalore aptly named Ashraya.

“My first glimpse of the infant was a shock: a sweet-looking baby minus arms and legs. Suddenly I was battered by all sorts of feelings. I cried in my heart: “God, why did you punish this beautiful child?” I then pushed aside my emotions prepared for the shoot. That was when she looked at the camera directly, raising her torso as if to assert herself: “This is me! This is what I am!”

Gopi’s picture, frontpaged in the undivided Indian Express under T.J.S. George, attracted the attention of an American single-parent, Catherine Cox, who came forward to adopt her, named her Minda Cox, and took her to the United States.

***

19 years later, in January last year, Gopi, now the chief photographer of The Hindu in Bangalore, received word that mother and daughter were in Bangalore for the silver jubilee reunion of its adopted children.

In an article on The Hindu website to mark World Photography Day, Gopinathan describes the surreality of the experience:

“I looked around, foolishly, for a baby without limbs, not realising she was a young woman now…. Amidst much clapping and cheering, I was introduced as the first person to have taken her picture.

“She beckoned to me, grabbed my hand and held it under her chin. By now I was choking with emotion and parallely I was conscious of the fact that I had not shed a single tear when my father died.”

Then began a quest to hunt for Minda Cox’s biological parents, which Gopi documented magnificently with Divya Gandhi here, here and here.

The search took them to Kolekebailu, 30 km from Manipal on the west coast of India, to the village of Kalavathi and Shankar Shetty.

“As we neared the village, we saw villagers lining both sides of the road…. The crowd was getting restive and I had a tough time convincing them they would get their turn to see Minda. One man repeatedly tried to sneak in and I asked him exasperatedly why he was in hurry.

“‘I am her father, Sir,’ came the reply.”

mindaRead the full article: No more a question mark

Photographs: courtesy K. Gopinathan/ The Hindu

Also read: Bunt bird who soared from Manipal to Missouri

The 2008 India Press Photo award-winning picture

How a world-class yoga photograph was shot

In a democracy, prince and pauper beg together

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10 Responses to “How this baby made a lensman cry 19 years later”

  1. omsherryom Says:

    This is the True and Humanitarian face of the media… people like Gopi work with botheir heart and mind and look how they affect the society…..
    eye-opening

  2. Bhoopesh Gupta Says:

    Salam Gopi Ji & Great Salute to ”Catherine Cox”. Also salute to “great Human Beings”

  3. sunil kaithwas Says:

    salam

  4. MOHIT MITTAL Says:

    hello gopi ji,
    you r very lucky that god chose u for that great job.It means that how god is near to you.

  5. Sanjay Ankil Says:

    Dear gopi ji,
    Sir aap great hai… aap ko salam …

    tx
    Sanjay Ankil
    Bhopal

  6. sarvesh Says:

    “God, why did you punish this beautiful child?” I then pushed aside my emotions prepared for the shoot….this made you the great photojournalist sir…great and …no words from my side .

  7. riyaz siddiqui Says:

    Dear sir,

    u drawn a line & nobody can crossed it.

    i salute you

  8. PRAVEEN TOMAR Says:

    mai aapko really salaam krta hoon.PRAVEEN TOMAR SR.ONLINE EDITOR
    P7 NEWS


  9. A very touching story

  10. umed rawat Says:

    sabash gopi, you r very lucky that god chose u for that great job.


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