Italian lensman’s photo gives new lease of life to Poonam | bhopal | Hindustan Times
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Italian lensman’s photo gives new lease of life to Poonam

bhopal Updated: Nov 18, 2014 22:09 IST
Shruti Tomar
Poonam Jatev


Six-year-old Poonam Jatev, refreshing under the rain on a gloomy day outside her hut in August 2009, never knew that the apparently inconsequential act had the potential to change her life forever.

The moment — with her face lilted up to taste the monsoon rain — captured on camera by a photojournalist, not only helped Poonam continue her education but also changed the life of her family.

London-based Italian documentary photographer and multimedia journalist Alex Masi had came to Bhopal in 2009 to document the traumatic aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy, especially focusing on the affected children and their daily struggle.

While photographing Poonam's brother Sachin — one of the gas-affected victims — Masi saw Poonam enjoying in the rain outside a shanty situated in front of the abandoned Union Carbide plant and captured the moment.

The photograph won Masi the 'Photographers Giving Back Awards' inspiring him to create a Facebook page for those interested in Poonam’s journey.

Masi handed over the prize money of $5,000 to the girl’s family.

Masi's largesse not only helped Poonam and her elder sister Jyoti get enrolled in a private school, it assisted the impoverished family build a pucca house with a toilet.

Neelam, a local aid worker, who mentors the family, said that a campaign — Poonam-a tale of hope — was launched in 2011 to raise more funds for Poonam.

"Alex has changed my life," said Poonam.

"When Alex met me, I was a dropout student but now I am studying and I want to be a teacher one day so that I can teach more children like me and my sister."

Masi, who is in Bhopal, said he aims to support Poonam’s education till class 12, while documenting her life.

"I am documenting her life and presenting these photographs at many places across the world. With the page, we are raising our fund," Masi told HT.

"Recently, we received $4,000 for Poonam from (the) USA... I would like to contribute it to education... of gas survivors because I think even after three decades of the accident, a lot was needed to be done for the gas survivors."