Balasubramanya KV, Consultant – Communication and Advocacy, reflects on his award-winning photo submitted to the Lancet Highlights 2021: line of sight photo competition. This blog also features other photos in the series. The award listing can be accessed here.

The very first time that I visited the Mysuru NCD project was in its first phase in 2018. It was to interact with some of the people who had registered themselves as patients/clients to manage well the lifestyle diseases of Hypertension and Diabetes. My visit was to develop messages on various behavioural and other issues that influence management of Hypertension and Diabetes for the IVRS system that KHPT had introduced.

I have always loved and looked forward to visit our intervention sites, for they are the gold mines of my learning, experiences and insights that have enriched me not only professionally, but also personally.

There was also a personal connect with my visit to Mysuru, especially to V V Mohalla (formerly Vonti Koppal)  – Kumbara Koppalu area, which is replete with fond memories of my younger days and the brisk transformative phase from adolescence to youth.  The swimming pool in a farm house there was a favourite joint for our group adventures, the many cricket pitches were the breeding ground of my dreams, and I remember the haunting stories of the burial grounds next to a particular cricket pitch!  

When I passed through the main roads and lanes of the Kumbara Koppalu area and got down at the UPHC, I was awestruck. There was a shade of melancholy to my silence. My Vonti Koppalu and Kumbara Koppalu had drifted into oblivion long ago through the infinite passage of time.

Yoga Class
The early morning yoga class

It was a big community hall.  The voice of the Yoga teacher was steady and calm, yet struggling to suppress an authoritative tone! What struck me was the number of windows letting in subdued morning light.  Friends and foes at the same time! The students were carefully listening to the teacher and struggling to act upon her instruction to strike a pose as accurately as possible, but their disobedient bodies were in constant conflict with the instructions!  Added to that was the distraction of an unwanted photographer who had gate-crashed into the proximity of their comfort zone.  But, the announcement from the Yoga teacher about the purpose of the photo documentation and the request for consent from our friendly coordinator Krishna Prasad put them at relative ease.

I was just moving around to explore an angle and a composition that my heart and camera would agree with! There was struggle all around, the participants were trying their level best to be themselves and I was striving to lose myself in that amorphous composition of light and shade inside me.

Moving around briskly from long shot to mid close- ups through files and rows, I must have clicked 60 to 70 frames from every nook and corner without getting a nod from my heart! A couple of close ups and mid close ups were almost there. But the windows! Ah, the window plotted against me and played spoilsport!  The windows, my friends, suddenly appeared like devils in the frame!  Their devilish smiles were in most of the frames!

Battling with the light in the frames!

The yoga session was coming to an end. Time was running out. I was frustrated. Letting out a deep sigh, I sat in a corner on the platform pondering over the battle that I had lost that morning.

All of a sudden, the yoga teacher moved forward and sat to demonstrate a posture to a couple of participants.  She sat and she sat in the line of light ! The soft friendly light!  I sprang up and opened the lens cover, and quickly positioned myself opposite the window as if to shoot my enemy! At last, the enemy in the window was transforming! It let in the golden yellow of the morning sun! An elongated golden yellow rectangle  and here she was! Her whole body was bathed in light and let out a long deep shadow in the yellow rectangle.   It was not her bodyline that attained a glow. It was my heart!  Suddenly,  it opened the doors to that amorphous composition that was playing hide and seek within me!  

 The teacher too had forgotten the camera. She had dissolved into herself.

And I clicked and clicked and clicked and I was nowhere in my senses!

I knew in that moment I had a frame which descended into my heart. 

I was floating!

The award-winning shot- ‘Breathing life into the body and mind’

There was a mail from the Lancet Editor encouraging previous winners of the  Lancet ‘Picturing Health’ photo competition to send entries for the ‘Line of Sight’ Highlights 2021 photo competition. We chose this picture as an entry projecting the illustrious work of our NCD project at Mysuru. Thanks to the NCD team, a brief write-up was also sent along with the picture. And we kept our fingers crossed.

A fortnight later, a mail came saying that this entry from KHPT had been accepted as a winning entry. Somewhere, eight thousand kilometres across the oceans, a group of editors had felt the same about the “line of light” I had felt the moment it was clicked.

P.S.  A while after I completed this write up for the blog, I felt this write-up is not on the Lancet prize-winning entry. But it is about the portrait of the mind of a restless photographer in search of the amorphous frame blooming in his heart!

Balasubramanya KV has worked with KHPT for over 13 years in the fields of communication, capacity building and advocacy. His interests lie in poetry, photography and translation. This is his fourth prize-winning entry for the Lancet.

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