Why namma Gopi (almost) cried in January 2008

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”, leave 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, heard 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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11 Responses to “Why namma Gopi (almost) cried in January 2008”

  1. Coffee Addict Says:

    I have interacted with Gopinathan several times. He is a fine human being.
    Very affectionate and humble. Also, ever smiling.

  2. Andy Says:

    photo, story and the ending simply touched my heart..

  3. Mahesh Vijapurkar Says:

    The story of the limbless infant is touching. However, I too have seen a baby, just about six months old in Ashadaan run by the Sisters of Charity in Mumbai Byculla area. Way back in 1992, I had gone there to donate a small sum in memory of my father who had died two years earlier. The sisters were feeding the little one with an ink-filler because she had just a slit for her limbless torso. The eyes were slight depressions in the face, not a hint of the ears even. She was found abandoned and picked up for support. The Sisters knew she would not survive but they encouraged the life within, tentatively fluttering. Helpless at that plight, I returned home. I am ashamed I had no courage to return to find how she fared. She was pushed out of my mind till this young lady surfaced on this blog.

  4. ERR Says:

    An amazing real-life soul stirring story narrated beautifully.

  5. TS Satyan Says:

    The picture and story by Gopinathan reflects his concern and humanism. I can imagine his feelings when he first saw the child. He must have felt that all mankind is guilty. As a fellow photographer, I admire him and wish him well.

  6. mysore peshva Says:

    what a terrific story!

    as francis bacon might say, “knowledge is power.” many kudos to k. gopinathan and t.j.s. george.

    even bigger congratulations, of course, to catherine cox and to minda cox.

  7. chetan krishnaswamy Says:

    Gopi was a fine human being…seldom got into the petty office politics of the day. We shared a wonderful rapport during our days in The Hindu. Did a few assignments together….I didn’t know about this touching story. Thanks Churumuri!

  8. rajachandra Says:

    I always wondered when you see many News channels showing voyeuristic News, why the camera crew could not have acted as good Samaritan and saved the victim from the ignominy ! Nice to know there are such angels like Gopi also! Long live his ilk.

  9. Srikanth Eswaran Says:

    Sir,

    your blog post is really very very touching. Certain forgotten things at the moment, come back after many years to give us butterflies in our stomach and I can relate to how the feeling is.

    you also write very nice and detailed posts which I enjoyed reading. Good people like you must continue writing more and more.

    Srikanth

  10. shilpa Says:

    wow! such a nice post!

  11. sri arya Says:

    I am hered this news in first in FM Rainbow today so many Radio station is there but a good social work is going on by FM Rainbow only and I hered this from gopinathan on 30/08/2011 morning program Called “patrike ya kartha PATHRAKARTHA” 8:00 – 9:00 so good and kind ness and this is life.

    We will face so many problems in life but we want to wait for good times because , What we will do hard work in sad time it all will waste when we won’t wait for good times . let’s thank full to that cute girl for her kindness

    Truely your’s

    Sri arya

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