i am. a man who has worked since i can remember, many years before i should have been working. i did so to help my family, to make ends meet, to put food in the mouths of my brothers, my sisters, my mother. my life has not been easy but i don’t complain. i don’t wish for a different life. i wake up and sunrise. i lay down at sunset. i eat one meal a day… if i have time and can afford it. i push on, no matter what. i work. i push carts full of good for vendors to sell. i do whatever it takes. i provide. i toil at the land. i am. proud of who i am. and who i have become.
i am. worn. i am. ragged.
I literally yelled at my driver to stop the car like he was about to run over a child so I could get this shot. I saw the story written on this man’s face like a road map of life. I jumped out of the door before the vehicle came to a stop and rushed to stop the man and his cart. He was pulling a cart loaded down with fabric headed to the market. His sinewy muscles strained from the wait. His torn shirt telling it’s own story of his constant work and strife.
I made a motion to him requesting permission to take his photograph. His eyes locked with mine. He gave me a simple nod implying permission. He stopped pulling his cart, walked to side where I stood tall. His full height was about average for an Indian man, about 5’6″. He looked straight at the lens, not a look of a worn, ragged man but a look of pride. A look of power. A look of a life of toil accepted. His eyes looked through the lens and into my soul as if telling me “This is who i am. and i am. proud of it.”
In that moment, that split second my heart tore from chest. This works 100 times harder than I do but I complain more. I’m more discontent. I’m selfish. Here’s a man that has probably worked since he was 4 or 5 years old, now probably over 50 who will continue to pull his cart until he drops in the street dead. What do I have to complain about?
I did the manual calculations and snapped the shot. Perfect. I captured his beauty, his essence, his power, his pain, his joy, his sorrow. In that moment he gave me his i am. statement.