A very long time back, for an English test at school, I wrote an essay titled “The Eyes that See” (language classes at my school, right from Class I, had a very rigorous writing component). The piece began in media res, describing a sudden event that had drawn everyone’s attention, and went on to describe what each observer thought he or she had seen, connecting it with the kind of person each observer turned out to be. It wasn’t exactly genius, but it is testament to the fact that my early-teenage self had the basic grasp of positional objectivity and contextual perceptions — probably thanks to cartloads of murder mysteries — and that makes me feel all warm and fluffy.
However, “Eyes that See” also had quite a judgemental tone. If I thought a character was mean or selfish or a tell-tale — all cardinal middle-school sins — I let my contempt shine through in the shallow, prejudiced way she saw the event, and the way she narrated it. The trouble with being a socialised adult, however, is that I can’t use those devices on the person who declared this photo I took ‘provocative’ and ‘almost pornographic’. It stars a baby and a very young child.
Now that I look at the picture, I suppose I could see this person’s point, IF I were to substitute these children with older ones — say, a decade older — or even, because such acts of horrible, conscienceless violence does in fact push the underground porn market, an adult and a child. But to look at this picture — of two homeless, street-dwelling children — and thinking it pornographic, says, I think, some very unflattering and revealing things about the commentator, and nothing at all about the picture.
Incidentally, here’s the sequence of events that led to this ‘controversial’ and ‘distasteful’ picture. The baby — who is tied to one of the sacks so he doesn’t crawl into traffic while his parents are off looking for odd-jobs or begging — began crying, and the older child rushed over to comfort him and put him back to sleep. In the last picture, you can see him patting the baby with his tiny hands. I think it’s one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.