From the Chennai Photo Biennale, images that celebrate the everyday, unsung heroes of a pandemic year [Photos]

In collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry, Chennai Photo Biennale launched a nation-wide open call for photo-stories to celebrate the everyday unsung heroes of India. The entries are then put up on display on www.my2020hero.in as a virtual exhibition.

FP Staff December 03, 2020 17:15:36 IST
"Nair didi is my hero. She is all of 90 and is more than a mother to us at Salaam Baalak Trust. During the lockdown, she called up each one of us to check how we were doing. If she didn’t get the phone number of others, she asked us to check on them and make sure their needs are being taken care of. She connected with all of us together over Zoom and encouraged us to be brave during these uncertain times. Since I stayed away from my family, it was so comforting to know that I am not all alone and by myself during these tough times. I have a strong and encouraging mother figure watching out for me. She is my hero." — VICKY ROY
1/11
"Nair didi is my hero. She is all of 90 and is more than a mother to us at Salaam Baalak Trust. During the lockdown, she called up each one of us to check how we were doing. If she didn’t get the phone number of others, she asked us to check on them and make sure their needs are being taken care of. She connected with all of us together over Zoom and encouraged us to be brave during these uncertain times. Since I stayed away from my family, it was so comforting to know that I am not all alone and by myself during these tough times. I have a strong and encouraging mother figure watching out for me. She is my hero." — VICKY ROY
"When the intense lockdown was imposed, (procuring) food became a challenge, the few vegetables or fruits at home were all consumed, and we were staring at empty larders. Few wanted to risk the stampede at vegetable shops and the limited stocks in the shops flew off the shelves almost instantly. Until one day Muthu arrived at our doorsteps like a breath of fresh air, bringing fresh vegetables and fruits. Basic survival was now assured and food was back on the table. Muthu continues doing business down our street, having upgraded from a three-wheel pushcart to a smart little mini-van. He is indeed #My2020Hero, and I am joined by so many families down our road who applaud and sing in praise of Muthu!" — RAGS RAGHAVAN
2/11
"When the intense lockdown was imposed, (procuring) food became a challenge, the few vegetables or fruits at home were all consumed, and we were staring at empty larders. Few wanted to risk the stampede at vegetable shops and the limited stocks in the shops flew off the shelves almost instantly. Until one day Muthu arrived at our doorsteps like a breath of fresh air, bringing fresh vegetables and fruits. Basic survival was now assured and food was back on the table. Muthu continues doing business down our street, having upgraded from a three-wheel pushcart to a smart little mini-van. He is indeed #My2020Hero, and I am joined by so many families down our road who applaud and sing in praise of Muthu!" — RAGS RAGHAVAN
"My best friend Sidharth is my hero! He started Project Care-ona when we went into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The solo-initiative focused on spreading COVID-19 related health and safety awareness amongst much-neglected rural communities. He collaborated with people across states and expanded the project’s reach. To support local communities and generate meaningful employment in an economic lockdown, the Care-ona initiative encouraged the rural handicraft industry in Rajasthan to start manufacturing low-cost masks with local-sourced materials. He was able to crowdfund and, so far, has distributed more than 10,000 masks in the rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Presently, he is undertaking skill-enhancement drives for school teachers in Himachal Pradesh in an effort to propagate low-cost low-bandwidth virtual classrooms. He has been doing all this, while pursuing his Master's degree from Harvard Law, from his home in Shimla." — POOJA NATARAJAN
3/11
"My best friend Sidharth is my hero! He started Project Care-ona when we went into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The solo-initiative focused on spreading COVID-19 related health and safety awareness amongst much-neglected rural communities. He collaborated with people across states and expanded the project’s reach. To support local communities and generate meaningful employment in an economic lockdown, the Care-ona initiative encouraged the rural handicraft industry in Rajasthan to start manufacturing low-cost masks with local-sourced materials. He was able to crowdfund and, so far, has distributed more than 10,000 masks in the rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Presently, he is undertaking skill-enhancement drives for school teachers in Himachal Pradesh in an effort to propagate low-cost low-bandwidth virtual classrooms. He has been doing all this, while pursuing his Master's degree from Harvard Law, from his home in Shimla." — POOJA NATARAJAN
"Meet Shaurya, my hero. This is him celebrating his 7th birthday with no friends and no party. The last time he stepped out of the house was in March this year but he is not complaining. He is my hero because he teaches me to be grateful for things we adults take for granted. Take a look at the journal he started keeping a few months back. He has listed down as many as 107 reasons he is thankful for — starting from food to the roof over his head, the sun, the moon and the stars. It forced me to change my perspective on life and the little things that we stop noticing. Happy and content with what he has, present in the moment and setting an example for the grown-ups in his family — all this and more makes my son, #My2020Hero" — ETTA TALWAR
4/11
"Meet Shaurya, my hero. This is him celebrating his 7th birthday with no friends and no party. The last time he stepped out of the house was in March this year but he is not complaining. He is my hero because he teaches me to be grateful for things we adults take for granted. Take a look at the journal he started keeping a few months back. He has listed down as many as 107 reasons he is thankful for — starting from food to the roof over his head, the sun, the moon and the stars. It forced me to change my perspective on life and the little things that we stop noticing. Happy and content with what he has, present in the moment and setting an example for the grown-ups in his family — all this and more makes my son, #My2020Hero" — ETTA TALWAR
"I spent the lockdown in one of the high-rise building complexes in south Mumbai. During the three months, many of the housekeeping staff chose to live in the building premises and continued to service its amenities for residents like me. They did not go home to avoid the risk of spreading the virus and also to remain employed. Their salaries and tasks might seem menial, and very few residents probably even know the names of these people, but their choice to work during this period allowed residents like me to 'heal' and feel 'safe'. In photo: Bhanu, who is in charge of waste segregation and composting, stepped out for the first time in three months to attend a family wedding." — SURAJ KATRA
5/11
"I spent the lockdown in one of the high-rise building complexes in south Mumbai. During the three months, many of the housekeeping staff chose to live in the building premises and continued to service its amenities for residents like me. They did not go home to avoid the risk of spreading the virus and also to remain employed. Their salaries and tasks might seem menial, and very few residents probably even know the names of these people, but their choice to work during this period allowed residents like me to 'heal' and feel 'safe'. In photo: Bhanu, who is in charge of waste segregation and composting, stepped out for the first time in three months to attend a family wedding." — SURAJ KATRA
"The women of our house, my mom and aunt are my heroes. In a joint family of ten members, these two were the shield of protection for us. We got to work from home and weekends to take off, but they never got much rest even in the lockdown. In fact, their work got doubled as everyone was staying at home. From going out for all us, purchasing groceries and essential items for our home to washing, sanitising — they made sure we were all safe and healthy. No matter how tired they were, they still served us their platter of love." — SNEHA REDDY
6/11
"The women of our house, my mom and aunt are my heroes. In a joint family of ten members, these two were the shield of protection for us. We got to work from home and weekends to take off, but they never got much rest even in the lockdown. In fact, their work got doubled as everyone was staying at home. From going out for all us, purchasing groceries and essential items for our home to washing, sanitising — they made sure we were all safe and healthy. No matter how tired they were, they still served us their platter of love." — SNEHA REDDY
"In this pandemic, other than my family, one constant face I used to see is Vinith anna, who is a door-to-door COVID-19 surveyor of Greater Chennai Corporation. Despite the pandemic fear, he used to survey temperatures of about 150-300 houses around our locality every day. Of course, it's his duty as a surveyor to inspect us but it is his untiring warmth and care which inspires me. I really want to thank him for his kindness towards us." — DEEPIKA RAVI
7/11
"In this pandemic, other than my family, one constant face I used to see is Vinith anna, who is a door-to-door COVID-19 surveyor of Greater Chennai Corporation. Despite the pandemic fear, he used to survey temperatures of about 150-300 houses around our locality every day. Of course, it's his duty as a surveyor to inspect us but it is his untiring warmth and care which inspires me. I really want to thank him for his kindness towards us." — DEEPIKA RAVI
"This teacher is my hero. She never gave up on anything. From being a caring homemaker, a dutiful teacher and at the same time dreamer as an individual." — VIJAYARAJ RAMALINGAM
8/11
"This teacher is my hero. She never gave up on anything. From being a caring homemaker, a dutiful teacher and at the same time dreamer as an individual." — VIJAYARAJ RAMALINGAM
"My garbage collector is my hero for 2020. Today garbage collectors are the most vulnerable and at high risk of contracting the virus. People carelessly throw their used masks without proper disposal and the garbage collectors pick up the waste from our houses relentlessly every single day without fail without fear of the virus and keeping their faith in God. I stand with these brave hearts who pick up waste from our homes without any discrimination." — AANYA MEHTA
9/11
"My garbage collector is my hero for 2020. Today garbage collectors are the most vulnerable and at high risk of contracting the virus. People carelessly throw their used masks without proper disposal and the garbage collectors pick up the waste from our houses relentlessly every single day without fail without fear of the virus and keeping their faith in God. I stand with these brave hearts who pick up waste from our homes without any discrimination." — AANYA MEHTA
"My flatmate’s cat Binx is my 2020 hero. Binx loves to play with ribbons, find cosy spots to sleep and inspire people to chill and take it easy. I love it when he runs to meet you at the door as you get back home. I forgot to set the morning alarm on a workday and woke up only because he was jumping at my door wondering how come I was not up yet! He is also a constant reminder of keeping an open mind and not setting too much store by superstitions. Anything can happen if only we let the world surprise us." — NEETHI JAYACHANDRAN
10/11
"My flatmate’s cat Binx is my 2020 hero. Binx loves to play with ribbons, find cosy spots to sleep and inspire people to chill and take it easy. I love it when he runs to meet you at the door as you get back home. I forgot to set the morning alarm on a workday and woke up only because he was jumping at my door wondering how come I was not up yet! He is also a constant reminder of keeping an open mind and not setting too much store by superstitions. Anything can happen if only we let the world surprise us." — NEETHI JAYACHANDRAN
"Less than half of India's children between the age 6-14 go to school. It's no secret that lack of education and illiteracy are among the most prevalent social issues in India. This young boy, like many other children in India, has never had the opportunity to gain access to school. Despite these setbacks, he made the effort to read books at local libraries and inspired me. There are many such examples and young heroes in the making!" — MANYA PRATAP SINGH
11/11
"Less than half of India's children between the age 6-14 go to school. It's no secret that lack of education and illiteracy are among the most prevalent social issues in India. This young boy, like many other children in India, has never had the opportunity to gain access to school. Despite these setbacks, he made the effort to read books at local libraries and inspired me. There are many such examples and young heroes in the making!" — MANYA PRATAP SINGH