Their daily life is unique, much removed from what we can imagine in the wildest of our dreams. They call themselves the people of the forest. Cultivating small pieces of land, they grow their own food. They live in small clustered hamlets on the fringes of the forest where Nilgai often lay waste to their meagre crop. Wild dogs and jackals are regular visitors to their homes in search of a careless fowl or two. Snakes lurk around in every corner of their village. A leopard running off with a toddler, or a rogue elephant trampling someone to death is part of their daily existential hazard. Their habitation often bears the brunt of the passing of herds of rampaging bisons. Yet they have been happily coexisting with the forest since time immemorial.
This photograph was taken in the Chilapata forest of West Bengal. The ladies of the forest village go deep into the jungle for collecting firewood for lighting up their cooking fires. This forest is home to a large number of predators besides dangerous herds of elephant and bison. Yet these women never back out from these daily chores. Here, a group of women are seen returning to the village with collected firewood.
The entire livelihood and life of these people are pillared on one single thing and that is partnership. Perhaps no one can understand the importance of the word partnership more than these ten women in the photograph.