Tale of two girls

Deepti Asthana

In A Tale of Two Girls (2016- ), I explore the connection between two teenage girls growing up in the woods of Uttarakhand and their shared refuge — a vast forest filled with secret waterfalls, mountain peaks, cliffs, trails and streams in the lap of the Himalayas. Living in stone houses in a patriarchal setup, they have to double up as adults and help in running the house, but once they manage their escape to nature, they are children again. It is in these deep woods that they dream fearlessly beneath the open sky. Manisha 17, is a bold and strong girl while Babita, 13 is shy and timid. They are neighbors and friends. The families are mostly dependent on the forest for their resources and a small piece of land for food. In the region, girls get married at an early age. Manisha and Babita live with the same fears, as they are closer to what is seen as marriageable age in the region. Manisha and Babita’s adolescent years are relatable to me as I grew up in an extremely patriarchal society as well. I would often spend time in the backyard of my aunt’s home. It had trees of guava and mango, which became my escape, a space I would often retreat into whenever I felt unsafe, threatened or stifled in my own domestic joint family setup. Now, I feel nature is still my safe space, for it holds an uncanny magical power to heal.

Artist biography

Deepti Asthana is an Independent photographer based in India and a National geographic Explorer. Deepti's practises heavily focuses on gender issues in India. Growing up in very difficult economical conditions, in a household run by a single mother; Deepti reflects her lived experiences through her work. Deepti's work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, BBC, Al Jazeera English, Der Spiegel, Daily Post, Huffington Post, First Post, The Diplomat, Feature Shoot, Hindu Business Line, The Hindu, Better Photography, The Quint, Scroll, The Quartz, etc.