“A four-month-old baby was sick with fever. The family was unable to reach the hospital—their home was on an isolated island surrounded by vast paddy fields that were under waist-deep water. The house was almost ‘floating’.”
“Capturing the truth in the scope of my lens gives me a different kind of satisfaction. It’s not always planned, more of spontaneous expression, in my case,” says the 32-year-old from Kerala, whose photograph clicked during the floods, has traveled across seas to gain international recognition.
Meet M L Sreejin, a junior health inspector, who managed to capture the right shot at the right time, depicting a medical officer treating a critical baby on a boat clinic, parked at Chanhamkari.
A true reflection of the situation, the photograph beautifully intertwined the devastation while also depicting a ray of hope.
Based in Kuttanad, he belongs to the Edathua Community Health Centre (CHC), and is part of the medical team which worked to bring relief to the flood-ridden areas of Kerala.
In addition to being committed to providing quality medical help to people in remote areas, Sreejin harbours a deep passion for photography.
Speaking to The Better India, he shares, “I had saved up for years to buy a DSLR. Finally, I bought it in 2010. Since then, there has been no stopping.”
He continues, “Luckily, my work allows me to travel and see the beauty all around me. All my camera does is click and capture, the right moment and the right emotion!”
He continues, “On July 25, 2018, sometime in the afternoon, we received a call asking us to come to Anjoorupadam, Changamkari, urgently. At the time, we were in the flooded fields of Alappuzha. On the call, we were told that a four-month-old baby was burning up with severe fever. We decided to prioritise and turned our mobile clinic towards their house.”
Upon reaching, they were shocked.
The surrounding areas were waist-deep in water. The family could not have gone to the hospital as their house was situated on an isolated island, surrounded by paddy fields.
It was almost ‘floating’, he adds.
“It was a sight I can hardly put into words. So we informed Dr Sini C Joseph of CHC, about the incident. Along with her, nurses C P Santha, J H I Shajiman K R, and P B Indulekha, joined me in rushing to the spot. Once they began the treatment, I jumped into the water to get the best shot of Dr Joseph examining and giving medicine to the child, while sitting on a country boat, our mobile clinic. It was not planned, nor did I expect it to be recognised by an organisation like the WHO,” he adds.
But Sreejin’s spontaneous click soon grabbed international attention, an image that has now become an icon of the helping hand extended by the Kerala health department during the floods that ravaged the coastal state last year.
Owing to this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has featured the image in their annual calendar!
But it all came after a few hiccups.
Not trained in swimming, he and the nurses were scared to travel in a country boat in the paddy fields which were filled with neck-deep water. “It was then that a local of Edathua, Shajimon, came up and encouraged us to picture the larger cause of saving a life, to overcome our fear,” recalls Sreejin, who is originally from Thiruvananthapuram.
Speaking about the journey to discovery, he adds that the Alappuzha District Mass Media Officer, Suja P S, was instrumental in getting the WHO’s attention. After noticing the photo on the report, she reached out to him to inquire about it, then sent it to Dr Asha Raghavan, WHO consultant, who furthered it. And, eventually, they got the good news.
“One of the many reasons to come here and work was to get the opportunity of substantial work like this, while continuing my passion. Wherever I go, my camera is always with me. Be it the landscapes of Kuttanad or the simple village life here, raw and unbelievably beautiful. I was lucky to be gifted with such a moment to capture, and am grateful for the recognition,” he concludes.
Although Sreejin claims it to be a lucky moment, his precision and ability to encapsulate the disaster, the hard work of the relief teams and the hope they bring—all in the same frame, is touching.
Kudos to him!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)