The Man and the Lake

Story and Photography by Micah Coto

Srinivasal Reddy: 

The Man, has lived by the lake since 1991.

Originally from the Kolar Gold fields, Srinivasal Reddy travelled just under 100 km west to Subramanya Kere to find work as a coolie ­– a general labourer. A friend gave him a bit of land to build a house. It wasn’t great land, but he made the most of it. The land was right by a section of the lake that flowed towards the city further downstream. The water by his house never stood still.

“Whenever it rained, the water would flood up to about a foot above the floorboards,” Srinivasal explains, holding his hand up to show the level of water. 

Although he didn’t know it himself back then, there was a special relationship growing between Srinivasal and the lake. 

Today he is one of the last people still living on by the ‘lake’ who remembers what it was like when it was still a lake. He remembers what it was like when people would come, and wash their clothes, and children would swim and play in it, they relied on the lake for everything. But now it is just a stagnant pond of gutter water, continuously polluted by nearby apartment complexes and construction. 

“All this time, I have been thinking it could never happen… I‘ve been living in hope this wouldn’t happen, but look around. The BDA (Bengaluru Development Authority) comes and builds houses randomly. There are houses everywhere. What can I do?” Srinivasal asks.

Srinivasal Reddy, the man, has lived on the edge of the Subramanya Kere for more than three decades, when the lake used to be a lake.  Today he can only mourn for its future.

Subramanya Kere:   

The Lake, lies towards what was once the outskirts of the city. 

It was once surrounded by farmlands, with small villages scattered around. But today, the growth of the city means that high-rises and apartment complexes have littered the horizon. A once green landscape polluted by concrete. 

The lake itself is now fenced off for protection, but waste and sewage have long polluted the lake to a point where it is useless as a source of fresh water. What was once the village, is now a slum housing the construction workers from the nearby developments. 

It never fully dried up. Because of encroachments and building projects the natural flow and level of the water has disappeared. There is still water around, but the ‘lake’ that provided water for an entire community, has long disappeared. 

“When I came to the lake, everybody shared it, it was a communal place, it was under no-one’s ownership,” says the man living on the edge of the once thriving lake.

Micah Coto is a final year photojournalism and documentary student based in Brisbane. He found his love for photography while living in China as a teenager, and has since worked on a number of award winning projects including his project Look Closer which focused on the disconnect that occurs between zoo animals and patrons, placing him 4th in the Wildlife category for Australian Photographer of the Year awards 2018. He has also done work in Nepal photographing alongside organizations that looked after wild street dogs, vaccinating and de-sexing them to then release them back into their local areas. Now on the final leg of completing his Bachelor, he hopes to move on to greater and bolder adventures. (See Instagram)

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