Leaving a part of ourselves behind

_MG_7047

Some scenes grab your attention instantly. But while some frames give you a clear story or a message as they draw your attention, some others appeal to you with a vague, yet strong sense of symbology. You don’t quite know what that particular scene means and why it appeals to you. But you know that there is something that the frame is trying to tell you. And at the end of the day when you sit down and reflect back on the day’s encounters with a calm mind, it becomes clear to you.
This photograph is an example of one such frame.
After 10 days of busy and packed Pushkar cattle fair in Rajasthan the villagers had started leaving Pushkar to go back to their home villages. As I walked through the fair ground, I saw villagers walking in the opposite direction with their camels. I felt vague sense of sadness and nostalgia seeing the beautiful mela come to an end.
In all that commotion, this scene caught my attention. Pairs of abandoned shoes lying in muddy puddle.
Now when I think about it, these abandoned shoes were a great symbology for what was happening around me. With time another Mela was coming to an end, and after living on these open grounds the villagers and travellers were moving on with their lives. But not without leaving a part of themselves behind in memories and things.
May be this is what these abandoned shoes were trying to tell me. That to keep moving with passing time is part of life. But experiences and places leave a lasting mark on the people, and people, knowingly or unknowingly, leave a part of themselves in places they go to in different ways.

Until next time, my dear friend…

_MG_8165

He stares down at his little friends day in and day out. Their passion and vigour amuses him. They treat him like their own and not once did they ask him for anything in return. They admire his beauty and love him dearly. Sometimes, their dangling feet make beautiful sounds against his skin. They belong to him and he belongs to them…the giant ferriswheel.

Behind him Salman and his gang of tiny minions create a ruckus on his buddy — the mini roller coaster ride. It has been a month since the Pushkar Mela was held. The area that was once occupied by tens of thousands of animals and villagers now lies empty; abandoned by those who called it home for a while. The sea of plastic and garbage visible on the open landscape is vaguely reminiscent of the camel fair that took place in these soils.

A stroll down the narrow roads will reveal a picture devoid of any activity or celebration. Though the mela is officially over, the giant rides are still seen hovering — tall and lifeless — over the market. After a few moments, there’s a resounding echo of laughter in the air. A group of ten or twelve kids who had occupied the roller coaster ride earlier are seen engrossed in a game of catch-and-release.

_MG_8176

For these children, most of their childhood is spent on these giant life-sized toys. Today, the amusement rides have become their ‘imaginary’ best pals, a place to enjoy an afternoon siesta and perhaps their most exotic playground. But, most importantly, it is a place where they can leave all their worries behind and enjoy the warmth of joy; a place they can call home.

Most of their days begin and end with spending time on these massive toys which are now being pulled apart a little by little everyday only to be re-assembled in another mela. It is an emotional journey for these tiny tots as they observe their gigantic friends – Ferris, Columbus and Rollercoaster — being torn to shreds; as they bear witness to a reality where dreams and fantasies cease to exist.

_MG_8153_MG_8163

They wait in anticipation for their friends to be brought to life. However, their fears and anxiety betray their emotions. And, as each of them lingers a little while longer around their lifeless companions, wondering how long do they have to wait this time to see their best friends, they secretly hope that they don’t have to move on.

Until next time, my dear friend…

_MG_8161 _MG_8138

***********

This is a story through the eyes of the children belonging to families that put up amusement rides for several melas throughout the country. While the children spend most of their time in the villages, their parents travel for eight months in a year. Whenever time permits, kids visit their parents and have a ball on the amusement rides.

Faces Of India : MahaShivaratri In Banaras 1

I feel that Banaras, as it had been for ancient India, still is the most exciting place in the country. It is exciting, because it is timeless and it has managed to walk the ways of the modern 21st century western world India and still keep India’s art/culture and spirituality alive like no other place in the country.
Banaras is definitely one of the best places to observe most of the hindu and muslim festivals.
Here is first half of a portrait series that I did on one of the many procession troups that take to the streets of Banaras on Maha ShivaRatri and jam up the entire city. People – young kids, and grown ups dress up to represent the good and the bad side of an individual and society through mythological characters.
This two part series captures some young kids from Banaras representing the age old duality of life and society – the good and the bad.
This first part shows portraits of kids dressed up to represent the bad/the evil, as demons and ghosts to take part in Lord Shiva’s ceremonial marriage processions.
_MG_6296_MG_6267_MG_6345_MG_6247_MG_6325_MG_6263_MG_6258bw
The second part of this series will be on portraits of people representing the good.

When the skies were dotted with kites…

Kite festival cover

_MG_9041

_MG_9152

Blanketing the earth in an infinite band of celestial wonders, the heavens celebrated the magic and wonder of flight as earthlings adjusted their kite strings to the echoes of wind and earth. Whilst the streets of Pushkar were deserted and seemed to have come to a standstill; the young and old alike gathered on rooftops to celebrate the eternal transition of the sun from one zodiac sign into another. Makara Sankranti or the harvest festival is an ancient ritual to immortalise the celebration of collective energy, of the spirit of our connection with nature and the dawn of spring. And, it is no wonder that at this time of the year, new relationships are formed, new friendships made and everyone bonds with one another sans any prejudices or preconceived notions.

As the winter morning welcomed the warm embrace of sunshine, kites were seen drifting across the horizon chasing the pre-dawn wind. The ritual of waking up early in the morning waiting for the dawn to turn into a congregation of opal and pink, just to pick the perfect spot before the skies turn into a riot of colours, is followed very sincerely amongst the children here. As the day gets brighter, the cool breeze lifts the kites aloft into the horizon and the rooftops are dotted with hordes of families challenging and coaxing each other to battle it out with kites.

With each and every household blaring music ranging from psychedelic trance to Bollywood and bhajans, the kite flying ‘ritual’ in any town gives rise to a phenomenon where social gatherings are no longer marred by pretentious greetings. A lot of terraces had music systems stacked up in a pile and a few teenagers engaged in a comedic battle of wits with their rivals on loudspeakers. Eager faces and enthusiastic souls invited curious onlookers onto their roofs by yelling out “Aa jao Aa jao lada lo. (Come. Let us have a match).” We soon decided to head towards a Dharmshala where all the action could be easily witnessed.

The sight of smiling faces perched on rooftops; eyes gleaming with mischief and childlike enthusiasm filled the air with warmth and happiness. Children were seen climbing walls and pipes to steal a kati patang or scan the best roof for optimum flying conditions. There were instructions being given out with military precision by five and six-year-olds. For them, the stage had been set and the battle was in motion.

While mothers draped in bright Bandhni saris were seen helping out their tiny toddlers balance the charkhi and manjha; a few grandfathers, smoking beedhis with a lot of panache, tried their best to bring down their neighbours’ kites. Also seen amidst a crowded settlement was a newly wed Rajput couple, dressed in their traditional attire, who exchanged glances at each other as they flew their kites. By evening, multicoloured kites and numerous birds crossed paths and one couldn’t make out the difference between our little avian friends and their lifeless flight companions soaring in the skies.

There was poetry and romance in the air and every person was inebriated in the spirit of celebration. For a change, no one was judged based on his/her caste, community, creed or even social status. There was no rich and no poor here for all gathered on their roofs as one. For those few moments, all worries and hardships were forgotten and every person indulged in the age-old past time of bonding over a ritual that epitomised connections based on unity and love. And as the warmth of sunshine drifted away from the Southern hemisphere to the Northern, everyone welcomed the rays of new hope, as customary every year, with great reverence and joy.

_MG_9134

_MG_9157

_MG_9002

_MG_9056

_MG_9089

_MG_9117_MG_9118_MG_9137_MG_9122_MG_8991

_MG_9074_MG_8995_MG_9093_MG_9106_MG_9101_MG_9142_MG_9111_MG_9131_MG_9148_MG_9105_MG_9163

_MG_8850-2_MG_8820_MG_8829