Leaving a part of ourselves behind

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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.

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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.
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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

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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.

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Kids At Pushkar Mela

Many of the nomadic village families who come to Pushkar Mela to trade cattle, doll up their kids, and send them out to make some money from the tourists and photographers. These kids try their best to get some money out of the travellers, but walking around the dusty and sunny mela, the kids feel the burden of making a living at their young age.

But kids are kids and they don’t yet understand all the nuances of earning a living and find some time out to have some fun and be themselves – careless and free.

This is a small photo series on one such group of kids through which I am trying to show how a young boy was sent out with a turban and a ravanhatta (bowed fiddle/a musical instrument local to the state of Rajsthan) to attract the attention of photographers and make some money.

He and friends knew very little about making a living or playing the instrument and had very little interest in making any money. But the poor economical condition of their families leaves these kids with no other options. Struggle for life is not a new thing for these kids.

This boy was sent out with a turban and a ravanhatta(musical instrument) to attract tourists and make a living.

This boy was sent out with a turban and a ravanhatta(musical instrument) to attract tourists and make a living.

He then meets rest of his gang and they discuss about possible course of action.

He then meets rest of his gang and they discuss about possible course of action.

They finally take a break from their work and decide to have some fun.

They finally take a break from their work and decide to have some fun.

Few moments of fun before going back to work.

Few moments of fun before going back to work.

Baba Jagmohan Giri : An Encounter with A Naga Baba in Benares

Jagmohan Giri holding a flute seller's stand.

Jagmohan Giri holding a flute seller’s stand.

The heavy rains that ended Kumbh Mela a week earlier than it was supposed to end in February 2013 forced me to reconsider my initial plans of staying at the Mela till March 10 for Maha Shivaratri. So, I decided to join some of my friends to Benares to attend a friend’s engagement ceremony that was supposed to take place on the banks of the Ganges river opposite Assi ghat. There I met Late Baba Jagmohan Giri, a 30 something year old Naga baba from Juna Akhara, who had taken up the life of a Naga sadhu to get rid of all his past crimes.  Turning into a Sadhu requires one to dissolve their existing identity; and with the dissolved identity all the acts of the past get dissolved too. At least that is the hope with which a lot of people turn to the life of a Sadhu — to run away from their past crimes.

Jagmohan Giri himself spoke of having committed a murder a few years ago.

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Late Baba Jagmohan Giri of Juna akhara sitting by the eastern bank of Ganges river in Banaras. Next to him is something that you don’t usually see a Sadhu with- alcohol(champagne) that was brought to celebrate a friend’s engagement. But Baba Jagmohan was under a lot of fire from his fellow Babas for his alcohol addiction. Smoking weed/hash is an accepted and an integral part of a Sadhu’s life. But alcohol is considered to be a complete no no.

Jagmohan Giri

Just a few days before these photos Baba Jagmohan had been attacked and beaten up some other Sadhus over this same alcohol issue. But Jagmohan Giri was deeply troubled by his rough life experiences and too deep into alcohol, weed and crack addiction to be pulled out of it without love. And that’s something I think he never found till health complications due to his drug problems claimed his life in 2014.

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Baba Jagmohan Giri emotionally questioning – “why everybody in his life always used and abused him?”

 He kept saying that everybody in his life used and abused him and he repeatedly asked why he deserved such treatment.

A question to which he never found an answer to his end.

Baba Jagmohan Giri applying ash on his body after taking a dip in the river

Baba Jagmohan Giri applying ash on his body after taking a dip in the river

Serenity | Annamalai Bird Sanctuary

A Black and white mood series from my experience at Annamalai bird sanctuary. The sanctuary is located on the outskirts Chennai, Tamilnadu in southern India in a lagoon. The entire sanctuary has to be seen on a boat with help of some fishermen who have settled down around the lagoon.

Solitude

Solitude

friends in silence

Friends In silence

withered beauty

Withered beauty

Silence in paradise

Silence in Paradise