Growing up on The Ghaats of Banaras

In this modern urban society where parents are excessively obsessed with planning  their kids’ childhood with camps and play schools, life of kids growing on the ghaats of Banaras is a refreshing reminder of what childhood days are supposed to be about – carefree freedom, innocent curiosity and dreams.

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Until next time, my dear friend…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Change Is The Only Constant

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Traditionally a married Hindu woman wears Red bangles till the day her Husband is alive – in a way to symbolise that her world is still flourishing and full of colour and joy. In the event of Husband’s death those bangles are broken and then the woman never wears red bangles again. Those red bangles which once were a symbol of life, joy and happiness, the absence of them in a woman’s world becomes symbolic of a life and a world of sadness, and loneliness, one that is incomplete and colourless and in which the best and the happy days have already passed and a bleak, cold and a slowly decaying world lies ahead.
Similarly, seeing these dust covered red bangles hanging abandoned in the home in my mother’s village became symbolic of a family, lives and a home that once flourished with hopes, dreams and happiness and now lies abandoned, forgotten and lost.
We usually run away from situations and thoughts that remind us of seemingly unpleasant changes in our lives that inevitably creep in with time because they make us sad. But facing them and understanding them helps us rise beyond this sadness and that sadness is replaced with a sense of strength, acceptance, peace and tranquillity.

Photography : A Story Of Human Connection

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I am sharing this portrait from my ‘Out Of The Fog’ series today because I wish to tell you a story about how sometimes events and occurrences that you never planned for or even imagined in your wildest dreams can inspire you and give you incentive to continue on your journey.
After sharing this image on wordpress. I got a comment on the post that moved me.

A musician named Tuci from UK posted this on my blog.

“OMG your post out of the fog 2 looks like my dad, i lost him a couple of years back and this brought the warmest feeling to my soul and a deep pain in my heart, i’m currently crying but i would like to thank you for sharing this, i haven’t felt anything close to seeing him again, and this though shocking and upsetting has revitalised my soul, Thank you 🙂

You can see the post and read the comment here:
https://piyushgoswami.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/out-of-the-fog/

We all of course need money and success so we can do more of what we love. But such connections are more of a reward and more enriching than all the money and success in the world. Photography for me is about connections, about finding my place in this world and in the process connecting people that are in front of my camera with the rest of the people in the world and when such things happen they give a joy and satisfaction that is timeless.

Here is a link to tuci’s music on Bandcamp:

https://tuci.bandcamp.com/

The Day We Met Krishna

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Walking around the fields in Ranseesar Jodha village we came across a family that had built their home in the fields a little away from the village. There I saw a mother working in the fields while her two year old daughter sat around playing in the sand.

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We sat down and spent some time talking to the family and hearing their stories.

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As we spoke I said that Krishna, the baby girl is very cute to which the mother jokingly said why don’t you guys take her with you. Even though female child infanticide has reduced over the years, the joy of having a boy is much more as opposed to that of having a female child. It is not that parents don’t get attached to their daughters, they very much do. Girls are pampered more than boys too because one day they will get married and go away. But poverty makes these poor families favour having a boy more than a girl because boys will earn a living for the parents when they grow old. The father in between the conversation said – “one day the girl will get married and go away and the money will go as well. Even if she earns she will earn for her family not for us.” The love the mother had for Krishna was affectionately obvious.
The present and future of daughters in Rajasthan, a daughter and a mother- one is shy of the reality and the other has been hardened by the reality of life.

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The right way to discourage female infanticide is not by making it illegal, but by understanding the root cause behind the tendency which is poverty.

Nagada Making

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One afternoon during my stay in Ransisar Jodha village, Sitaram came over to the house I was staying in and told me that there were two people who had come to the local temple to make Nagadas (Traditional Rajasthani drums) . I immediately took my camera and followed Sitaram to the temple complex near by.

At the temple I met Vinod and his brother who were the leather working class/caste of Rajasthan and they had followed in their father’s footsteps and taken up Nagada making as their profession. The main body is usually made up of Iron and buffalo skin is used as the top membrane and for tying the membrane to the body.

This is a B&W photo series, trying to cover the nuances of the process.

 

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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.

Bangadi Kids

A Bangadi

A Bangadi

During one of my many travels into the villages of Rajasthan, I found myself passing by Kharekhadi village. It was full of life and having gone through the length of the village, on my bike, I decided to turn back and walk around to find a group of nomadic sheep herders that I had caught a glimpse of passing by.

I tried to ask around and trace the herders but I couldn’t. And, as I was walking around the dusty narrow lanes hoping to find them, I came across a few kids playing with a make-shift improvised push cart sort of a toy that caught my fascination. The kids referred to the toy as ‘Bangadi’. For me, it was sophistication hidden in simplicity. They had made the Bangadi using a broken old flip flop for the rear wheels, base of a geometry box, a flip flop for the body and a wire for the steering and front wheels.

Where some might find poverty and scarcity, some others might see innvovative/improvising/recycling skills.

What these pictures mean to different people is subjective and may even be debatable. But what is unequivocally clear is the happiness these kids live and experience everyday by making best use of what little they have.

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One of the kids repairing/fixing the bangadi.

One of the kids repairing/fixing the bangadi.

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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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