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.

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.

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.

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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