What do you do after writing about women of Gujarat? Why you go ahead and write about the handsome men of Gujarat!
As I said in the post before, I managed to click so many people because of Bernard, he is a pro, it was easy to stand next to him and click pictures. Gradually I started clicking people on my own.
The ladies in our group would call Bernard dadu which I presume means elder brother in Bengali but to me it always sounded like grandfather! I would tease him too that everyone was calling him a grandfather!
While our bus was creaking on its way up to Kalo Dungar (Black Mountain), the highest point in Kutch, a group of men with their camels came down to us!
Sangram was also there with his camel. He told me the village depended on rain based farming too, other than tourism.
Arjan was selling ber at Kalo Dungar. He walked about 8km to reach the spot and he was all of eight years himself.
To this man, with his cool shades and horse, I only asked if I could click his photo, to which he readily agreed!
Mia ji is the sarpanch (headman) of Dhordo Village, the gateway to the Great Rann of Kutch. They run the ‘Gateway to Rann Resort’ at Dhordo as a community project. There are pictures of him with Amitabh Bachanan and Narendra Modi! He talked to us about his village, which has three ATMs now. A girl from the village is doing her M.A., a first. He was so proud of his village and he credits it all to the Rann Utsav!
I went for the heritage walk in the old city of Ahmedabad. Once again, I only asked him if I could click his picture to which he readily agreed.
It was fascinating to walk through the lanes and by lanes of the old city. But then it is going to be a separate post in itself.
Baba was selling vegetables near the old Ahmedabad stock exchange. He asked me to click his picture and I happy to oblige.
Like many others, he too was a regular at the Swami Narayan Temple and the pigeons knew him!
It has been fun clicking people, and now that I have got started, I am going to keep at it too!
PS. I was invited on this trip by Gujarat Tourism.
If you have been reading my blog for a while you might have noticed I hardly ever post people photos. The reason is street/people photography used to terrify me. Do notice the past tense, things somehow changed when I started photographing the beautiful women of Gujarat. Of course I clicked men too, but they will have to wait!
As soon as we got down at the Bhavana Farm Stay at Little Rann of Kutch, a group of girls caught our attention. They were selling jewelry and they wanted us to buy some!
Shilpa was the cutest and most persuasive of the lot. She wanted me to buy something from her shop immediately. I promised to buy the next day as I was tired. I did buy an earring, as promised.
She was also the part of the same group. She too extracted a promise that I would buy later from her and I did!
I ended up buying an earring from her too! But that was all I could, after that I had to ignore everyone else but they still posed for me!
The women wore such pretty colors, their jewelry was exotic too! I would ask them to show me something like they were wearing and they would just giggle in reply!
I visited three resorts in the Little Rann of Kutch and every resort had a group that sold jewelry outside the resort. I spotted this beauty at the Rann Riders Resort.
There was a cultural program at the Bhavana Farm Stay at night. And while mom and aunts were dancing the little one was sitting by herself acting cranky. I decided to babysit her for a while. I gave her my cell phone and taught her how to browse through the pictures! She didn’t bother her mom after that. In fact, when the dancers took a break, mom and aunt also browsed through the pictures. They asked me if there was any photo of my kids, They were happy to see Chhavi’s photos.
What I started doing at Kutch, I kept up at it in Ahmedabad too. The Mai was feeding the pigeons near Swami Narayan Temple. She told me she comes there daily. I am sure the pigeons know her and wait for her.
Finally I clicked this one on my heritage walk in Ahmedabad. She was sitting next to her heavy iron but work would wait till she was done with the newspaper.
I would credit Bernard for this transformation, where I ended up clicking up so many portraits. He is a photographer from London. He was traveling with a postcard which featured his previous work in Gujarat. He is a pro at clicking people photos. Initially I would stand by him and click pictures. He tried to communicate with everyone he photographed, that when he could not even speak the language! At times I acted as an interpreter for him! And that got me going. Soon I was talking to people and clicking them on my own. I hope I will not lose the confidence, now that I have found it.
In the picture above Bernard was directing at least 50 students on a college trip. The venue was the Sun temple at Modhera near Ahmedabad. He volunteered to click the group photograph and they cheered for him loudly!
PS. I visited Gujarat on an invitation from Gujarat Tourism.
While we were walking around the ancient excavations of Sirpur in Chhatttishgarh, I wandered a little on my own. I heard a bunch of women whispering to each-other, “Videshi aaye hain” (the foreigners are here). I was quite intrigued, because barring one of us, Mariellen Ward, who is from Canada all of us looked as Indian as we could.
As they sat admiring the Surang Tila, I decided to sit with them and see if they would talk to me. Even their dialect was a little similar to my native tongue Bhojpuri. We talked about this and that. They asked me indirectly whether I was married. When I told them I had a daughter too, they asked who was taking care of her while I was away. When I said she was with my husband, they concluded that I must be a working woman.
They were from a nearby village and on a sightseeing tour. I told them I was from Gurgaon and I was here to attend the Sirpur Music and Dance Festival. They asked me if I had seen their airport and when I replied in affirmative, one of them said, “My daughter and son-in-law went to Mumbai by plane. They ask me to come as well but I do not want to sit in one!” Her expressions told me that she was probably scared. They told me about all about the top malls Raipur. A little while later I took my leave as I was scared that everyone else from my group would walk off and leave me behind. As I walked for about five steps I realized that I had left my precious, my DSLR behind! They had not even noticed it, though they laughed a lot to see the panic in my face.
Then while we were on top of the Surang Tila Temple, climbing the crooked steps that led to it, I heard a group of girls giggling and saying the same, videshi hain! Once again we got chatting in Hindi and I did my convincing act. The young girls told me they were from a place which was two hours away from Sirpur. They were on their own, on a day out! At least that is the impression they gave me. They wanted to take a picture with me, which I did with immense happiness. They have no clue how scared I am to click people.
Then it happened with a group of young boys. Now as I rule I stay clear of local boys as they can be quite rowdy in some places, but by now I was so intrigued that I chatted with them as well. They were NABARD employees! As I can speak Hindi, in fact I speak Hindi all the time at home, they would believe me that we were not foreigners!
Then while we were walking across Buddha Vihar, it happened again! I wonder what we were doing to be labeled videshi or foreigners! I have seen some people being extremely curt with the locals, which truly sets my teeth on edge. But other than that we obviously looked as Indian we could.
Do you have a clue about this videshi business? Is it that the mannerism of a normal city person so different from what is expected in rural India?
I am extremely hesitant to photograph people. And yet the more I travel, the more I get attracted to clicking portraits of strangers, of people who in a way define what their nation is all about. I visited Thailand in July to attend the Thailand Happiness Street Festival. I made some effort to bring back a few pictures of the amazing people of Thailand!
The aim of the festival was to assure people that Thailand was safe for tourists. When I went to Thailand in June, my family was a bit jittery because of the talk of the military coup. When I revisited in July no one at home batted an eyelid. They were already convinced that Thailand was safe, they could let me go without any worries. The people in the picture were standing normally and chatting. I gathered all my courage and asked them if I could click their picture. They immediately transformed their expressions to the quirky ones you get to see.
Tourism Authority of Thailand has come up with a new tagline- Amazing Thailand- It begins with the people. So I thought why not, let me share the people photographs I clicked in Thailand this time.
When I saw this girl with blue hairs, she was singing something and her friend was recording it. The location was Wat Pho or what is also known as the Reclining Buddha. It looked like both the girls were having a lot of fun. I asked her if I could click a picture of her’s and she readily agreed. I wonder if she uploaded the video on a social media channel!
I am quite fascinated by the floating markets of Thailand. I have been to just two, Taling Chan Floating Market and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. In the Damnoen Saduak Market, where I clicked this picture, tourists could also go in a boat and shop around. This lady was steering a tourist boat. Even though we didn’t do that, it was fun watching the sellers and buyers jostling around in their boats causing boat jams too!
She caught my eye because of the bright color of the wall and the soft toys in the foreground. I also realized that if I used my cell phone instead of the SLR it was easier to click people. I find people in Thailand, particularly in hotels and in shops to be very polite. Even in my normal tone of speaking I may sound rude to them, they are so soft spoken. So I am often on guard to leave my NCR tone behind and be extra cautious so that I don’t sound rude!
The grand old lady had such a sweet smile on her face. She was praying at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. I think photographing people is something I am going to do more and more, as it provides a more intimate sense of connect with the place! It also leaves me wondering what is the story of their life!
PS. I was invited to Thailand by TAT New Delhi