From the windows of the Amritsar Express train, I had my first glimpse of Varanasi. It was a cold February morning- tail end of winter. It appealed cold and distant. I intended to stay for 3 days.
The city is utterly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet. From the narrow maze-like alleys dotted with cows, garbage and motorcycles to the enigmatic holy river of Ganges- where pilgrims pray and bathe, and dead people get burned to ashes- all at the same time. Varanasi is a shock to the senses. But, the type that is, at times, can be peculiarly calm.
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world. Mark Twain said it is older than History. It is known for religion, silk, a playground for artists- musicians, painters and a refuge for bohemian travelers.
I cannot pinpoint what particular thing about Varanasi that charmed me. It could be those glorious sunrises by the river over chai with friends. Or those boat trips where our friend Tai would play his violin like the wind. After my 15th sunset, I bade goodbye to the city with a heavy heart but with a promise to return sooner than later.
This is how my photography career started.
it’s that time of the year again. All Souls Day.
the rain adds gloom.
*flowers to my lolos
Bo said whenever he wears that cow costume, people he bump into, or anyone who sees him, never fail to smile. So on that day when we hit the streets to take photos in Santiniketan, he said he had to wear it.
And we did get a lot of happy portraits. Clever move.
He greets everyone he sees with “only 10 rupees.”
He sells yellow flowers with candle on a small paper saucer to pilgrims and tourists in Pandey Ghat. The flowers are then offered and floated in Ganges.
I always shy away from sellers whenever im traveling. Aside from i avoid lugging around additional baggage, i avoid unneccesary expenses too. I always brush them away with a smile.
One time, as i was walking around the ghats, he ran to me with my lost bonnet on hand. I left it at the Chai place the day before. He handed the bonnet to me. He said he remember seeing me wearing that bonnet and he was kind enough to get it from the Chai shop so he could give it back to me.
More than the bonnet, its his smile that made me smile that morning. It was sincere. Most of the time sellers only want to get money from you. Travelers are their prey. Its a bit difficult at times to distinguish a tout from an innocent who is just doing his job to make both ends meet.
I bought one of his flowers. We offered it in the river. He smiled. This was his smile on the photo. I tried to have a conversation with him but the english he knows is only “only 10 rupees.”