The Stranger :
The Story :
Okay I have to tell you I have no great story this time. But in few cases such as this, isn’t the subject striking enough in its own right without the need for a story to make the portrait interesting?
Well it so happened that the morning was misty and it is a great feeling to wake up in a sleepy little village perched on some mountain slope in the Himalayas. But the thing is, the small pretty village with apple orchards was a far cry from being anything but sleepy. Bharmour was once a sleepy village as the old men told me. Being the starting point for the Manimahesh Yatra so stringently undertaken by thousands of devotees every year, the village has been the victim of the tourist influx and blatant commercialization that we know of. A small room can cost you anywhere between 500 – 1000 bucks. And at times the same small room will be shelter to more than 20 people at once. Well anyway someone is making a lot of money here and I should talk about how I met this person instead.
Srini and me went up to the famous 84 Lingas temple. It sure looked crowded enough leading us to believe this temple does hold high reverence in the local community here. The architecture was distinctly different from what we see down south and quite a few Sadhus were found around. While I scouted for some interesting capture, I spotted this man with this huge red turban. I was hesitating. Should I go ask him or not.
Now this dilemma also arises because of the equipment I have. I own a 18-55 kit lens and a 50mm prime. So if I want to take someone’s photo, I have to be literally standing in front of their nose to take the capture. Srini suggested me to go ahead saying he is an interesting subject. So i dared and went to him and I asked if I could take his photo. He did not budge neither did he seem to bother, just a slight nod to let me know it is okay. And I was still uneasy. I just took this one shot and fled from the scene. 🙂
Good thing I asked him right?
Location – Bharmour, 7000ft, Budhil Valley, Chamba.
The Stranger :
The Story :
She was the smallest kid around among the bunch of school kids surrounding me but there was nothing childlike about her glance nor her stance. She made a powerful subject and she was gone just as she came – swiftly, a stranger in the truest of senses.
I was happy to see kids curiously looking into our guest-house for they are so full of fun and spontaneity which is especially good for a shy photographer who cannot summon enough courage to ask an adult for a portrait. So I started chatting up these kids and asked them if I could take their photos. Cheerful and carefree that they were, they posed willingly while the mother of one was not so happy about me clicking their pictures. She sent them away to school while I was left disappointed that I could not get good portraits of any. But curiosity took the upper hand when these kids went away only to come back with many of their friends. I started clicking again when I spotted this young girl with a piercing glance. Everyone else was quite happy to be around me and get photographed while this young lady showed no such inclination. I was intrigued and while she stood apart I took this image. One look through the viewfinder and I knew instantly that here was an opportunity to create a stunning portrait. I looked at the LCD and was pleased with the image of her on the screen. But the next moment she was gone. I asked the rest of the kids but no one even noticed her coming and going. I couldn’t even find out her name.
This whole incident happened in the remoteness of Suru Valley, Ladakh. Parkachik is a small village that falls on the Kargil Zanskar route and the place is as remote as it can get. The school here had hardly more than three rooms and that day the teacher had not come it seems, the kids told. Flanked by giant mountains on both sides, the river flowing between them, the school lies on the gentle slope above the valley overlooking the vast meadows and the village. Carefree life, hard life, beautiful life, cold life or no life – I don’t know what kind of life these kids experience here.
To see such remoteness and be awed is one thing but to live in such remoteness is a completely different thing.
Well this portrait was taken few months ago when I didn’t even know of the 100 Strangers Project. And please share this post if you like it. 🙂
Meet more of the cute kids from Parkachik, Ladakh.
Also I am posting the same picture with different processing. Tell me which one you like better.
The Stranger :
The Story :
He is smiling alright but he made me cry. Cry big time!
They were all amused. Tears were rolling down my cheeks uncontrollably. Arti was standing next to me and her eyes were teary too, but unlike me her tear ducts seemed to be in better control. I was trying hard to resist from crying but to no avail. This fellow and his help were smiling sheepishly. Since the tears were not stopping, I did the next best thing. I was wiping away my tears with my palms like kids would do. There was a truck parked nearby and the people standing by it also found the situation to be highly amusing and funny. I ran to this bakery in front of us and frantically tried to pry open the refrigerator. Nevertheless the fact remains that we were both crying standing on the street near Belandur Junction
Before I delve further into the story of how I took this portrait, let me tell you few things. I am from Andhra Pradesh and most of you would know of our phenomenal love towards spicy food and also our uncanny ability to handle such intensity of spiciness.
That being said, after an eventful day of good shopping we came by this mirchi bajji stall at Belandur Junction. It goes without saying I wanted to eat some and consequentially me and arti asked for a plate of bajji. They were made of Shimla mirch, the huge light green ones which are not very spicy but they tasted delightful with the tasty pudina chutney. Happy with the first round, we thought it is only fitting to have another one. So we were gladly served another plateful of mirchi bajjis. Only this time two of the bajjis were not made of the usual Shimla mirch, but instead we found the spicy green chilly used for cooking curries. I ate one while Arti decided to pass on it. I liked the hotness of this chilli but the last bite did it for me.
The spiciness was inexplicable. I was running frantically for water. And then we went into the bakery to have a pastry. And yes, the tears were still rolling down. 🙂
I mean imagine the situation. It was so funny as we were running here and there after that spicy encounter.
After the craziness subsided, I thought what an interesting evening and what a memorable event. I thought I should capture something to remember this story and also I had read about the 100 Strangers project that morning. It all seemed to fit together. We went to him with my camera out in my hand and asked him if I could take his photo. He was flustered as I asked him. He seemed to be embarrassed but obliged. He wasn’t laughing fully at first but his friends did good in teasing him saying he is the star et al which is when I captured this portrait where he smiles.
Just incase you are still wondering who this person is, he was the one making the bajjis. 😉
There goes my first portrait for the 100 Strangers portrait. Keep a watch on this space to see how my portraiture evolves over a 100 encounters.
Here’s another shot of him. I forgot to ask his name. If you ever have a mirchi bajji at his stall near Belandur Junction, find out his name will you? 🙂