The Stranger :
The Story :
Many of you would’ve known that I was in Rajasthan until a few days back and I hoped to meet lots of strangers there. But I did not meet many. Many of the people I interacted with didn’t feel like strangers strangely.
Getting back to this lady, we were in the remoteness of Shekhwati region visiting old cenotaphs of Parsurampur. It was a single dome structure with exquisite paintings from Ramayana and Mahabharata and more such Indian Mythology. We were wowed by it and as we prepared to leave, the local villager asked us to pay 200 bucks as the entrance fee. We were surprised for sure at the demand. We refused upon which he said why don’t you come have a look at the care taker and then refuse.
We obliged and followed him only to find this lady standing by the door of her home. She stood and greeted us with a pleasant namaste. She looked old but there was a spark in her eyes that you can see. We didn’t feel like denying the request and paid her the 200 rs. Her husband used to be the caretaker until recently but now she has taken over.
I suddenly remembered the 100 Strangers project and promptly asked her if I could take her photo. She nodded and looked anxiously into my camera. I was looking through the lens and she didn’t show any signs of easing up. I asked her how old she was. She laughed and she said over 60 years. I asked her name – she said Shanta.
I asked her to smile and there – A brilliant smile that showed her beauty come alive!
We bid adieu and turned to move when we noticed. The youth in her face does seem to echo in her body. She was standing tall alright but she could barely move.
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.