We stood shivering outside her tent. The kind woman that she was, she invited us inside their cozy tent, we smiled at each other. The plan worked.
Earlier that day when we arrived at our campsite in Kashmir, there was a tent of a local shepherd pitched close to us. As much as I wanted to photograph the locals, my friend told me he tried in vain to get the women’s photograph. So we devised a plan to first acquaint ourselves with them and then ask for a photograph.
Once inside the tent, the cold winds were blocked completely and it was unbelievably comfortable there. She offered to prepare Kashmiri Kahwa, a traditional tea from these valleys. There was a certain charm in the wrinkles that covered her face. The kahwa looked amazing in the traditional cups. We asked her how they kept themselves warm?
Promptly she pointed to a wooden basket in the corner of the tent. These baskets would contain burnt coal and it will be carried inside their flowing robe which keeps them warm. They jokingly even call it Winter Wife! It is amazing how people have devised infinite ways to live with nature. She has been coming here for three months since the last 25 years or so. And us, the so called trekkers took 2 days to reach this place while her family claims they do it in a day. I didn’t doubt them for a second! Between all this I took many photos of her.
Meet Asha, from the valleys of Kashmir.
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.