Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saints and beauties

Thanks to the gods for Rishikesh. On a more human scale than Haridwar, much less filthy and noxious than Varanasi. And portrait paradise with all kinds of people and races flocking to the shores of the Ganga river.
Blossoms from India, only for you.

Crossing Laxman (read Lakshman) Jhula, the pedestrian bridge connecting the to sides of Rishikesh across the Ganga, is a feeling only Kipling could describe like he did with the Grand Trunk Road in Kim. A never ceasing stream of life across the eternal river of gods.
I had fond memories of Rishikesh. Probably it's the refreshing proximity of the mighty river, combined with a spirit of transcendency emanating from all the temples and ashrams, that makes people be kind, relaxed and openhearted. Back in 1999, photographing people was a real pleasure. Walking through the streets, I soon felt that this time will not be different.
It was a good start to meet little Risal. Closing on... pleeeeease don't look at the flash, it's not switched on anyway....
...getting better, now we have a child shot with large aperture, nice but not quite the real thing...
...and then Risal, who got either fed up from modelling or wanted to tell me a thing or two about life, made a suprising gesture...
...and as soon as I lowered the camera I realised: my trip was not for nothing. I love that last shot. Thanks Risal!
And there was Neha who flirted shamelessly with my camera, doing things with a slice of fruit that I photographed but wouldn't dare publish. In other words, she performed a perfect imitation of oral sex. Not the first time it happened. Last year in Manali another girl made an even lewder performance - with a lollipop, of all things. Either those little brats are too innocent to realise what they're doing or there's more to them that meets the eye. I'd say it's the first because I heard several local guys complaining about Indian women not really being fond of oral sex. All the more likely because in old times even maharadjas had to turn to servant girls or dancers for a blow job, because no self-respecting concubine or wife would do it. Or so I read somewhere. Anyway, here's a decent one.
Such a sweet child nonetheless. Full of life, charm and wit. I hope she'll not spend her whole life selling trinkets for tourists on the street.

First evening it rained heavily. I escaped into an archway where a few old sadhus were selling souvenirs and religious stuff. We shared some cigarettes and to bid my time until the rain stopped, I tried to photograph them despite the less than ideal light conditions.

And there was Paddy, running a little tourist agency. He offered me a seat under the fan; it was gaspingly hot and humid. I told him: "Listen buddy, I'm not gay and have a wife and all and when I get back home she'll look at my photos and say, 'so many photographs of pretty girls! That's why you went to India you prick!' and she'll divorce me, so from time to time I must take photos of handsome men too. Please help me. Do you mind if I take your photograph?" He didn't.

But attractive men were rare while the town was full of camera-happy girls. There was Madhuri, I believe she came from Mumbai, combing her hair after a bath in the river and not minding at all being photographed.

Actually this was on the second day but doesn't matter. I visited the former Maharishi ashram (known for the Beatles, unfairly perhaps because the ashram existed for about 40 years and the Beatles only spent 5-6 weeks there) but this is another story. Again, the little streets and pilgrim hostels (meaning any covered place) proved to be a portrait bonanza.

It was in such a flee-infested, filthy little place where I met Victor and Clemence (or Desire, the introduction wasn't clear) from Paris, a couple of rare beauty.
And there was the blind singer. I saw him in 1999 already, sitting close to the bridge. He was there still, on the same spot in the same robe (such bright yellow that it drove my 5D's white balance mad), singing the same song. Eternal.
For some reason I was very happy to see him again. While I was looking at him, dealing with my memories, he stood up and tried to make his way through the mass flowing from the bridge; I took his hand and guided him through, making way for him through all the people. Paid his tea, too.
Several times I decided to go return to my hotel and every time I turned back. I was tired, dirty and soaking of sweat but Rishikesh didn't let me go. People got used to my presence after a while and it was exhilarating to become part of this town if even for just one afternoon.


Stefania Cruceru said...

excellent portraits! And I just love the way to narate the story....


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