A dense line of tourists along Sea Beach on Marine Drive in Puri huddle together on this crowded beach but they are domestic tourists, mostly from the state of West Bengal. Very few Western tourists visit Puri and those that do, seldom frequent this beach. Puri has miles of white sand beach but for the most part there is a dangerous under-tow. This small stretch of beach is relatively safe and delights its guests but few venture very far from the shore. The women here hardly ever put on a bathing suit, preferring to enjoy the breeze and the pleasures of a day at the shore on land. If they go in the water at all, it is usually in their sari or salwar-kameez. Consequently, the beach is one huge market-place, attracting a huge array of vendors. Some of these vendors have permanent spots with elaborate set-ups and others are itinerant. There are many vendors selling the same item and the competition is fierce.
“Buy My Balloons”
Some of the vendors are mere children, helping out their families and others are adults.
This pushcart even provides his customers with chairs.
He Sells Sea Shells…
This vendor sets up an intricate display every day. It was fun to watch people picking up the shells and listening to that marvelous sound that comes from deep inside the shell.
Cotton candy appeals to both the kids and grown-ups.
Swimmers with Cotton Candy Vendor
Inspecting Pearl Strands
The vendor isn’t shown in the above photograph but the buyer contemplates a bunch of pearls. Pearls are a popular item in Puri. The vendors swear that they are authentic but they aren’t. One of their proofs is to burn the pearl. I read that you should rub the pearl on your tooth. I have bought Puri pearl jewelry and if the price is right, ie. cheap enough and I like it, I don’t care if it isn’t real.
As you can see, business on the beach is brisk and it clearly is a buyer’s market!
Older Indian men are equally photogenic, alluring and worthy of their own post as their counterparts, the women, depicted in my last post are. Let’s travel around India and take a look.
Man with Hood and Gumcha, Puri, Odisha
Mr. Fix It, Amritsar, Punjab
I often bring my tours to Amritsar as part of an extension. It is always a great last stop before departing from Delhi. One of my clients was in a snit over her broken, prescription glasses. Mr. Singh came to our rescue. He can fix just about anything but does specialize in glasses. He was very serious, never smiled but delighted my client with the work he did.
Pan is a mild but addictive stimulant that consists of assorted ingredients piled into a folded leaf that forms a small pouch. The addictive element is betel nut. The entire packet is stored in the cheek and savored as it liquefies. Over time it does serious damage to the teeth, as seen in this photograph.
Although this man is frowning, he didn’t object to this photograph being taken. I suspect that this is an expression that he frequently “wears.”
In the small towns and villages of India, just about everyone enjoys sitting outside in the afternoon sun or shade, depending on the season. Most people are approachable and it is always a fantastic opportunity to get out your camera. In the cities, the same is true but more visible in the residential areas. After all my many years of travel around India, I am still fascinated by this amazing land and its diverse population.
I was reviewing three photographs that I took of this woman in South India, determining which one I would select for a future post. I couldn’t decide. The more I studied the portraits, the more the range of emotions that each one conveyed drew me in. I think that it makes for an interesting study as a whole. I wonder what you think and what you see.
The portraits are arranged in the order they were photographed. I know this woman casually. She wasn’t surprised that I stopped to talk to her or to take her photograph. In fact, she relished the attention and enjoyed being in the spotlight for a change.
Each one of us has so many “faces,” so many moods, so many expressions, so many views, all open to interpretation. I do love the vast range of human expression. Capturing it from behind the lens is a challenge, a responsibility, a privilege and most of the time fun. Mostly, I make friends along the way.
Preparing the Tea
Serving tea to guests in India is so traditional that after a while it borders on common place. When prepared over a fire in the rustic kitchen of a village home in Rajasthan, tea becomes the main event and is treated like the ancient ritual that it is. The fire imparts a unique smokey flavor to the brew that lingers on the palette and remains a lasting memory.
In comparison to the West, the day to day chores are more difficult without running water, a gas stove or a washing machine. All of these hardships fade into the background as guests unite over a soothing cup of smokey, sweet chai.
While Mom is busy in the kitchen, Big Sister keeps her baby brother out of mischief but before you know it, Big Sis will be the source of another kind of mischief but for now she smiles shyly while waiting for tea.
Puja at the Ghats
Nearly every Hindu temple in India has a water tank. A tank functions much like a reservoir as it can supply the community with water during times of scarcity but it is better known for accommodating the worshipers with their bathing and cleansing rituals that precede prayers.
The tanks also provide the locals with a water supply for their daily needs like washing their bodies and washing clothes. I love this blend of sacred and profane, another example of Hinduism’s flexibility.
Washing Clothes on the Ghats
Having a Bath
For the Hindus, the sacred water in these tanks is believed to possess many properties to cleanse, heal and release. They come as pilgrims to take a holy dip and be blessed with the assistance of a priest, who doesn’t perform these services for free.
Gathering at the Ghats
Hindu priests have been performing these rituals for thousands of years and charging for their services. When greed is not an obvious motive, this is an accepted practice.
With all the modernization underway today in India, the importance of faith and its dominion is still powerful and omnipresent, constantly reminding me why I love being in India.
Walking the back lanes is always such a different view and experience than sticking to the main street and often comes with unexpected visual pleasures. I shot the following photographs on the same short block in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Although this lane wasn’t far from the main street, it offered an entirely different perspective. And a few smiles too.
A Few Smiles
Naturally, along with the smiles, comes curiosity.
Curiosity is good. It brought me to India and to this back lane and changed the course of my life.