“You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.”
Jane Goodall was my hero when I was younger. I always thought I would grow up to live in an African forest amongst the chimpanzees just like her. I had read her books, knew the names of her chimps, and had posters covering every inch of my walls with animals, notably monkeys of all kinds. I was an absolute fanatic, and apparently there is a little bit of that childhood love left in me. Everyday at four (in Richikesh) I visited the same spot where I knew a family of white monkeys always came. Sometimes I brought banana peels and other treats, and other times I just watched them wander and climb around as monkeys do. They are very docile, and didn’t care much if your approached them. The second you opened your bag though, they would all crowd around expecting a treat.
“I have never been attached to just one place. I don’t feel like that my home is the city where I was born.”
Richikesh has many Babas (or Sadhus), wandering Hindu monks who have no home and no past (obviously they have a past, but they live as if they have none). They do not live within society as most of us do, they have no processions, no family, and no job, and instead live their life in a spiritual manner. They often live in forests, caves, or temples, and sometimes, like in Richikesh, just on the street. There are 4-5 million today in India, and they are mostly respected by the rest of society. They receive donations from people as much of the community believes they help to burn off bad karma. Not everyone respects them though, there are many beggars, especially in holy pilgrimage sites, who now pose as Babas in order to be given money or a meal. Something I found surprising was the fact that these holy men smoke a lot of weed (called charrus here), since they believe Shiva, their God, adored the leaves of the plant. Another interesting thing I read is that Sadhus are legally considered dead in India, some of whom even attended their own funeral.
“We are born into a complex world. Its nature. Its history. Its cultures. Ours to absorb. We are small, but we are fearless. We explore, we question, we test the world. Young and unburdened, we are not afraid of the answers we might find…”
Well, I got stuck again for a week (at this rate it’s going to be months until I make it to Nepal), but it was a much needed break to recharge my metaphorical, well, and camera batteries. Though I’m on the road to meet the locals and experience their ways of life, I will admit it’s very nice to be with my own kind. I ended up in Richikesh, a very touristy town because it’s near the source of the Ganga, and because it has become a sort of yoga capital. The town is filled with what I refer to as “lost travelers,” people on the road for years on end, often because they have no home or family and don’t really know what to do. India seems to attract many of these such travelers as it is easy to get a visa and because it is one of the cheapest countries to live in. There were also an astounding amount of yoga fanatics, people who come to India just to take classes and do their daily practice. It was a funny mix of travelers, definitely not what I consider a typical backpacking crowd in most of the world. And since it was a town with so many westerners, I was thankfully not starred at or watched constantly. It was nice to have a few days of easy travel, knowing where I would be sleeping that night and having somewhere to store my bags.
“Les photos ne remplaceront jamais les moments qu’elles évoques.” (Photos will never replace the moments they evoke.)
Looking back through some of my photos from earlier this trip, I remembered just how much I enjoy shooting in black and white. Sure, most of the time photography looks better in color, especially when dealing with landscapes and scenery, but I find that black and white photography can be a very powerful tool to convey emotion. It eliminates the distracting colors and leaving you with the raw image. Here are a few black and white photos from India, some of which you have already seen in color.
“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
After leaving my Indian family behind, I decide to spend a day by the river reading (500 pages, a whole book in one sitting) and camping as I had been craving a bit of alone time with my tent.
“I dream of a better world where chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned.”
People in this part of the world are creative. In India I have seen people carrying absolutely everything on a bike, wagon, or on their body, including a group of men each carrying a bed strapped to their head! There are car fixing stations every so often with piles of what looks like scrap metal and junk, and somehow they are able to piece it all together to fix any problem. And though everyone here stills throws their trash out the window without a second thought, they have come up with a creative recycled use for old paper.
“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
Attending an Indian marriage gave me an insight into just how different cultures can be. The day of the ceremony itself was filled with food (served from buckets as everyone ate rice, mutton, and dal with their hands) and Indian music and dancing. From the outside it looked like a pretty simple affair, until I learned the details about marriage in India, which confirmed what I already knew… I will never marry an Indian man!
“The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.”
I was in Kot for one of the many festivals that happens during this time of year. It is the festival of women, where the women wear a new suit and bangles, do henna on their hands, and fast for the day in order to ensure a long life for their husband. They fast until the moon comes up, at which time they look through a strainer at their husband and the moon. They then throw rice and water, and eat certain foods such at a bite of coconut, sweets, and a piece of bread to break the fast. I am not sure if they actually believe this will ensure a longer life for their husband, or if they do it purely out of tradition.
“The most freeing and liberating part of this whole trip is that…I rarely have any place to be other than where I am, which truly lets me live in the moment. Every single moment.”
Here is the house (the green and white one in the bottom right corner) I stayed in while in the village of Kot. Like all the houses in the area, there were no roads up and down the hillside so the only way to reach the house was on a small foot path. Throughout this region there were little clusters of five or six houses that were considered a “village,” though they also identified with the town a few kilometers away.
“When I was 5 years old, my mom always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Though these guys were shy at first, after I brought out my camera and showed them a picture of themselves, they quickly began posing and playing with me.