One of the joys of traveling is taking spontaneous photographs of complete strangers. Our interaction is only for a few seconds, or at most a few minutes. But through their pics they leave a lasting impression. In the comfort of my home, those few moments get stretched, not unlike Einstein’s time. I recall every blink of an eye, every body shrug and every word that passed during that brief interaction. And it sticks in my mind, sprouts, grows and nourishes; and subtly transforms me too.
I particularly enjoy photographing kids hanging out on streets. They are not scared of strangers, invariably smile and are willing to pause for a photograph. And once they see their likeness on the camera LCD, they jump in glee and are thrilled to pose forever. Despite their posed smiles, their inner joy seeps through the screen. These kids usually have very little material things at home, certainly no gameboys to keep them from throwing tantrums. Instead, at a young age they are observing and learning from strangers. They learn to rely on their siblings and friends. To trust them, for so much depends on trust in this part of the world. And above all, they know how to have fun with nothing more than a place to hang out. Theirs is the purest of joys.
I saw these girls on the steps of the Baudhanath Stupa (In the opening pic you see them playing by the elephant on the left). As they saw me approaching with my camera, they cuddled together and smiled. I think these were all from an extended family. When I asked if they were brothers and sisters, the oldest girls brought everyone together and kept repeating – ‘family, family!’
(revised and updated Aug 2011)
When I noticed the Baudhanath Stupa on our itinerary, I was indifferent. But when I alighted from the bus there, I was awestruck at the size of this stupa and the vibrant atmosphere. The Stupa easily took a whole city block. It’s nearly 125 ft tall and the periphery was about a quarter of a mile; the largest in South-east Asia.
The large dome is topped by a square platform supporting 13 steps. From all four sides of this platform, the divine eyes of Buddha gaze out at the world. Such stylized eyes attesting to the benevolent grace of the divine, are everywhere in Kathmandu – on offices, homes, walls, shops and curios.