Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 147: Bazaar Excitement

OYLPA Day 147: Bazaar Excitement, originally uploaded by klodhie.

Wed., Feb. 23, 2011

For our final day in Bahawalpur we went shopping, naturally. The city is known for its chunari and mukesh suits, fabric styles that really show how Rajasthani culture in pre-Partition Hindustan still emanates through the daily life of the people of this geographical region, whether in Pakistan or India. This particular bazaar that I mentioned yesterday is a crazy, exciting place, where a woman not covering her head with a camera in hand is a strange sight among the chai walas and cloth dyers and fish being cleaned and mountains of spices and nuts and colorful fabrics. If I could have I would have spent hours there photographing anything and everything, but was rushed on by the women who had come with the purpose of buying clothes; it is a market after all. I was also a bit on edge because I did not know how the people there would react to me photographing them, and I was also trying to practice being brave and simply ask people if I could photograph them. All of the people I asked were more than happy to have their picture taken, and would stop their work to pose (I would take the picture and then show them, then ask if I could keep photographing them while they worked - many did not seem to understand why I'd want to photograph them working).

I saw an old man sitting behind piles of spices and his face stood out to me, so I asked if I could photograph him and he smiled excitedly. Upon seeing that, this man in the orange suit you see suddenly came up behind me and said loudly, "Meri bhi lo! Meri bhi lo!" ("Take my picture too!"). I was a bit frightened by it to be honest, but also immensely excited for the photo opportunity I would get, especially because he was wanting his picture taken. I thanked him and took some shots and then showed them to the man, and he beamed with a big smile and laughed and put his hand on my head and gave me a blessing. My mother then said she'd have to pay him and quickly handed him money, and he thanked us both. I was worried that upon seeing this more people in the market would start coming up to me to do the same, but then I realized that that might not be such a bad thing (actually, no, I'll be honest again, I was freaking out and imagined myself suddenly being swarmed upon and trampled by men and women wanting their picture taken).

Overall, I'd say that if you wish to go to such a place and take time to photograph the people and activities and things that you see, I'd recommend going with people whose only goal is also to take time to photograph or at least who know that that's the main reason you are there - you'll get more of the shots you want and you won't frustrate (and frighten) the people you have come with. I've also made a note to myself (as Rick Sammon warned in his book Face to Face and I forget to listen) to always carry the equivalent of $1 notes (about a 100 Rs. note here in Pakistan these days) to give to people that you photograph, especially as they may ask for it and it will be ten thousand times worth the shot you will get.

A side note, as it has been coming to my mind often lately (and it is completely random and totally creeper status [or utterly romantic, same thing], but I've warned you). One of my favorite recurring moments during this trip to Pakistan has been sitting in the back seat observing the eyes and forehead of the drivers who are hired by each of the families here in the midst of seeing the sights. I love seeing just their eyes and the depth of focus in them, the wrinkling of the drivers' foreheads that gives them a constant look of worry. I try not to begin to place emotions and stories behind the expression in their eyes, but it's a difficult activity to suppress. I do wonder what they think about as they constantly hear the stories of the women in the back talking about family scandals and the latest kurta suit fashions. I wonder how bored they get just waiting outside, or if they even feel bored or just see the waiting as a necessary part of the job. I am reminded of White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, and then feel bad for stereotyping and objectifying. I could go into an entire social commentary on the whole thing, but essentially I just wanted to mention how I enjoy watching the drivers' alert yet dreaming eyes and furrowed brow.


  1. I absolutely loved the last paragraph Kiran. I have thought the same thing SO many times. - Hafsa

  2. Thanks Hafsa, glad to hear you've thought the same!