I was shooting along the banks of the Ganga at Rishikesh, when i heard someone calling me. I turned around to find this dreadlocks-sporting baba. He first made the sign of a chillum, asking if i had any. I smiled and said no. He smiled back.
I then went ahead and started talking to him. He seemed to be sober, for a change. We had a good 15-minute conversation and to date i can’t remember his name, but i still remember the conversation. This was probably my first ever attempt at a street portrait as i had just bought my Canon S5 IS back then.
He told me that he along with a group of other Shiv-bhakt babas stayed around the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh and their main aim in life was to practise Shaivism, meditate and lead a nomadic life. He said he had lead this kind of lifestyle for close to 15 years.
“How do you manage your meals then?” i asked. He replied that they completely relied on bhiksha. In a tourist-friendly town such as Rishikesh, there is an abundance of bhiksha and food for people like him. They have very few belongings and would sleep, bathe and smoke chillum along the ghats of the Ganga. There are some sort of open quarters around the Ganga at Rishikesh where a lot of these godmen stay and sleep.
I asked him if he only stayed in Rishikesh or does he move around, to which he said, “Jab garmi badh jaati hai, to hum pahadon me jaate hai. Uttarakhand ya Himachal. Ek hi jagah nahi rehte.” (When the heat increases, we take off to the hills. We keep moving around in Uttarakhand or Himachal but do not stay fixed at any one place).
I did not have the heart to ask him anything about his past or his family. So i took my leave and requested if i could click his picture. He agreed.
Whenever i look at those peering eyes, i am instantly transferred back to Rishikesh. What a lovely place that is!