The title of this blog entry may seem a little disparaging, though repeated efforts to initiate conversation or a relationship came to nothing. All I know about this man was that he was an older man, diminutive in stature and by his appearance was definitely a sadhu. It also seemed that Manikarnika Ghat appeared to be his home.
He was there every day, sleeping beside one of the temples amongst the goats and cows and spent his days silently watching the antyesti rituals. I never saw him engage in conversation with another human being, apart from to ask for chai, or some food, or to acknowledge with a little nod if chai was bought for him. His whole life seemed to revolve around the ghat where cremations of his Hindu brothers and sisters occured.
My previous blog post described the role of the Karta at Manikarnika Ghat at Varanasi; the white cotton-clad males who lead the antyesti rituals on the ghats of Manikarnika, one of the most auspicious cremation sites in the Hindu world. Although moksha can be obtained in other circumstances, for example bathing in the waters of the Ganges in a great festival like the Kumbh Mela, nowhere brings such liberation upon death than the Ghats here. They are the centre of the Hindu universe.
The men with the white cotton clothes and the shaven heads are conspicuous amongst the sacred, infernal landscape of Mannikarnika Ghat, the most auspicious cremation site in the entire country of India. Often separated from family and friends, they sit upon piles of wood or the concrete ghat steps and contemplate their role in the ceremonies which facilitate the passage of their relative from the temporal world into the afterlife, where moksha ( freedom from the circularity of rebirth ) is believed to be attained because of the sanctity of the Ganges at Varanasi.
Buying a new camera with a modern technological profile does not mean that you, as a photographer, have not been in a similar situation before. A camera is just essentially a hollow receptacle ( a box that captures light ), and the medium, although changing from the emulsion of film to the plastic and silicon of a sensor and memory card, may not really be quite so different either. There is perhaps an ultimate equivalence in purchasing a medium format digital camera to replace a film medium format camera. There may also be a surprisingly similar equivalence to swapping out a large format film camera for a medium format, digital camera, such is the quality now obtainable.
Seven years ago I spent 2 months in Kolkata, arriving for the first time at the wonderful Howrah station, planning to take a taxi to my pre-booked hotel. Stepping outside the bustle and noise of the station I immediately saw that taking a taxi would not be wise; the traffic jam stretched out of the station and apparently right across the gleaming, silver meccano bridge which is Howrah. Pushing my wheely suitcase I threaded my way through the immobile taxi ranks, avoiding the elongated puddles which harboured foul water as best as I could, and joined the long line of people waiting to step onto the very same silver bridge as soon as the crowd allowed.
I had arrived at Kolkata, the City of Joy.
Tanneries are synonomous with Morocco. In Fez especially the large tanneries throughout the city draw tourists by their thousands, each tourist being offered a sprig of mint as they gaze down from a terrace to counter the smell of the ancient processes. Many of these tanneries have been renovated and working conditions improved for workers there.
A traditional tannery appears to exist in Essaouira, on the road from Bab Doukalla towards Jotiya. Stepping inside the door is like stepping back several millenia. (more…)