The searing heat from the midday sun beats down on their delicate yet strong tanned shoulders as they break a sweat lifting heavy loads all day long. Passed by unnoticed by people on the street, it appears as though they do not exist for the many who walk on without even batting an eyelid. Clad in their weathered yet colourful sarees, they exude a certain feminineness but have the unsavoury task of clearing dirt and rubble from the drains that run along the streets. Paradoxically the men on scene have a lighter workload, shovelling dirt into plastic basins for the ladies.
Balancing these heavy loads on their heads and doing an almost runway like model walk up and down the street, there was something distinctly elegant yet tough about the way they went about their business. The work may be menial but never once did I get the feeling they were ashamed of what they were doing. They held their heads high with a sense of pride.
The hindi word “lachak” came to mind as I watched them strut their stuff. It’s a reference to the way a woman sways her hips with a hint of class and oodles of style. It was poetry in motion.
Maybe it’s just me, but these everyday and often mundane scenes are the ones that captivate and often grab my attention. I stopped to observe what they were doing. People watching is just as interesting to me as is visiting a heritage site. They both speak volumes about the society and provide insights on the people and cultural differences we may have.
Sneaking in the first few shots undetected, I returned a little more boldly and captured more images of them in full view. I even got a couple of coy smiles which is always a good sign I won’t get chased down the street. They were aware of my presence and didn’t seem to mind, possibly thinking I was a reporter who would sensationalise their plight and make them famous or just a creepy dude walking the streets stalking them.
I just love the raw grittiness of these images and can only imagine how stunning these ladies would look in a studio setting for a proper photo shoot with my speed lights and soft boxes. If only that were possible. I can already envision the thematic shots I would take and the lighting I would use.
At last, anyone who’s ever travelled to a foreign land is often trigger happy and takes tonnes of photos of seemingly forgettable buildings, landscapes and these days, every meal they ever had on the trip. Not to mention all the mindless “I was there” selfies you can take for FB status updates. But shinny skyscrapers and shopping malls are not what I’m after when I’m on a mission to see a city. More than any cityscape or sunset I’ve ever witnessed, these shots are the memorable ones I keep coming back to more than anything else. The people, their expressions and their unusual circumstances.
The Roving Photographer