One of the odd, fun, and unique parts of travelling in India is how often people ask if they can have their picture taken with you. At this point, God only knows how many people have a picture of themselves standing next to me! :) Unless I'm in a big hurry or feeling crummy, I am pretty much always delighted to go along with it. It's a very sweet way to interact with people and share a fun moment together. Plus, I OFTEN find myself wanting to take pictures of perfect strangers here. Generally, I chicken out, but every once in a while I do work up the courage and take a shot or two. Children are the easiest, because they are beautiful and generally love to ham it up for the camera.
It's lovely that just as I find their faces beautiful and unfamiliar and exotic... they are equally interested in our unfamiliar faces and features. At the caves we were each asked over and over again to be in pictures. This must be what it feels like to be a celebrity. In fact, just here in Pune recently we walked by a school bus of preteen girls. One of them leaned out the window and said "Hello!" - when we smiled and said hello back, as we passed by, the entire bus broke out in giggles of delight at this strange and successful interaction! It's SO fun! Hee hee. I pretty much feel the same way when I successfully buy two tickets in Hindi, or say "My name is Amey" in Hindi, so I certainly know how they feel!
I snapped this shot with these two girls at the Ajanta Caves. Their mother and I had exchanged a few smiles, and then she asked if I would be in a photo with her and her kids. Of course! I would love to! These little girls were so adorable, I seized the moment and got a picture for myself as well. The faces and clothes and feature here are all just so beautiful... and one of my favorite things about being in India. I guess you might be catching on that I have many favorite things about India. Ha!
After our trip to the Ajanta Caves we visited the "Little Taj Mahal" in Aurangabad... a mausoleum and mosque that is pretty much modelled after the original, and built not too long afterwards. I'll tell you, I had my picture taken a LOT there! A group of girls came over and asked if I would be in a picture... well it turned out that each and every one of them wanted their picture individually with me! What about a group shot? We were there for quite a while! Later on the same group had me literally cornered up against a building as they were taking pictures, practising their English, shaking my hand, and even giving me a hug! It is a bit odd, because I don't feel that I did anything interesting or worthwhile to deserve all that attention! However, I love it because it is such a clean and peaceful way to interact with people. No commerce or needs, just excitement and interest and an amazing presence of goodwill. I always love meeting people and sharing smiles and whatever small verbal communications we can manage. It's such a thrill. I recall from my last trip to India that one of the most incredible things was when I would see someone who looked so foriegn, so unfamiliar, so different, and then with one shared smile the bond of humanity and connection was immediately forged. To go from seeing someone as "other" to seeing oneself in another in a matter of moments is truly one of the most beautiful things I've experienced.
The sweet young woman in this picture was so friendly and interested and open - I could feel that she shared the same excitement about meeting someone different and new that I feel. I am happy to have a picture of us two together to remember her by.
I'm grateful to all the strangers that took my picture, and to all the strangers that allowed me to take their picture.