Photograpy, India, Portraits, Anglo Indians, Family and me

Month: October, 2012

The Aghoree Baba from Assi Ghat (part2)

Like stories on pages in a book the many years that I spent travelling across India slowly turned for me and like a good read I seem to have lingered over some pages longer than others. I often stopped off on a long train journey east from Delhi to wallow in the chaotic beauty that is the city of Benares; I loved to spend my days on foot treading the stone steps that tame the Ganges, and along this dirty, polluted and over populated section of the holy river I always managed to find some peace, as well as a chest infection. The Aghoree Baba

I would slowly amble the Ghats under the midday sun with only chai wallahs and mad dogs for company with sweat seeping and bubbling from my ample forehead; I would on occasion bump into my Aghoree baba. He would appear like the monsoon, never guaranteeing a time or a place, just a certainty that through the passage of time and as we turned life’s pages our paths would inevitably cross.

On one particular hot afternoon during the summer of 2009 I met my Aghoree Baba once again. I asked him if he would accompany me and be my guest for lunch. He agreed to my offer and we both left the river in search of food. Having already known each other for a number of years by now I immediately asked him if we could find a bar? He said no, a wine shop would be better. We flagged down a cycle rickshaw wallah, one of the thousands of men who huff, puff and pedal the congested dust roads that run parallel to the Ganges River. After some time spent searching we eventually bought some curried chicken and half a bottle of cheep whisky (Bagpiper).

During our short ride from the River in search of meat and alcohol we drew many stares as we sat perched high on the bouncing seat of the rickshaw wallah’s tricycle – I think some of strange looks we got were from concerned local people, wondering what a foreigner was doing with an Aghoree Baba on the back of a rickshaw and wondering where we were headed. I was even warned to be careful around him by fellow drinkers outside the wine store. I know he was embarrassed by the concern that some of the drunks were showing for me and I assured them all that all was fine.



The Aghoree at Assi Ghat. (part 1)

I first met with an Aghoree Baba in November 2002 at Assi Ghat in Benares, although at that time I did not know or care that he was an Aghoree; he was sat sharing a chillum with a few young foreign travellers, many of whom appeared more fashionably ascetic than him. I think stoned and wanting to impress the crowd he pulled a few almost impossible Yogic positions in what appeared an uncomfortable couple of sweaty minutes for him. We talked together for a while in short sentences that were made up of broken words of English and Hindi, a hybrid language that I now refer to as Hinglish.

I took a couple of frames of him I said goodbye and I moved on. One year later I bumped into him again and once again he sat entertaining a small crowd of impressionable young foreign travellers who had congragated at Assis Ghat. Recognising me he embraced me and he took me to his home. His home was also a shrine, built for his gods, it was leaning against  a small growing tree, it was perched high on the muddy rivers bank, at the very western end of Benares’s Ghats, safe from the river in full flood. Aghoree Baba

Next day though I found him sobbing close to the steps of Assi Ghat. He told me he was crying because earlier that morning a few police men had raised his small shrine to the ground and now his home was gone. He pleaded with me to do something for him . I asked, what could I do? He looked terribly disappointed in me, he almost expected me to have some sort of power over authority that I could help him to restore his home and his shrine.

‘Ghats’- concrete step at the rivers edge.

Jason Tilley