…through the streets of India.
After a twelve-hour journey on the oddest sleeper bus on the sub-continent, cramped-up next to some stranger who kept calling me “James Bond” every time the bus turned a corner and he rolled into me, I arrived in Bangalore, Karnataka… thankful to get away.
After quick negotiations, I made my way to Shanthi Nagar by tuk tuk, found my accommodation in a quiet neighbourhood, and ended up staying for just over one month.
The best way to see a city is to know its people, and the best way to know a city’s people is to walk its streets.
Shanthi Nagar means “peaceful area/village”… and I found my own version of peace, on those roads.
In these streets you’ll find no tourists, no neon lights and fast-food chains, no plush hotels, taxis or street maps.
But there is much to see… for he who walks.
There’s no wandering around with your head in the clouds – you have to watch every step, mind the holes in the pavement, the great rocks, broken walls, piles of rubbish, goats, cows, feral dogs and rats. Then there are the cars, the ox-drawn wagons, mopeds, bikes, pedestrians, buses, tuk tuks, streets merchants, electrical wires hanging down over the walkways, temples and mosques and churches. Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
Everywhere little signs and symbols. Much to be seen, read, heard. The sound, the visual stimulation; the noise of the world.
If you wander off, away from the typical places of interest in any Indian city,
you will find the merchants, proud to stand and pose for a photograph, by their shop or stall.
Happy to smile for this strange man from the West… possibly the only one they’ve seen in their little neighbourhood.
That man who stopped you, and asked you to take his photo.
That humble smile you’ll find it hard to ever forget…
The ladies gathered in their silk and twill, goods balanced on their heads…
The young boy who wanted to know your name, where you were from, who decided to show you round his poor neighbourhood just to spend time and speak with you, this stranger.
Another face that will stay imprinted in the book of your life.
Words shared that will forever echo in your mind…
The old temple he took you to, told you the history of, or at least what the elders had told him;
the oldest temple in the area, and the most beautiful…
The dusty cricket ground you found, with the hawks flying above, and the two young boys who,
quickly spotting your camera, rushed over to get a photo. Simple, honest smiles.
The little park where you stopped to rest, found yourself an empty bench in a quiet corner,
listened to birds, the sound of distant traffic, watched the butterflies, the lady who stopped sweeping,
outside her house, perfectly framed for your shot, before she wandered off, back to her chores…
The eyes watching you as you pass on by – the people sitting around that huge temple complex, the boys under the bridge, the lady on the balcony, coconut sellers, people living out their daily lives…
The lady sitting at that same bus stand you passed by everyday. That lady who, out of all the others around,
out of all the noise and hustle abounding, you couldn’t help but notice every single day, and wonder what lay behind those eyes…
And if you really keep your eyes open, you may spot him too… that strange traveller from the West,
slipping through the streets, unidentified, anonymous, carrying nothing but a camera, an open mind…
…for I am he who walks.
All photos copyright James Dee Clayton and Shaun D’souza respectively.
Shot on location in Bangalore, India.