I was shooting images of bathers on the steps descending into the river when I noticed a presence above me: a stoic, cheshire cat of a character, silently strewn along the ledge to my back. Yellow-green turban artfully perched atop his bearded head, he relocated himself and tended to a simple shrine encircling a banyan tree-a portion of the roots painted a vivid orange. He lit some incense among small embankment and came upon a small group of characters: A shirtless,wiry old man- possibly the brahmin of the shrine- who on occasion rang a small brass bell; a trio of vagrants- caught in various stages of wakefulness; a small group of men smoking in silence at the end of a red alley—and the reappearance of the turbaned fellow, aware of, yet never acknowledging me.
I meandered into one of the alleyways in between ruinous colonial buildings and peered into a doorway. A disheveled, round old man sitting lotus-style on a rug surrounded by the most beautifully odd collection of belongings: hanging bags with unknown contents, a mound of multicolored fabric, old devotional images and dried-out garlands. There was something otherworldly about his presence. This sort of character only resides in novels, I thought. He witnessed me as I quietly lifted my camera as if to gesture for permission to document this tableau. He gave no sign of assent nor disapproval, so I took a single shot, nodded in gratitude, and crept on.
There was a small plot of dirt in a trash-strewn courtyard nearby and on the far side a raggedy figurine camouflaged by refuse. I made a few steps towards the idol and the silence was broken by a curt yelp. A new man had appeared from nowhere pointing to a faintly drawn boundary in the dirt. There's something strange and splendid about this place.