Holy town of Pushkar, Rajasthan, is a place where Lord Brahma once performed penance, where thousands of Hindu Pilgrims descend to the lake every year to bathe at 52 different Ghats of the Pushkar Lake and where photographers from around the world outnumber the pilgrims each year during the annual camel fair. Some call it the magical town where the monsoons cover the town with clouds while you lie down on a cozy chair of one of the roof top restaurants and with the sip of morning tea gaze at the rain drops falling on the green plants, which is a rare sight in the deserts of Rajasthan.
Agar firdaus bar rue zamin ast hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast! (“If there be paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!”) – Emperor Jahangir
I remember quoting Emperor Jahangir in my tweet last month when I was in Srinagar. The quote, I first came across in an advertisement of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism. I still remember it. It had a shot of Shikaras flowing in slow motion at the famous Dal Lake and a heavy voice saying these lines as the cameras panned across, Gulmarg and some beautiful Kashmiri gardens. I had always seen the darker side of Srinagar, in photographs or in movies, with all the crying, killing and bloodshed, but all the darkness was erased and this echoed in my mind as I admired the beautiful green chinar tree with the exquisite Dal lake in the backdrop from the window of my room at The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar.
The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar ( Picture by Himanshu Khagta)
Portraits of Shradha, Avinash and Abhilash, participants from Orissa, India
Adventure Hills invited me to experience their new adventure course, that would teach kids the skills to survive at high altitude areas and Himalayan forests. It included a 4 day trek to choordhar peak (highest peak of the middle Himalayas), caving and other techniques for survival.
I’ll explain more in a separate travelogue, till then, enjoy the portrait.
A calf poses with the Van Gujjar Kids while they rest themself on a buffalo.
Van Gujjar, is a wandering tribe of the Himalayas. In the winter season, the Van Gujjars migrate with their herds to the Shiwalik foothills, and in summer, they migrate higher into the Himalayas and spend their summer months in the wilderness with their cattle. They sell milk to the nearby Himalayan villages in exchange with money and other life sustaining goods.
I met one such tribe while on a three day trek to Churdhar peak (3650 m). It usually takes few hours to reach churdhar from Sarain village in Chopal, but we choose a different route where we found few of these tribes.
Not only do they live a very difficult life in the wilderness but are often harassed by the forest officials who demand free milk and other milk products. Their temporary shelters are burnt when the move down in the winters. Gujjars blame the forest officials while the forest officials blame the locals. “The aid is already passed by the center government but our tribes in Jubbal and Chopal district get nothing.”, said Yusuf, member of a Van Gujjar tribe. “We were provided a teacher for our kids and a vet for the cattle. They came for a few weeks and then never showed up”, he continued.
Whatever the real situation may be, these hospitable tribes will always be there to help you in the dense Himalayan Forests.
Friends posing for a shot at sunset time when the orange rays of the sun were falling on the green pine trees in a forest in Shimla
It was a beautiful evening when we were strolling in the forests near Shimla. This small hill station is suffering from negative growth and unplanned development. So to find peace we usually travel around Shimla and spend some time with the nature. We were going back home when this shot happened. The sun was about to hide behind the mountains and a filtered orange light from the sun fell on the trees.
It was something we had never seen before. The darkness of the orange was blending perfectly with the green of the pine trees. I wanted to capture it so I asked my friends to pose in front of this beautiful natural background. I randomly asked them to jump and to capture the moment I increased the ISO as the light was very low and to freeze the frame a fast shutter speed was required. All went well and the print looks fabulous.