One of my favorite things to do in a new town is to grab my camera and set off on foot with no plan and no idea where I’m going. My camera is my third eye. Honestly, I don’t think I would know how to travel without it.
For me, traveling and photography go hand in hand, and not being able to capture the people and scenes I encounter for probably the first and last time would be detrimental, for that would mean I have to rely on my memory. Anybody who knows me knows that my memory is not a good thing to rely on.
Without my camera, wandering aimlessly through the narrow alleys of Varanasi or down on the railroad tracks of Haridwar would have been an entirely different experience. I’ve met others who believe that taking pictures ruins the moment, and perhaps that’s true. But for me, especially in India, it often creates them, and my photos are a crucial component to helping me write when it comes time to sit down and transform my experience into words.
So on my first morning in Bikaner, India, I walked. The dirt roads let me through neighborhoods, past cows grazing on trash, working camels and donkeys pulling heavy loads.
Eventually I found myself at the famed Junagarh Fort. Built between 1588 and 1593, it’s one of the most impressive forts in Rajasthan, with detailed lace carvings, dome roofs, and delicate archways, it’s a beauty standing tall amidst the sandy surroundings.
Bikaner, like most small towns, is full of friendly locals. A boy about my age met me upon my exit at Junagarh Fort and asked if he could walk with me. He wanted to practice his English, he said, and he’d be honored to give me a tour of Old Town. I obliged. He took me through the congested, narrow streets that make up the livelihood of this otherwise sleepy, desert town, past spice and flower vendors, chai wallahs and fried food stands.
We weaved in and out until we arrived at the old havelis, or houses, that used to be where the majority of the population live. Now, empty and condemned, they stand delicate and beautiful in the center of Bikaner’s Old Town.
When we parted ways, I continued to wander, and I came across some subjects that couldn’t have been any more willing, nor any more perfect, to stand in front of my lens: the locals of Bikaner, with their welcome smiles and proud ways.
Do you have to have a camera when you travel? Why or why not?
Bikaner, India in Images