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Special Moment in India

Hola Molaha Festival
In the crowds of the Hola Mohalla Festival in Punjab

Some experiences stick with you forever…….or I hope they do.

One of them happened to me on a Jim Cline Photography Tour in India in March. We traveled to Anandpur Sahib, Punjab near Pakistan to photograph the Hola Mahalla Festival.  This is a really big deal for the Sikhs and specifically the Nihang people who are the members of the army known for their distinctive blue traditional robes and dumala turbans.

Hola Mohalla
This gentleman is at Hola Mohalla Festival with small smidgeon of paint from the Holi Festival.
Hola Mohalla
All ages enjoy the Hola Mohalla Festival.
Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla Festival
Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla Festival

I will share more about the Hola Mahalla Festival and the Nihangs in a future blog post.

This post is about a special moment. We were hanging out in an area where the Nihangs were camped. We called them “the blue guys.” They were the soldiers who gathered once a year to show off their military prowess making wonderful subjects for photography.

Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla

I learned on this trip that as a street photographer, a technique for getting good images is to find a place with a great back ground and then wait for something or someone to happen in front of it.  Kinda like this.

Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla Festival

I wasn’t very good at it. Whether I have a painfully short attention span or too much curiosity about what might be happening close by, I found it hard to stay and patiently wait for the “decisive moment” as the famous photographer Henri Cartier Bresson, often called the father of Photojournalism, called it.

Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla Festival

And when someone did show up or something happened,  I sometimes got rattled and rushed my shots, making the mistake of cutting off heads or feet or not positioning the subject following the rule of thirds, one of the photo techniques I was learning.  Frequently I missed the correct focus spot or a framing opportunity.

Hopefully, I will learn from this and get better. Fortunately I had a great time and enjoyed the experience of learning and improving.

Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla Festival

Let’s get back to the special moment.

So, while we were hanging there, looking for the perfect shot, angle and light, this very old man kept touching me on the shoulder and pointing away from the group, around campfires and the trucks that people we sleeping in.

Hola Mohalla
Hola Mohalla Festival

Being a fairly cautious person and a little nervous in a place here I didn’t speak the language and at that point neither of our Tour Leaders were in sight, I was hesitant to wander off, but eventually I followed him.

I did think to myself, “Well, if I’m being lead off to the sex trade, it will at least be a new experience I’d never forget.”

But soon I discovered what he wanted to share with me.  My new Indian friend lead me to the entrance of an Ashram and gently made motions with his hand and mouth indicating I could eat there.

So sweet. The Sikhs are known for their kindness and for their practice for feeding people (more about their massive kitchen in Amristar in an upcoming blog post).  They operate free kitchens in their temples and ashrams.

He wanted me to eat.  This dear man was inviting me to share a meal.

I was sorry I couldn’t communicate that we’d be eating when we got back to our camp, but that I really appreciated his kindness.  I smiled and tried to thank him for his kind offer.

Hola Mohalla
The lovely man who encouraged me to eat at the Sikh Ashram

This is what I love about travel. Whether on a special photo tour like this one or on a normal vacation trip, opportunities exist to interact with and share kindnesses with people in a variety of cultures.  In a troubled world, these special moments are to be treasured.

Hola Mohalla
Photo Tour Hola Mohalla Festival

For more images from the trip, go to trip Photo Leader’s blog. http://karlgrobl.com/blog/
Stay tuned to DesignDestinations.org for more of my experiences.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

11 Comments
  1. posted by
    Margaret Idema
    Apr 17, 2017 Reply

    Love these people shots…the costumes are so wonderful. Sometime I’d like to know more about the “thirds” for taking the best photos.

  2. posted by
    Susan J. Smith
    Apr 17, 2017 Reply

    Thanks, Margaret, India is an fabulous place for taking people photos. Expect to see more as I edit photos and do blog posts. I’m happy to share what I have learned about the rule of thirds. The next time we’re together lets get the iPhones out and I’ll explain. sis

  3. posted by
    julie
    Apr 17, 2017 Reply

    Beautiful photos Susan, and a very sweet story, thanks for sharing!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Apr 17, 2017 Reply

      Thank you, Julie. I appreciate your comment.

  4. posted by
    Judy Bereza
    Apr 18, 2017 Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. It gives us hope in our troubled and frightening world.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Apr 20, 2017 Reply

      Thank you, Judy, Nice to hear from you and I appreciate your comment.

  5. posted by
    JoAnne
    Apr 20, 2017 Reply

    Your story about being led by the Sikh man to the Ashram and how he used sign language to offer you food made my day. What a beautiful story. And while I love all the photos, the picture of this particular man is captivating. I feel like I’m having an experience with him!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Apr 21, 2017 Reply

      JoAnne, You made my day with this comment. Thank you so much.

  6. posted by
    Leah Missbach Day
    Apr 21, 2017 Reply

    Susan! You are so brave to do this work, then share it. Love the photos. Especially the one in the truck, the one with the gentleman hugging his horses face and particularly the one of the man who invited you to eat. Clearly you felt deeply connected for his kind gesture. Then there are those aviator sunglasses. What a study in fashion accessories with the blue guys balancing the new and the old. Gorgeous work.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Apr 21, 2017 Reply

      Thank you so much for this comment, Leah. I really appreciate it. I feel very fortunate to have been able to take this trip. It was really a special experience for me and I’m having a lot of fun working on blog posts. I’ll be doing lots more. AS you can imagine I have lots of images to delete, to edit and to process. I wish you’d blog about living in Africa. I’m sure you are having a life changing experience with stories to tell.

  7. posted by
    Hola Mohalla–a Sikh Military Festival in Punjab | DesignDestinations
    Jul 31, 2017 Reply

    […] We stayed at a charming camp and headed off in a truck every day to the festival. For people visiting Anandpur Sahib, langers (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by local people to serve the visitors. I was invited to eat by an older Sikh gentleman. For a description of that experience, here’s a link. A Special Moment in India. […]

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