By Serge Bouvet:
I’m French. I live in Paris but whenever I have free time, I visit India. I want to present my point of view of India. My foreign point of view! For you, the native Indian, my perspective may seem trivial. You might find it to be so general that they are almost verging on the banal.
Photography is difficult when it comes to capturing the lives of foreign people. I shot India from March 2012 until 2016, traveling extensively in North India to create a book about Indians. Here, I try to give you photographs charged with life, strange moments (for an European like me) and from a French viewpoint. I tried to keep a democratic view and shot everything that might be interesting to people who would like visit India… Because India is incredible from where I see it.
There is a famous Bengali quote:’If you don’t visit Calcutta and don’t see the Howrah Bridge, it
means you are still in your mother’s womb.’ Near the bridge, people go in belly deep to take a dip in the Hooghly river – the son of Ganga. I woke up quite early for this shot.
Sometimes, focus disguises reality. Don’t think the sadhu blesses the taxi. The driver is off camera, towards the right. The sadhu begs for Rs 10. On the car, you can read the sentence “No refusal”.
I met a Bhavai dancer, Kajal Bhatt, at the Kathputli Colony slum. Bhavai is a genre of folk dance popular in the West Indian state of Rajasthan. While visiting the slum, I was invited by Kajal to drink tea with her. Her home was humble and tiny. A photo of her mother was stuck on the wall. Every day, Kajal dances on broken glass. That day, as she prepared to leave for the show, she adjusted her earrings while looking in a mirror.
Vyayam or physical training is meant to build strength and develop muscle bulk and flexibility. Exercises that employ a wrestler’s own body weight includes the Surya Namaskara, shirshasana, and the danda, which are also used in hatha yoga, as well as the bethak. I met this man who practices traditional Pahalwani (a form of wrestling from South Asia) while looking in the mirror inside the Durga temple of Varanasi.
Samnyâsin from Varanasi – Behind Panchganga Ghat, the old city of Varanasi extends to about two kilometres back from the river and is a maze of alleyways and blue streets. The old town is dotted with small alleys, so just leave the main road, turn left or right and you will come to see some unusual sight. Don’t worry about getting lost, because sooner or later you’ll end up either in front of the river or on a main street. A compass is a good choice not to lose direction.
In Europe, nobody brushes their teeth on the streets. So for me, tooth brushing in India is very exotic.
I met Saperas on the streets of Varanasi. Saperas North Indian Hindu caste. They are also known as Barwa Sampheriya in West Bengal, Sapela in Punjab and Sparera in Madhya Pradesh. The Saperas are still largely involved in their traditional occupation of snake charming.
Photo: Serge Bouvet