Wednesday, August 6, 2014

To Beg Or Not To Beg - Beggars And Ajmer



The moment you enter Ajmer for the annual Urus of the Holy Saint Khwajah Garib Nawaz , beggars start appearing , they just come out of the blue mystically too .

If like me you prefer to walk to the Dargah through the narrow winding back lanes that lead you to the gates of the Dargah , you will keep meeting them with every stride you take.

And the beggars at Ajmer during the annual Urus come in all size shape and deformity and if like me you prefer shooting beggars than it is here that your journey into pain starts.

Whether the beggars are part of a Beggar Mafia or organized begging I dont know , but being a pucca street smart Mumbaikar I know you simply just cant sit on the street and beg unless you grease the local goon who pushes the envelop upwards to the cops and others in Mumbai lingo it is called Hafta .

Begging thus becomes a business like hawking ..an illegal beggars zone and begging is a necessity at pilgrimage spots ,for that huge Indian misplaced emotion called Charity.

Even the change collected by the beggars is handed over to the money changers for a fee , this change is given to the devotee for giving it back to the beggars for a nominal fee .

Ajmer Sharif during the Urs is a Market of Beggars and also a Market of Thieves , pick pocketeers by simply looking at you they know what you are carrying and with razor sharp mind they cut your pockets very easily.


When the thief is caught he gets hammered by the cops they take him into custody but I am told they let him off with a warning taking away all the loot  that he may have hidden on his person.

Ajmer Sharif has a large number of drug addicts gardalus brown sugar users and this is the reality that is seen without using my camera.

But my subject is beggars and as you climb up from Ajmer towards Taragadh you meet beggars lepers , young kids forced into begging by the parent , very small children are rented out , after drugging them and it is a lucrative art form for generating sympathy and more money too.

A few blocks away from Dhai Djinn Ka Jhopda there is a mound where the beggars stay in makeshift tents along with the rifai and malang groups ..some of the beggar girls are extremely beautiful and vulnerable ,, money is the name of the game.

And sadly neither the Dargah authorities or the cops can control crime as they are busy keeping the peace law and order during the most crowded Muslim pilgrimage of India.

And I shoot beggars to show you the underbelly of society , there are couple with kids , the lady in a hijab who stand at a street corner pleading they were robbed and need money to go back home and you will find them every day at a new spot .

Than there are the fakirs who accost you , they are beggars too with their peacock feathers blessing you and almost breaking your back.

I beg too for a friendly beggar with contorted legs I have a beggar bowl I place it in front of me and I make a lot of money as the people at Dhai Djinn Ka Jhopda the place where my friend sits take my picture with their mobile phones ,.some think I am a holy man touch my feet some give me leftover food that I eat with my beggar friend .. Yes I shoot beggars and this is the chapter of my life when humility becomes the handmaiden of poetry.

There is a lot to see shoot at Ajmer and I have never shot the interior of Ajmer Sharif Dargah since they banned the camera in the Dargah premises . The Murids bring my camera till the Asthana of my host Peersaab Fakhru MIya I shoot the Hujra and their Chatti celebrations than the Murid hands me my camera outside the gates of the Dargahs.

I either go sit with my Malang Guru Masoomi Baba or head to Moti Katla to shoot the exotic hijras of Ajmer . Luckily I have access and most of them allow me to shoot them i the privacy of their rooms .. making all kinds of Katrina Kaif like poses .Hijras love Bollywood and some of the hijra damsels would give Bollywood a run for the money..

Shooting the hijra sandal on the streets of Ajmer Sharif is a tough one as I am barefeet and their dance and their Nakhras I have shot it all ,,,I have shot the hijra children and it is one time I enjoy being away from Mumbais heat and humidity ,, it is hot in Ajmer too no pun intended .. but if you like shooting people than Ajmer is the place I shoot Pushkar too I have two good friends and Raj Tilak an aspiring Bollywood actor , he has just done a role in a serial is an iron smith and all my kama head cutting daggers are from Pushkar ..the one I use is blessed by my friend at the Brahma Mandir ,, according to him every drop I shed for Imam Hussain becomes his drop too.


Lalbaugh Chya Raja Mukut Darshan 2019

I am perhaps the only Muslim shooting Lalbaugh Chya Raja for over 20 years or more ,,thanks to Mr Sudhir Salvi head honcho of the Mandal.....