johnny, the 'unofficial guide' of churi ajitgarh, rajasthan, india
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churi ajitgarh is a small village a little south from mandawa in jhunjhunu area. as a western tourist without any india experience you get quickly overwhelmed by the wealthy architecture, colorful houses and lush green of the fields all around shortly after monsoon season was over. once, when the silk road was still running, the small village as well as mandawa was a wealthy city where fabrics and spices had been traded, the merchants were rich and educated, the town highly developed. it even has a fort, built by maharaj ajit singh which is today private property. the classy havelis and houses are still there, but many are today abandoned (or at least look like), some partly demolished, other parts in the process of recnstruction, or in re-use even cattle sheds or other purposes. after the silk road the region played a significant role in politics even through the times of british colony but later the population decreased to the size of a small settlement (approximately 6500 today), the wealthy merchants' families moved on to other business locations (as bangalore, mumbai, delhi) and mostly farmers remained behind.
while one morning we strolled through that village, where history even before mogul times jumps into your face on every corner quite naturally, we met friendly villagers, women and children while the men where out on the fields already, who were delighted by my visit and shy but willing to be photographed. and we met johnny when he yelled "namaste" and "welcome" from the upper terrace of his father's house. he wanted us to come closer and up to see the village from above. we decided to refuse because there were two young men, probably elder brothers, on the terrace we just didn't know if they really agreed. so johnny ran down to us, to be all smiles and asking the indian question
(how v. s. naipaul called it): "where you from?" he was jumping up and down laughing and saying something mixed hindi and english. we tried to talk a little.
finally when we left he ran back up on the high terrace from where he was able to observe every step we took. he yelled loudly down to us through the alleys we walked trying to explain where we were, what we saw and giving us directions where to go next. the two young men convulsed with laughter and we waved and waved and yelled back "thank you" and "bye, bye" to make him stop calling together the whole village. but it was already too late. other kids shily sneaked closer and followed our way. the sleepy village suddenly became busier. johnny made a perfect job as a guide ... by far the cutest we engaged on that trip.
this picture and story is for +Halim Ina
whose photographs of children especially recently from india, his warm-hearted stories, his sensible awareness of children's personalities, his big soul for the underprevileged little ones all over the world and not least his friendly and helpful personal messages inspire and encourage me ... not only concerning photography.
camera: fuji ga 645
film: kodak ektar 100