The Road is Life
So most people know that India is home to an abundance of street-side entrepreneurs, road merchants, travelling salesmen and quick-thinking opportunists.
But still, there are some people that take that up to a whole new level.
Tattoos in the traffic, dentists in an open air office, taxes completed on the ground in the shade. The really crazy thing though is I'm starting to get so used to this way of life that I now often forget to take photos; forget to take a visual reminder of these situations that are such a novelty when compared with our structured way of thinking. Our habit of sticking to the rules. But sometimes I do remember to document this lifestyle, and so let me share a couple of insights with you here.
First up, these young tattoo artists, pictured here near Museum Road:
Out on the streets and tattooing your clients is one thing, but this wasn't even a quiet or calm area. In fact, these guys were set up on an extremely busy roundabout on one of the major roads in the city. Traffic and dust and fumes everywhere, car horns singing loudly and cows jostling into the crowds.
Clearly unaffected by their surroundings, the guys didn't mind that I stayed to watch for a while. Actually the tattoo artist got a little excited that I was giving so much attention to his trade. After about five minutes he stopped and turned to me and asked if I wanted one too. Ha! Oh the temptation, to get my first tattoo from a stranger on the side of a road in Jaipur's city centre. It would make a great story. I didn't deliberate for too long, and of course chose to prioritise my health over the chance for a crazy experience. However I did use the opportunity to then ask how much his rates were. Starting at 150INR was the answer, for a design that was 3x3". That's about $3 Canadian, or £1.50 GBP depending on the exchange rate.
You have to admit it's a good deal.
Secondly, this street dentist stopped me in my tracks. He's set up everyday on M.I. Road, although sometimes on Fridays he is not there as he is in prayer. I first saw him a couple of months ago, and he wasn't keen on having his picture taken or speaking with me because, really, he was just trying to do his job and I was kind of getting in the way. I respected his wishes but when he heard me speaking a little Hindi and saying goodbye, he started talking more and opened up. Eventually he decided a photo was ok and I decided that I'd give him prints to help with his business -he seemed pretty keen on that idea.
Tracking him down to deliver the photos was pretty simple. It's a long stretch of road and there are several other entrepreneurs selling their offerings, but ask any local and show them the photo, and they'll know the exact corner or mark in the wall where this man sets up.
In the last few weeks I've started handing out photos to people around the city and it's always a fun scavenger hunt to track them down in their neighborhood. Sometimes they're right where you last saw them, sometimes an excited stranger will show you the way to their house and you'll be ushered inside and the family will give you tea.
The road is life here and for all of the quirks and novelty and craziness of the situtation on the surface, there's real humanity underneath. Spend a little time and things open up in a most beautiful way. Accept that chai but maybe not the tattoo. That's my advice anyway.