Thursday, December 3, 2009

Banjara Girl, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 10, 2009

They tell me that a young Banjara man happens to be working in the Sunset Hotel, a remarkable fact since this tribe has caught my attention from the first day in Rajasthan four years ago. We meet him and he offers to take us to his family's community. We accept and meet in the hotel the next morning, before sunrise to make the long trip.

According to many accounts, the Banjara are typical nomads that wander from place to place in search of a living. In my experience, some of these communities have made homes for themselves on government land and have even acquired ration cards as well as participation in the voting process, both of which many in these communities usually lack.

Their manner of dress has influenced my search for them. Their girls and women wear a combination of a skirt (ghaghra) and a blouse (choli), with the skirt being quite long and reaching to the ankles, which are also usually adorned with anklets. Their jewelry is in much demand inside India and outside as well.

Unlike many other communities, they are quite resistant to photography. They have had multiple experiences with people offering schools, financial assistance and the like. They have always been disappointed when those same people disappear shortly thereafter.

As a matter of fact, during our talk with this small community, we are informed that the president of the foundation 'helping' at the moment is in a local jail, serving time for misusing funds. We talk for some time, show them our photographs of other Banjara and they allow us to photograph a few of the younger girls. The excitement builds, the girls change to their more elaborate skirts and we make images for at least one hour, until a relationship is formed for perhaps next year's visit.

Unfortunately, upon our return to the truck, we find two punctured tires and a broken window. Of course anyone walking by is a candidate for this action, but we cannot help feel a sense of sadness in knowing that perhaps our visit to others in the area might have resulted in some ill feeling.

Regardless, this young Banjara girl knows the difference between us and the others from her past and shows us a trust that so few have in their first encounter with us. She is an example for people that have lost these qualities, for those seeking to regain them.