I’ve told friends the story about how I met the gentlemen in this photo and other stories of wandering the back streets of Chennai India – and like most stories from India – people simply don’t believe you, or they think, surely you must be exaggerating! Don’t believe me?… Cue photographic evidence!
I spent 4 years travelling back and forth to India, mainly to Mumbai and Chennai. On scorching dry and hot weekend afternoons, my friend and I would sit in the bar at our hotel in Chennai. It was a cool, dark, musty bar full of vintage leather couches that seemed to drink your soul. Our drink of choice was double Gin & Tonics (this was purely for medical reasons since tonic contains quinine, which repels mosquitoes and there’s a lot of dangerous mosquitos in India).
There we would sit in the lofty mustiness of old leather, incense, fresh-cut lemon, peanuts and mould that would grow faster than ever in the Indian humidity. A cricket match flickered on some old TV in a dim corner and the silent cave-like bar would randomly erupt with cheer as the bar staff celebrated every win. I once had one of them ask me, “Are you Ricky Ponting?” – the famous captain of the Australian Cricket Team – I laugh and reply “no”… The barman with his big smile, black vest, combed hair and bow-tie lingers around me staring as he speaks in Tamil to his colleagues. He comes back a minute later… “Are you sure you’re not Ricky Ponting”?!?
After an appropriate level of gin that would put you in just the right level of haze to face the hot, dusty, colourful and chaotic Chennai streets – we would leave our air-conditioned bubble and wander the dirt roads behind the hotel. We were always greeted by big smiles, giggling waves and excited yet shy local kids who would want their photo taken.
In this photo (above), this man was washing down his cows. While he was doing this he thought, why not have a wash down himself (and why not?). Not only were we surprised to see a grown man in his underwear covered in soapsuds amongst a group of wet, clean and unassuming cows, he seemed more surprised to see two tipsy pale idiots wandering around in the afternoon heat taking photos. He called out to us “friend, come” and wanted us to take his photo!
Only in India – the country that after 4 years and endless business trips, never failed to surprise me every day.
A series of my photos taken in the back streets:
All images used in this blog are originals taken by me & are copyright by Ben Farrell – roadlesstravelled. If you would like to use any of my images or order prints, please contact me!