A Simple Friendship

Two years ago I challenged myself to take one photo a day for a year. I wanted to capture everyday memories interspersed between life events, and I thought capturing “mundane India,” if that is such a thing, would be fun to look back on years from now.

In search of the day’s photograph, I would often get up early, before the city really began bustling, and wander around my neighborhood. I was always drawn to the ladies who swept the perpetually dusty streets of Jor Bagh in the quiet mornings. Drawn so much that I followed them to capture the sun illuminating the dust kicked up by their brooms. I tentatively but purposefully motioned to ask if I could take their photograph. I did so often enough that they would nod their heads and wait patiently for a few moments with a little glimmer in their eyes while I attempted to compose the frame as quickly as I could.

I like to think that I even had a simple kind of friendship with one of the sweepers; a friendship captured only in waves, smiles, and a few shared words. At first, she looked at me suspiciously and said neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ when I asked for a photo. Another time, she declined, and I smiled and waved anyway, attempting to stay upbeat despite feeling a little silly. I would see her in my neighborhood now and then with her broom and sometimes a wheelbarrow, and we would wave at each other. Eventually she motioned that I could take her photo, but alas, I did not have my camera.

Months later, I saw a woman wrapped in a scarf on a chilly November morning. I approached to ask for a photo, and we both recognized each other and smiled! In limited English we exchanged a few words, and then she motioned with a sweeping gesture that she had to work. I wish I had known any Hindi to ask her name and tell her I enjoyed her familiar waves and knowing smile. I wonder if she still sweeps the streets of Jor Bagh, and I wonder many things about who she is.

-m

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