05 Apr A Passage to India
During 2008 I was given the opportunity to spend a month in India for my then employer, AOL. Myself and a colleague were asked to train team leaders in call centres that worked with our company, one based in Mumbai and the other in Bangalore.
It was a fantastic experience, where we met a lot of wonderful people, and were able to explore two of India’s great cities from very luxurious hotels. We also had the services of a driver, which meant not just being driven to and from work each day, but also being able to explore the sights in and around the two cities.
For most of the trip we were quite insulated, we flew Business Class to and from India, stayed in 5 star hotels, and were driven everywhere. That said, in India, you are never more than fifty feet from the poorest of the poor, especially in Mumbai. Towards the end of the trip I got a bit more adventurous, starting to take short walks around the hotel on my own. Apart from coughing my lungs up afterwards (air quality was not awesome) it was absolutely no problem, and I attracted no attention whatsoever.
I was carrying my camera in my hand and shooting as I went, and far from having to coax people to let me take their picture, I was being asked by smiling locals to take their picture. They weren’t looking for hand-outs either, it was just that desire of people the world over to preen a little.
When photographing people who were begging, I always gave them something. It seemed a fair exchange, if I was going to effectively exploit their poverty by taking their image, then it made me feel a little better to give them a hundred rupees. Nobody ever asked me for money for taking their picture.