Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Beyond The Frame: Varanasi Widow

Image Copyright © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

While in Varanasi photographing the extraordinary Sufi rituals at the Bahadur Shaheed shrine, I encountered this centenarian who was sheltered in a decrepit building overlooking the Manikarnika ghat, where most of the cremations are performed. Through an interpreter, I learned that Bai Dehi was a widow from Bihar, who lived in the building awaiting her death. She, as other Hindus, believes that if she died in Varanasi she would achieve 'moksha' and freed from the cycle of reincarnation.

Her voice was barely audible, not more than a hoarse whisper, and I seriously thought her to be near death, but I was told she was relatively active, and had lived for years in her small area with her meager possessions. While I photographed her, she sat there patiently as if she had seen it all before...I wouldn't be surprised if she had.