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Bhandari Bawa a Devil in Disguise
I met the Chancawalli Sufis body piercers or Rafaees as they sat around the Holy Fire or Dhuni at the Shrine of the Holy Saint Maqdoom Shah Baba of Mahim..
I was introduced to their head or Peer Sikandar Wali Baba, by my friend Fahad Pathan whose late father was the Pesh Imam of the Makdoom Shah Baba Mosque..
I began recording their story through pictures , following them from one holy shrine to the other and showing their lives , their frugality and their adherence to the Chillum holy smoke of the hashish filled pipe.. I dont smoke nor do I believe in Sufism but I went up to Haji Malang a mountain top , with burnt feet as I had walked on a ramp of hot coals the night before last year and my back to was sordid with self flagellation all these being rituals of my Shia beliefs in the month of Moharam , commemorating the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain .. here I shot the Hijras , all the Bawas or ascetics loved me I came from a different world but I looked like them.. was open to their thoughts their ascetism..my jewelry , my camera all served to bind me with the bawas.
Back in Mumbai at the last Urus this Bhandari Bawa the chief cook of the medicant group began hassling me , I was miserable as I had a serious foot wound , I am diabetic.., during my picture taking he would come and turn his back in such a way that his ass filled the entire frame.. on the day I was shooting a woman who was being exorcized as she was possessed , he tripped me deliberately, on the Dhuni a continuous fire source ,I managed to save myself but my feet touched the holy kneaded flour I was severly reprimanded by Sikandar Wali Baba who I am sure as a Peer should have been aware at course of events, but Baba fired me instead of Bhandari Baba.. I walked away, later I tried to mend this broken fence of my relationship with the Chancawalli Sufis but Sikandar Baba humiliated me and that was the end.. These Hijra photos of Haji Malang were on a Cd I just discovered , I saw Bhandari Babas mug among the Hijras out come my poetic anguish and this long explanation..
Sikandar Wali Baba died recently , so I had returned back to the Fold of the Chancawalli Sufis under a new chieftain Khalifa Baba or popularly called Handi Cauldron.
he hates humans
of all shapes and size
hijdas with a venom despise
he hates photographers
who look like bawas
are more wise
yes he hates me
to death a reason
I did realize when
he tried to trip me into
the holy fire or the dhuni
a devil in disguise
I fell out with the
Sikandar wali baba
a few other guys
I saw them at ajmer
all these bawas
it was no surprise
I introduced them on the web
through my camera as my eyes
today this relationship
a premature death and a demise.
..a reason for goodbyes..
from a world they inhabit
known as body piercing Raffaees
smoking chillum ..
spiritual misery condemned
to more lies.
an act overplayed
needs to be improvised
me a shia thug
a sufi baptised
An Angel of a Kid
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This girl stays next to my shop, many attempts to shoot her have been failures, she is shy , reticent and coy..her mother , her brothers ask her to pose for me she refuses point blank, this was my lucky day, when she came and stood by my infamous door, that is waiting for an Angel from America to do the honors...
I have no other place to shoot them, this a vehicular road , that has huge trucks moving in every minute because this road Bandra Bazar Road leads to the Bandra Bazar Market..Dickensian setting of most of my picture subjects.Little Fat Boy Mr Pickwick, Uriah Heep,Mr Micawber you can find them all as Muslims of course..Aunt Peggoty is Hafiza Bi... Ha Ha Ha
When Dr Glenn Losack visited me in Mumbai I did not have this tailoring outlet..I was situated at another place in Bandra , close to Waterfield Road..there was better photography situations out there , regular visits to my shop by the Naga Sadhus , the whippers the Hijras etc..
Here it is the same faces I shoot and if I did not my camera eyes and my camera would both go rusty..
Glenn loved Bandra because he has some memorable moments at my house,my wife cooking bland stuff for him, and he loved her dal and chicken tikka, Marziya was far too small..My wife liked Glenn and she saw that he was happy at our home all times.
Glenn would sit at this very computer and do his stuff.
Yes my family is eagerly waiting for this American whom we consider our immediate family.. with no strings attached.
Americans are very good people, with good hearts , and a bit crazy most of the time in a friendly way of course , its this bit craziness that makes them American..it is this bit craziness ..that makes me get along with Glenn and Fred too.. Fred is Indo American , I have never met him, but consider him family too..
And now I have a new friend I think she too is a bit crazy to spend most of her time with crazy photographers like me and Glenn.
She is Angel and I dedicate this post to her.
The name of the girl in the picture is Miss Ayesha.
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