Footloose in Rajasthan
"In terms of photography, I found Rajasthan to be extremely
colorful. The people there, and perhaps this is true of all India, have such a
love of color in their clothes, their houses, their fabrics, and such. They were
also very friendly and animated, which always makes for great photography subjects.
And of course, there are customs and ceremonies that are so new to us as Westerners
that they make for fascinating photos". Debra
Borys has a way with dreams - she can read them, interpret them and find meaning
within the labyrinth. Studying psychology at the University of California, Los
Angeles, makes her walk the mind's maze with such ease. But all the while that
she fiddled with other people's dreams, Borys nurtured one for herself - to see
India, the land of yoga and Buddhism. Borys, the famous photographer, also has
a way with images, she captures them in all their splendor, in their naked truths,
in their viciousness. All on her Minolta.
all began with a slide of Pushkar Fair that I had seen at a friend's place, she
had been on a South Asia jaunt and was raving about it," Borys, who had earlier
trekked in Nepal and bitten by mosquitoes in Cambodia and Vietnam, remembers.
India was not very alien, she had chanted and learnt Kundalini postures from an
American Sikh's yoga studio in Los Angeles ("Cindy Crawford went there too!")
and in her quest for 'spiritual discipline' picked up the nuances of Buddhism.
She had her eye's fill from the brochures that the travel agents kept sending,
and one day she threw a dart on the map and it landed straight on Rajasthan. Borys
did not argue about the choices, she took a flight and one warm winter landed
in India. All she had was her camera and the vignettes of a colorful country that
had stayed with her for aeons.
From her home in the hills
of Los Angeles, Borys can see coyotes roaming in the backyard and primroses blooming
in her garden, but this new world hit her in all its anomalies and its spirituality.
The first sights were amusing. "There were hairdressers who hung mirrors
on trees and the client sat by the curb, often on two bricks that served as chairs,"
she recalls. "The most interesting bit was looking at the man who ironed
clothes for a fee. His iron was like a flat mini barbecue, you could actually
see the embers burning bright within." But it was the pedicab ride that had
Borys scared. "It was a hair-raisingly fast and chaotic ride through the
streets of Jaipur during market time in late afternoon. We careened back and forth
in what I gather is the common Indian driving pattern. It was scary but also exhilarating."
Carrying her Minolta, Borys picked up colors and spirituality through the
lens, specially during the five-day camel safari through the Thar Desert and her
travel around Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Agra, Pushkar, and Rohatgarh. The trip
which lasted three weeks was led by Heshmat Singh whom Borys describes as "a
30-ish fellow with a degree in Rajasthani history who also happens to be the nephew
or grandson of a famous Indian writer also named Singh".
terms of photography, I found Rajasthan to be extremely colorful. The people there,
and perhaps this is true of all India, have such a love of color in their clothes,
their houses, their fabrics, and such. They were also very friendly and animated,
which always makes for great photography subjects. And of course, there are customs
and ceremonies that are so new to us as Westerners that they make for fascinating
Another general impression that Borys carried
was how much spirituality or a sense or appreciation of the spiritual or the divine
seems to run through so many aspects of life. It adds a lot of beauty and rhythm
to the culture and daily life. And, while maybe one could say this about any foreign
culture, it seemed like there were many fun, "wacky" or offbeat little
features or entities, she adds.
Having started the trip
eating Indian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for three weeks,
Borys began pining for something different and one day near the end of the trip
she actually ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and to her surprise it was uncharacteristically
available. She understood nothing about the lyrics but she listened to traditional
music every night, she is "not naïve about poverty" but what she
saw tugged at her heartstrings, her dream-trip had stretched barely three weeks
but for Borys it is like an eternal companion.
Borys took to Indian food again soon, held exhibitions of her pictures of India
and is still amazed at the number of orders she has received for the 'Pink Ladies'
But Borys, the psychologist and the photographer,
hasn't had enough of India, she wants to come back when her daughters are old
enough. However, this time she would not need to close her eyes and throw a dart
on the map, the destination is decided. "I would like to visit South India,
Kerala stands out. Also, being Jewish, I would like to go to Cochin, where there
is a small Jewish population."
Borys has realized
one dream, she is waiting for another one to unfold in Kerela.
in Sun magazine, November 2004