Holy Man

I saw the way the holy man was dressed up and immediately wanted to take a photo. The colors were amazing! This is what I have been seeing in the internet about the way they looked. “Oh my God. He is fantastic!”  He was resting against the wall of the temple looking at the people passing by. He saw me and my intentions. He smiled. I approached him with hesitation not sure if this was appropriate or what was the protocol to doing it.  I showed my camera and he nodded, while striking a pose. His hands making a symbol, his eyes trying to transmit peace.  I could not believe it, this was so easy. He understood what I wanted and he gave it to me.  I was excited.

After what it seem to be an eternity I decided I had enough photos of the holy man.  I had read somewhere that it was good to give them something in exchange for accepting to be photographed. So, I reached my purse and got a lot of local paper money, with a total value of probably five dollars.  He looked at the money and showed his disappointment.  I did not understand what was going on.  He dismissively waived his hand at me as if screaming: “This is too little. I want more”.  This was a shock. It was impossible to stop the thought that jumped through my mind: “This is his business!”.  Actually, “This is a business!”

Our local guide realized what was going on and swiftly approached the holy man and gave him around thirty dollars in local currency.  “What?” I told our guide. “I only took photos and he wanted me to do it! And… he is a “Guru”, no?”  I was outraged about the phoniness of the situation. My photo of a “holy man” was not such a thing. It was just the photo of a man dressed up to work.  The local guide explained that this is a way of living for these people, in particular because of the foreigners, and I understand why.  This behavior has been sponsored by the tourist that wanted to experience holiness.

The bright side of all is that I ended up with a marvelous photograph.

Taken at Pashupatinah, Nepal