Stories from the Road is a collection of stories about my own photographic adventures in South Asia. Sometimes the stories are exciting and sometimes mundane and at times emotional. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the story.
Have you ever done something stupid? That is what I think about when I look at this photograph. I think, “Man, something bad could have happened to me”. Sometimes in life we do things we know we shouldn’t. It is even dumber when you doing while traveling. So here is my story.
I made this photograph at the Lodi Garden in Delhi, India. I traveled to Delhi alone in 2013 and it was my first trip abroad by myself. I was staying in Paharganj which is not a very safe area but it is a backpacker area, so I had a decent hotel room at a good price. However, my potential problems did not start in Paharganj they started about a mile away at Connaught Place. Connaught Place is now a shopping area and it was constructed by the British. The area consists of three circular streets which go concentrically out from the Rajiv Gandhi Park.
Many tourists in Delhi visit Connaught Place for the shopping. There are western stores there like Nike and McDonald’s. Since so many tourists go there, young men hang out there and try to talk to Western women. Several guys talk to me and I just blew them off. One was particularly persistent. However, I was able to shake him.
The next morning, I went to the Qutab Minar Complex. I took the subway to get there and come back. When I came back into town I got off the subway at Connaught Place. I started walking back towards Paharganj and as I rounded the street corner the persistent guy from the previous day was walking straight at me. He convinced me to go to McDonald’s and have a cold drink with him. While we talked I thought he was harmless, so we made plans to meet for drinks in the evening. I decided why not because it was my 32nd birthday.
That night he asked me if I wanted to meet him the next day at the Lodi Garden. I said, “ok”. The next day I went out exploring the city and headed to the Lodi Garden at the time we had set. When I got to the Garden I found a bench near the entrance and sat down. An older gentleman sat with me. He played old Hindi songs on his radio. After about 30 or 45 minutes I decided the guy wasn’t going to show. I was a little upset, you know ego and all, I thought I was stood up. I decided to go explore the Garden. As I walked around I made a few photographs, but I wasn’t really in the mood. However, I took the photograph you see above.
The monument in the photograph is a tomb, specifically that of Mohammad Shah. Shah was the third ruler of the Sayyid Dynasty (http://competentauthoritydelhi.co.in/MonumentViewer.aspx?ID=14, accessed: 10/05/2016). Shah took the throne in 1433/34 and died in 1445 (ibid). The mausoleum is octagonal in shape, as you can see in the photograph. At the corners are thick square pillars with two smaller square pillars in between. The pillars support pointed arches. The roof is topped by a large central dome with chittras (umbrella topped pavilions) on each of the eight sides. In the photograph above the building looks like it is falling in on itself. This is effect is caused by my wide angle lens, I probably took the photo with a 16mm lens. The trees on the left and the buildings on the right seem to be falling inwards as well. This along with the overcast sky leads to an unstable feeling. This uneasy feeling seems about right considering my mood at the time.
After taking in this monument, I started walking back up the path towards the entrance of the park and there I saw the guy walking towards me. I thought we were going to hang out at the park and maybe he would tell me some things about it. No. He told me to come with him. We walk back out to the entrance and I ended up going to his house with him. That was the stupid part. He really wanted to give me a massage, however, I suspected he wanted to have sex. Well I was simply not interested in that. He wanted me to get undressed and I repeatedly told him no. I told him multiple times I would not have sex with him and he tried to convince me that he did not want sex. After about 20 minutes he gave up and we went back to Connaught Place where we went our separate ways.
I was lucky he did not do anything to me. I would never do that again in any city. So looking at the photograph above gives me mixed emotions. I think about how my feelings were hurt by the guy showing up so late and I also think about what could have happened to me. My advice, if you are a woman, do not go anywhere alone with a strange man.