Stories from the Road: The Misery of Vrindavan

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. This section deals with vernacular photography and the way we all experience the photographs we see. What they meant when we took them and what they mean over time.

I have never felt bamboozled until I arrived in Vrindavan, the town Krishna grew up in. In addition, to being Krishna’s hometown, Vrindavan is a mecca for Hare Krishna. To be honest, for several years I had considered becoming a Hare Krishna. There were many things in life that had pointed me in that direction. However, after visiting Vrindavan with my mother there is no way I would ever become a Hare Krishna. It is partly my fault for falling into the trap of our tuk-tuk driver. He insisted that we get a tour guide as the lanes were narrow and he could not take us to the sites. The guide was cheap, so I was not worried about it. We would just be there for half a day, so why not.

Our tour started off well. We went to an historic temple filled with those pesky Langur monkeys. I hate those guys. Anyway, I digress. From there we went to an active Hare Krishna temple that helped both widows and cows. The community assistance is a wonderful thing, I am not saying that. However, when we are taken into the temple for our personal Darshan which means being seen by God, we were ripped off. I do not mind donating money. I get it that is part of the game and it is nice. But when asked how much I would donate, I told them and I tried to give the priest the money. I was told no and given a wave of the hand. I was told by the tour guide that I needed to hand over double the amount of money as there were two of us. I knew I was not going to be able to walk away without handing over double the money so I did. But I was pissed. I felt like this was going to be the story of the day.

We leave the temple and we are told that all the temples in town are closing for lunch or something and that we will go back to where we came from wait an hour and head back out. Well, that is not what I wanted to do. I wanted leave. There was one other historic temple I wanted to see, but I had zero interest in going to more active temples so, that I could be drained of all the money I had on me.

So when we got back to our tuk-tuk driver, I told him I did not want to go back out with the tour guide. I paid the tour guide his  money. Both men were extremely confused. The tuk-tuk driver asked me several times about being sure I did not want to go out with the tour guide again. I assured him I did not. I told him I wanted him to take us the the historic temple and then back to the train station in Mathura. He reiterated that the temple was closed for an hour, thus he took us for a snack.

At the resturant we had a nice time. The only nice time in Vridavan. We were there with locals and they were entertained that we were there and eating with our fingers. We chatted a little with the tuk-tuk driver and I felt much better. Plus, in the bathroom I found my favorite Disney character Ariel! After eating, the tuk-tuk driver took us to the historic temple. I was and am glad I went there but it did not require much time.

Then we headed back to the Mathura train station where another adventure awaited my mom and I.

Disclaimer: All that being said, The Bhagavad Gita is the only religious/spiritual text I have read from cover to cover. It is a worthy guide to help one through life. I have a physical copy and I have it on my Kindle. I suggest to everyone that they read it. 🙂

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Photo Focus: Vidura Jang Bahadur

By |2018-10-13T14:24:58-05:00October 16th, 2018|India|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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