Lord Shiva’s Necklace
Pilgrims were chatting loudly on the quay in Omkareshwar, the holy city of Shiva, going there and back along the boats on the shore. Twilight was getting thicker, almost as thick as masala tea, and I was photographing the melting away light, in meditative mood. Shadows and white pilgrim clothes were getting almost transparent, and the evening was slowly turning into a dream.
Exposed. Already packing the camera, only a metre away from my feet I noticed a snake of shocking beauty. Shining from luminescent green to polished copper, it was flowing away like time. I did not even have a chance to get frightened, so quick it was disappearing in the dark. Watching our step, we returned back to our guesthouse.
Willing to warn the guesthouse owner, I told him about this encounter – a snake on the quay, among people. “Lucky you are”, – he said. “Yes”, – I agreed. – “It could have bitten me”. “This was no snake”, – he replied. – “This was Lord Shiva’s necklace, he sign of good luck. Lucky you are”.
I remembered that Lord Shiva was traditionally depicted with a snake around his neck, like a necklace. And anyway, I was lucky indeed and thanked Lord Shiva.
When you get to India, the crucial thing is not to think that what you see is the essence. A snake is not a snake and a human is not only a human, and all-in-all these are demonstrations of some other substances, which could stay unnoticed in the dust, turmoil and smell mix. That is how it most often happens: in unknown places we tend to judge too quick on appearances, placing the new into the familiar set of notions.
Lord Shiva gave me to feel somehow, hat a good photograph is the one where the subject is just an envelope covering somewhat more profound. And while choosing Indian photographs, I tried to remember his necklace.