India 2016: the Many Colourful Faces of Varanasi

You can tell a lot of a person’s story from their faces – all its features in relation to each other and the lines that connect them. I’ve come to realize that in India, the faces here tell more than stories, they tell of places foreign to us, of lives and past lives, not just their own history but a history of their lands. I found myself thoroughly fascinated; and I could not get enough of looking at them to the point where I needed to wear sunglasses lest people thought I was rudely staring at them. Turned out, my concerns were unfounded. Indians loved to stare just as much as being stared at.

Nowhere in our travels did I find Indian faces more interesting than the faces in Varanasi. Darjeeling would be the only other place in our travels that rivaled the ancient city along the River Ganges, but for completely different reasons. The people of Darjeeling were essentially Nepalese and as such, though there were quite a few of what I considered the traditional Indian look, they shared features with Nepal and Tibet moreso.

Our first taste of the Varanasi faces greeted us at the airport, arguing with the cab drivers at the taxi stand, caked in the colours of Holi. Getting to the Scindhia Guest House where we would stay was not easy. The driver we eventually hired would only take us so far into the town square; it was just not possible for any car, let alone our car, to get any closer, especially on this day. So we walked the rest of the way, bombarded with the last vestiges of Holi, getting dumped with colour while DaveRisner gave #FreeHugs and Derek proved to be the center of attention. Alleyways that created a maze eventually led to the ghats, of which the Scindhia Guest House was located at the Scindia Ghat, on the River Ganga (ie Ganges River). The maze of those alleys reminded me of the lines on many Indian faces that I saw, a stark contrast to the cherubic but sometimes mischievous faces of the many kids we met along the way. We could and did get lost in both. That’s the beauty of getting lost in a strange new world. As long as the destination is not the goal, but rather the journey, then getting lost is but a part of that journey. Looking into the faces of the people we encountered along the way no doubt mimicked our adventures of the night just getting from point A to B to Z.

In India, if you lived long enough, you could have easily been the most interesting man in the world; and you didn’t need to drink beer for the title. You just needed to share the accolades with the guy next to you who’d blown out the same number of candles.

As we attended the pooja, as we left to get lost in the alleys, with every single person we saw, I asked myself, what was going on behind those eyes?

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