In this eighty-sixth archive story by Kristian Bertel, we meet an Indian cycle rickshaw wallah in the holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Wallah or Wala or Vala, derived from Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi or Hindustani, an Indian surname or suffix indicating a person involved in some kind of activity, where they come from or what they wear Topiwala. In this portrait photograph a staring rickshaw wallah has been photographed waiting in his cycle rickshaw in Varanasi in India.
Wallah or Wala or Vala, derived from Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi or Hindustani, an Indian surname or suffix indicating a person involved in some kind of activity, where they come from or what they wear Topiwala. In this portrait photograph a staring rickshaw wallah has been photographed waiting in his cycle rickshaw in Varanasi in India.

Rickshaw wallah portraiture

A rickshaw originally denoted a two or three-wheeled passenger cart, now known as a pulled rickshaw, which is generally pulled by one man carrying one passenger. The first known use of the term was in 1879. Over time, cycle rickshaws also known as pedicabs or trishaws, auto rickshaws, and electric rickshaws were invented, and have replaced the original pulled rickshaws, with a few exceptions for their use in tourism.

Rickshaws in India
Pulled rickshaws created a popular form of transportation and a source of employment for male laborers, within Asian cities in the nineteenth century. Their appearance was related to newly acquired knowledge of ball-bearing systems. Their popularity declined as cars, trains and other forms of transportation became widely available. Auto rickshaws are becoming more popular in some cities in the twenty-first century as an alternative to taxis because of their low cost. A pulled rickshaw or ricksha is a mode of human-powered transport by which a runner draws a two-wheeled cart which seats one or two people.

In recent times the use of human-powered rickshaws has been discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of rickshaw workers. Pulled rickshaws have been replaced mainly by cycle rickshaw and auto rickshaws. Rickshaws are commonly believed to have been invented in Japan in the 1860s, at the beginning of a rapid period of technical advancement. In the nineteenth century, rickshaw pulling became an inexpensive, popular mode of transportation across Asia. Peasants who migrated to large Asian cities often worked first as a rickshaw runner. It was the deadliest occupation in the East, and the most degrading for human beings to pursue. The rickshaws were a convenient means of travel, able to traverse winding, narrow city streets. During monsoon season, passengers might be carried out of the carriage, above the flooded streets, to the door of their arrival. They offered door-to-door travel, unlike scheduled public bus and tram service. Cycle rickshaws are used in Asian countries, but also in countries outside Asia, such as large European and some North America cities. They are used primarily for their novelty value, as an entertaining form of transportation for tourists and locals, but they also have environmental benefits and may be quicker than other forms of transport if traffic congestion is high. Cycle rickshaws used outside Asia often are mechanically more complex, having multiple gears, more powerful brakes and in some cases electrical motors to provide additional power.

Staring people in India
As a photographer and traveler in India it is hard to ignore that everywhere you go you will see that the Indians are starring at you. Indians stare because they want to know others. Let it be explained from a deeper sociological perspective. India a place of many communities as such with a very old hierarchy to boot that comes with the divisions and this is reinforced at the religious and cultural level as well. Therefore what happens is the local people would definitely try to classy you into one of these social division based and since you might have looked odd with your non native ways and the dress this might aggregate the staring. But on the other hand if you did not look the least but Indian, but some people just walk around without any stares. Because the locals immediate has classified the person and they move on with there work. Staring is a prolonged gaze or fixed look. In staring, one object or person is the continual focus of visual interest, for an amount of time. Staring can be interpreted as being either hostile, or the result of intense concentration or affection. Staring behaviour can be considered a form of aggression, or an invasion of an individual's privacy. If eye contact is reciprocated, mutual staring can take the form of a battle of wills, or even a game where the loser is the person who looks away first – a staring contest.

"Staring often occurs accidentally, when someone appears to be staring into space they may well be lost in thought or stupefied or simply unable to see"

Children have to be socialised into learning acceptable staring behaviour. This is often difficult because children have different sensitivities to self-esteem. Staring is also sometimes used as a technique of flirting with an object of affection. However, being stared at, especially for a prolonged amount of time or very frequently by one person in particular, can cause discomfort to those subjected to it. Staring can be interpreted as being either hostile, or the result of intense concentration. As we are progressing under developed on the family fronts as in we learn only those things which we want to learn, we in India are taught to grab and take only the good information and in this we make everything come under different headings, there is no or less distinction made, like sexualities, we put it in a bad notion to our kids so when they learn from outside family they learn wrong, so to avoid we need to discuss rather snub our child. India has diverse cultures and under law we are still not equal, we let certain rules to imply as per the need of the religion, caste etc we do not apply it equally so when one community follows one thing and believes in one faith values etc they forget to respect the other, so the consensus never comes but it is there for the people who have adopted law or liberty on there scale do not stare but look and the one who does not stares.

Photographing faces in India
Eye contact and facial expressions provide important social and emotional information. People, perhaps without consciously doing so, search other's eyes and faces for positive or negative mood signs. In some contexts, the meeting of eyes arouses strong emotions. Eye contact provides some of the strongest emotions during a social conversation. This primarily is because it provides details on emotions and intentions. In a group if eye contact is not inclusive of a certain individual it can make that individual feel left out of the group, while on the other hand prolonged eye contact can tell someone you are interested in what they have to say. Eye contact is also an important element in flirting, where it may serve to establish and gauge the other's interest in some situations. Mutual eye contact that signals attraction initially begins as a brief glance and progresses into a repeated volleying of eye contact. When two or more individuals talk, the person that talks is used to being looked at. Therefore, making eye contact can make other people expect conversation. Discussing eye contact is actually quite difficult because any attempt to categorize the degree of sustained contact or measure of directness and the nature of the eye contact is nearly guaranteed to contain a lot of descriptors derived from one's own cultural predisposition.

Read also:  An Indian portrait

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a rickshaw wallah in Varanasi. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.