The Soul and Serenity of India

A photographer captures the ever-shifting essence of her homeland
Midnapore
By

I was born in a small town called Andul, in eastern India, where I still live with my family. From small villages to big cities, my country is a fascinating blend of art, religion and philosophy, and I love to learn from all parts of it. India is a perfect place to capture and document a diverse tableau of daily life. As a photographer, I am always trying to reproduce the feeling of a particular moment and focus on a place with ordinary people in situations that highlight some aspect of who they are. For example, I generally use local trains to travel. As all the train compartments are for the general public, I get an opportunity to see people from different parts of society, from daily vegetable and fish sellers to the people who are going to their office. In the morning the atmosphere in the trains is full of energy, whereas in the evening a quiet has fallen over the passengers. I love to take in all those dynamics.

Puri Beach, Odisha
Darjeeling
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
From top: Puri Beach, Odisha; Darjeeling; Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

While traveling around, one sees that the landscapes of India are in great contrast. When I go to the mountains, the forest or the sea, they welcome me with a sense of peace. I’ve always felt a connection to the mountains, in particular, because of the energy I regain there — thanks to the calmness, the simplicity of people’s lives, the fresh air and the beautiful vastness of the region. And in other parts of India there are busy streets, bustling markets and crazy traffic that create a chaotic experience of city life. When I’m in those cities, the wide range of food, culture, clothing and various religious traditions give me so many colorful subjects to document.

Most of the people in India are open to sharing their stories with anyone, and that’s how stories live with us — from generation to generation. As we travel, our stories travel with us. With my camera in tow, I try to get to know a place and its people, and I can tell their stories through my photographs. My life in India lets me see beauty — in nature, in the people — all the time. And the more I keep photographing here, the more I understand just how much there is to capture.

Ramkrishnapur Ghat, Howrah
Ramkrishnapur Ghat, Howrah
Kolkata
Rikisum
LEFT: Kolkata RIGHT: Rikisum
Puri Beach, Odisha
Darjeeling
LEFT: Puri Beach, Odisha RIGHT: Darjeeling
Clockwise from top left: Kolkata; Rikisum; Puri Beach, Odisha; Darjeeling
Kolkata
Kolkata
Dali Monastery, near Batasia Loop
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
LEFT: Dali Monastery, near Batasia Loop RIGHT: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
A train from Panskura to Howrah
Kolkata
LEFT: A train from Panskura to Howrah RIGHT: Kolkata
Clockwise from top left: Dali Monastery, near Batasia Loop; Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; a train from Panskura to Howrah; Kolkata
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Editors’ note: Vacations take advance planning. So do The Washington Post Magazine’s travel issues. We commissioned this photo essay, which is the cover story of the spring travel issue, months before a new virus began spreading around the world — making the idea of travel seem, for now, undesirable, even frightening. But life will, at some point, return to normal. And when that happens, these destinations will once again be remarkable havens to consider as you plot future trips.

Ranita Roy is a freelance photographer from India who has received many national and international honors.

Photo editing by Dudley M. Brooks. Design by Christian Font.

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