Taxi tour provides intimate glimpse into Jaipur’s daily life

Photographer and explorer Maria Sahai recently decided to book a last-minute trip to India. Along with her husband Karim, she flew into Jaipur, eager to experience all this vibrant city has to offer. “It was my first long-awaited trip to India”, Maria tells Lonely Planet. “The country is known as a photographer’s paradise, with its vivid colors, history and the abundance of photogenic places and people. My journey was full of amazing food, friendly people and spectacular locations. It was a truly satisfying experience, both personally and photographically.”

A shopkeeper pauses for a cup of tea. Image by Maria Sahai

In order to take in as many of the city’s nooks and crannies as possible, Maria and Karim opted for a whirlwind taxi tour. “The tickets to Jaipur were a last-minute purchase”, she explains, “which meant I didn’t have time to arrange any activities in advance. After a short discussion, my husband and I decided to call a taxi driver and book him for the next 48 hours, giving him full freedom to decide where to take us. We felt our approach made him excited about his power to decide what impression of Jaipur we’d be left with; he was glowing with pride in his hometown, and very eager to share it with us. He made sure we visited all the must-see landmarks like Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal and City Palace. But most of the time we spent slowly cruising the small streets outside the city center, driving through villages and street markets.”

A local woman sweeps the floor of a Hindu temple. Image by Maria Sahai

For Maria, seeing the city in this way meant she caught a glimpse into locals’ everyday lives. “Being both photographers, my husband and I were mostly interested in capturing authentic scenes from the locals’ daily lives. We enjoyed observing people going about their business: cooking, eating, selling stuff, relaxing, or simply doing chores. Being in a car made photographing those moments much easier than if we were doing it on foot. I’ve tried the latter before, but I’m a tall white woman and this tends to attract locals’ attention – their expressions and postures change, and the feel of authenticity diminishes.”

This picture is not quite what it seems. Image by Maria Sahai

Maria’s favourite shot is of an older man reclining in a chair at Galtaji pilgrimage site, his forehead painted in white, red and gold. “To me, it’s an example of how powerful photography is as a tool for sharing information”, says Maria. “Many people who saw this image commented on how thoughtful his gaze was. His clothing, posture and surroundings easily lead to the impression that this a very spiritual moment captured on film. In reality, he was casually chatting on the phone using a bluetooth earpiece!”

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Taxi tour provides intimate glimpse into Jaipur’s daily life
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