I am an American, needless to say, so there are some things that are both culturally shocking and educational all at the same time. Meeting actual gypsies in Lahore was mind blowing. I don’t want imply that Americans are sheltered, but we’re sheltered. There, I said it.
I whole heartedly expected them to be somewhat offended at our request.
We had just been in, what I liken to, the Farmer’s Market when we passed some gypsies riding a horse cart. I’m serious, this was beautiful AND heart breaking. Even though it was somewhat tragic it was still a fantastic experience. There is an entire gypsy community just outside of Lahore (I will be writing about that later) so this brief encounter was really fascinating.
Waqas Khalid and I were in the car leaving the market when we first saw them. The traffic in the market area is atrocious and we were going a different direction than the horse cart. He immediately threw the car in reverse and we fought our way towards the cart so I could get better photos. As soon as we got right next to them I snapped a frantic photo and suddenly they took a left onto a small side street. Waqas quickly drove forward and intently sped to find their location. Yes! We found them a few streets over. Once we got right up next to them he rolled down the window and told them to pull over so we could take some photos. They were very nice about stopping just for us.
Once we got over to the side I jumped out. I whole heartedly expected them to be somewhat offended at our request. To my fortune they even smiled! I took several photos while Waqas spoke to them in Urdu. They had been doing manual work in the area and were moving to another area to look for more. By the look of the cart I believe they were collectors of old items.
If you’ll notice in the photos below, the older boy is chewing something. I thought it was chewing tobacco but it’s called paan.
Paan is a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut and sometimes also with tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. After chewing it is either spat out or swallowed. Paan has many variations.
When he smiled his teeth were reddish brown. Just an FYI for anyone who notices in the photos.
We both smiled, wished them well and got back in the car. The younger boy chased us down and asked for money as payment for their photos. I took out 50 rupees and handed it to the boy. They waved and we set off for home.
I plan on doing a much more in-depth article on the gypsies, but for now I leave you with my photos and some links to other resources. Please share this article and stay tuned for more on the Gypsies of Lahore.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING:
DAWN.COM – Meet the gypsies of Lahore
Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak – Photography Portfolio
Worn Out Faces | Pakistan – Gypsies of Lahore <– EXCELLENT resource!
ASIANEWS.IT – Lahore: Christian NGO helping Gypsy women entrepreneurs
GLOBALMARCH.ORG – A Celebration Of Nomadic Culture At GODH Lahore Gypsy Mela
All photos were taken by Melody Paxton in Lahore Pakistan, 2016. No unauthorized use. Available by request only. To request permission, use the Contact Form.