We hadn’t meant to stop the parade.
My friend Sholeh and I paid a few rupees to a boy, Sahel, to walk with us along the ghats, or stairs leading down to the river; his job was to shoo away beggars. We walked through the smells of cow dung, incense, urine, curry, and smoke. The sounds of the drums, the sitar, the chants from a mosque. A cow climbed the ghat steps. A tourist pointed his giant telephoto lens toward a man in prayer. We walked along through the dusky evening light, and anyone who approached us was turned away by Sahel, who motioned for them to “talk to the hand.” His job was taken very seriously.