Careful, brother... (Bagbazar, Kolkata, India) by Sandipan Mukherjee
Interview 18 February

Careful, brother...: Story behind the photo

Sandipan Mukherjee, the winner of the Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year 2013 People category, tells the story of his incredible winning image

One may still seek out vestiges of the Kolkata of yore in the labyrinthine streets of Bagbazar, a neighbourhood in the north of the city.

It was the last day of September. Durga Puja, the greatest festival in Kolkata, was a few days away. I had started out for Kumortuli, the colony of potters, where artisans would be busy putting the final touches to clay idols of the goddess, before they headed out for the pandals (make-shift temples and shrines erected as part of the festivities). I boarded a tram at Sealdah, got off at Shyambazar and meandered through the obscure byways.

It was as I sat in a small tea-shop, in a quaint little alley, that I noticed this scene. A Muslim gentleman was sitting on his porch, chewing paan (areca nut wrapped in lime-coated betel leaves) and haggling with an itinerant kaan-saaf-wallah (ear-cleaner) who was armed with his strange array of tools.

I sensed the opportunity for a good photo but the gentleman appeared a little grumpy so I didn't close in until the business started. I knew that once the sharp instrument was inside his ear he wouldn’t be able to object to being photographed, even if he wanted to.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. When I showed him the photo on my camera he was so pleased that he insisted I have a paan as a reward.

Judges comments: 

"This is a wonderful moment sensitively captured – superb all round. I am still smiling." Wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein.

"A decisive moment which you can feel. This is story telling at its best." Photographer Paul Harris FRGS.

"Filled with emotion and humour..." Travel photography expert Steve Davey